Ladeira da Misericórdia
2016 World Monuments Watch
The Ladeira da Misericordia (Mercy Slope) is an important historic street connecting the upper and lower sections of the World Heritage city of Salvador de Bahia. The city was founded in the sixteenth century as the seat of the Portuguese government in the Americas. Atop the steep escarpment lies Pelourinho, Salvador’s historic center, overlooking the commercial district and port. The Ladeira da Misericordia is one of the few remaining historic connections between the sections of the city, containing examples of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial architecture and offering panoramic views of the Bay of All Saints.
Although today the street is mostly abandoned and with access restrictions, in the 1980s the site became the location of a visionary project by Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi. Working in collaboration with Brazilian architect and urbanist João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé), Bo Bardi restored four derelict and abandoned buildings which were converted into social housing, while an empty lot next to the houses became the setting for the architect’s experimental building—a restaurant that integrated the new architecture into the existing vegetation. The Coaty Restaurant became a much-loved culture center for residents and tourists alike, but its success was short-lived. The building is the only remnant of Lina Bo Bardi’s pilot project for her plan to rehabilitate Pelourinho.
Rehabilitation programs for Salvador de Bahia in the 1990s focused on the city’s historic center, while neglecting areas in the periphery—like the Ladeira da Misericordia—which gave way to social and urban decay. With the ongoing implementation of the 2010 Participatory Rehabilitation Plan for the Old Centre of Salvador, there is an opportunity to reactivate the Ladeira da Misericordia and the work of Lina Bo Bardi as a revitalized public space. Inclusion on the 2016 World Monuments Watch seeks to highlight the visionary work of Bo Bardi, and help foster an appreciation for this important modern masterpiece.
On October 19, 2016, architecture and urban planning students joined artists and professors for a Watch Day at Lina Bo Bardi’s abandoned Coaty Restaurant in the Ladeira da Misericordia. The event included a lecture by architect Carla Zollinger about the trajectory of Lina Bo Bardi in Brazil, with special emphasis on the story behind the Coaty Restaurant and the housing project in Ladeira de Misericordia. The event was organized as part of Occupy Coaty—a series of cultural events organized by local advocates, featuring art installations and performances at the site.