Historic Center of Salvador de Bahia
Founded in 1549 as Brazil’s first capital, and the seat of the Portuguese government for more than two centuries, today Salvador de Bahia is a metropolis with over three million inhabitants. The oldest section of the city, the Centro Antigo, houses 80,000 residents. At its core is the colonial-era Centro Histórico, which is composed of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century houses and churches. This historic urban landscape is a significant component of the history and culture of Brazil over many centuries. Nevertheless, due to population decline starting in the 1970s, the physical and social fabric of the Centro Antigo has deteriorated. Economic decline, crime, decaying infrastructure, and other challenges left this historic heart of the city vulnerable.
How We Helped
The historic center of Salvador de Bahia was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch. Between 2008 and 2010, the Escritório de Referência do Centro Antigo coordinated an effort by the local, state, and federal governments to design a participatory rehabilitation plan for Salvador, with the assistance of UNESCO. In 2012, with support from American Express, WMF helped fund the design of an interactive interpretation center for the history and culture of Bahia. The “Centro da Cidade” aims to promote the culture of Bahia in all its expressions among its local inhabitants as well as visitors. The design was unveiled on August 8, 2013 at the Palacio dos Esportes, an art deco building located at the entrance of the historic center, with the inauguration of a temporary exhibit displaying the conceptual design. Diretoria do Centro Antigo de Salvador commissioned a feasibility study for the implementation of the Centro da Cidade, and its implementation is expected to be completed in 2016. The interpretation center will be a key resource for visitors, as well as a cultural and educational venue for those who live and work in Salvador. A second phase of the WMF- and American Express-supported project was a photography and poetry competition designed to stimulate local collective memory and raise public awareness about the built heritage of Salvador de Bahia. The winners received their prizes at an event on October 14, 2014, at the Casa de Castro Alves, the home of a nineteenth-century poet and now a cultural center.
Why It Matters
The rehabilitation plan for Salvador will result in the preservation of the historic city’s cultural heritage, while stimulating economic activity in the region. The goal is a balance of activities that preserve the character of Salvador and keep it a livable city. Brazil is set to capture the global spotlight during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, attracting large numbers of visitors.