The Studio explores the relationship between cultural heritage and the richness of contemporary urban life through imagining the restoration and future possibilities for the Ladeira da Misericórdia, a steep street that connects the upper and lower areas of the Historic Center of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. The site includes Baroque fabric, open areas, and deteriorated works of architect Lina Bo Bardi, who spent many years working in Salvador. Students will propose new architectural interventions that engage the city’s rich socio-cultural context.
The Ladeira da Misericórdia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, suffered progressive physical and social deterioration throughout the twentieth century. Between 1986-1990, the Municipality of Salvador commissioned Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi, who had been the first director of the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia (1958-64), to develop a social housing and commercial development pilot project for the rehabilitation of the ladeira (slope) that included several historic houses in ruins. Lina, in collaboration with Brazilian architect João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé), restored three of the houses for residential use without displacing the existing occupants, designed an outdoor bar within a stabilized ruin and introduced a new concrete structure that spiraled around an existing mango tree which became the Coaty Restaurant. Due to lack of political support, Lina and Lelé’s social experiment failed, the site became abandoned, and the pilot project was neither replicated nor supported as originally intended.
The current government of Bahia decided to redevelop this area of the city as part of the Participatory Redevelopment Plan for the City of Salvador (2010). The Plan envisions the social and physical rehabilitation of the Ladeira da Misericordia as an important historic and cultural landmark for the city of Salvador. This initiative could offer an opportunity to reactivate the historic site in a way that somehow realizes Lina Bo Bardi and Lelé’s unfulfilled vision.
The studio will work with the complex historical layers accumulated at the site to both rehabilitate the existing and propose a new architectural intervention that integrates urban dwelling and programs for cultural expression. These architectural proposals will explore the contemporary potential of Lina Bo Bardi’s belief that art can give agency to the multicultural population that inhabits the historic center of Salvador. The concepts of historic preservation, conservation, and sustainability will be foundational to these proposals.
During travel week, the studio will go to both Salvador de Bahia and São Paulo. In Salvador, we will visit the Ladeira da Misericórdia and undertake a rigorous in situ examination of the specific area of study. While in Salvador, students will also present their initial work to local authorities, professionals working on the project, and prominent figures from the cultural and architectural communities. Between Sao Paulo and Salvador, we will visit Bardi’s seminal works and examine how they were informed by the very different urban and cultural contexts of each city.