May 31, 2019 From Brazil to Boston: HBI’s Projects Inspire Renewal in the City of São Luis
In April, HBI staff welcomed Luis Eduardo Paim Longhi, the Superintendent of Culture for the Culture and Tourism Department in São Luis, Brazil and Alvaro Lima of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for a tour of HBI’s recent preservation projects. The group toured the Alvah Kittredge House and 50 Cedar Street in Roxbury, the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm in Mattapan, and the Upham’s Corner Comfort Station in Dorchester to discuss the preservation strategies and funding sources HBI uses to rehabilitate challenging historic buildings and how those methods might be useful to the urban landscape of Maranhão, a state in northeastern Brazil.
Maranhão’s capital city, São Luis, is dense with 17th-century colonial architecture that defines its urban core. A vestige of its period of colonization, the city’s center bears influence from the mixture of French, Dutch, and Portuguese presence. The city’s mansions are host to dazzling examples of azulejos, tin-glazed ceramic tilework, which were central in designating the area a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Sao Luis’ gridded streets, tiled roofs, and ornamental cornices are all unique and defining features listed on its UNESCO designation documentation. Much of this heritage was protected during the 20th century in large part because of a period of severe economic stagnation that slowed new construction.
While much of São Luis’ historic center is protected, an increasing number of historic buildings in the World Heritage district have been abandoned and left neglected. In response, the city has begun planning urban rehabilitation initiatives to restore and re-activate São Luis’ unique architectural sites. Along with the Governor of Maranhão, Hon. Flavio Dino — who visited with HBI in early 2018 — Sr. Longhi has begun planning with a multidisciplinary team a public-private rehabilitation program for their city’s historic center which, they hope, HBI’s work can help to inform.
HBI looks forward to working with Sr. Longhi and his team as they plan to strengthen the character and restore the beauty of São Luis.