Where is the key to the Coati Restaurant?
The curious controversy of posters that refer to the Lina Bo Bardi project located on Misericórdia.
An announcement about one of Lina’s works
An unusual controversy has taken place in the form of street posters stuck on lampposts across the city about the “Coati Restaurant” on the Ladeira da Misericórdia, in Salvador’s historic centre. Little-known and practically ignored by local media, this is one of the most singular urban retrofit projects ever carried out in Brazil. Its author was architect Lina Bo Bardi, who died in 1992 and who garnered international fame through her work for the São Paulo Museum of Art (Museu de Arte de São Paulo: MASP). The controversy is shrouded in mystery. Nobody knows how to interpret the phrase “Where is the key to the Coati Restaurant?”, written on white notices posted along some of Salvador’s busiest streets. It could even, as some speculate, be a publicity campaign for a theatrical performance. Whatever it is, at least it has drawn attention to this almost-forgotten architectural project.
Cultural Focus Point
Lina Bo Bardi lived in Salvador at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. During this period she created the Museum of Modern Art in Bahia (Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia), restoring the fabulous industrial urban development of the Unhão Mansion (Solar do Unhão) next to Gamboa beach. In the 1980s she returned to work on avant garde projects in the city, this time pursuing the urban retrofit concept in the restoration and reuse of both property and urban areas. In 1987 she completed the “Coati Restaurant”. In the years immediately following its inauguration, the “Coati”, which offered an Afro-Brazilian menu, became a focus point for Bahian intellectuals. It is impossible to say what is most striking about this design. One can admire the adaption of other old buildings on the Ladeira da Misericórdia, the unusual combination of this building, which includes within its structure an ancient tree, or the decorative wrought iron details.
“The first professional meeting between Lina Bardi and Lelé to discuss the use of reininforced mortar in teh recuperation of Salvador`s Historical Centerm should have happened in the “Fabrica de Escolas” ( Factory of Schools), in Rio de Janeiro. When Lina`s collaborators went to her house to take her to the airport, she asked for a leaf of “capim-palmeira” from her garden in Morumbi. Se put it in a shoebox and said: “take this to Lelé and tell him I am thinking of a structure like this. He will understand. Tell him I couldn`t go to Rio, but that we will meet in Salvador.” (N.E.)
The Ladeira da Misericórdia was intended to be the orientative pilot scheme for intervening on hte degraded architectural complex in the historic district of Salvador. The intervention included five elements: four ruined houses from the 18th century , and an empty lot that would serve as a “living model” of the overall proposal for the district. The hill was chosen as a tsting ground because it included the three kinds of situation occurrring in teh heritage area: semi-derelict houses threatened with collapse, complete ruins and empty lots. The choice of area was based on the fact that these houses were uninhabited, thus avoiding the traumiatic esperience of ecacuating the inhabitnats. Instead of dislodging people, seven new housing areas were to be created, plus an open-air restaurant and bar on the empty lot. The project, developed with the architect João Filgueiras Lima (Lélé), envisaged the rstoration of the complex using pre-molded elements in iron and cement: internal partition walls, external plissé walls that act as buttresses, flights of stiars, and decks that were capable of spanning up to 6 meters, All the pieces were to be fabricated by the FAEC_ the Community Components Factory of the city of Salvador – and assembled manually on site- The ouses were to be transformed into low-income apartments on the first floor, while the ground floor was intended to have a small shop selling its own produce. In a short period of time, theses changes would revitalize the area, and hopefully reverse the state of abandonment and lack of safety found there. The daring proposal of restoring the ruined houses of habitation by local low-income families was not taken up by the subsequent administration of the city. The project was then abadoned and the area reverted to the same state of ruin as before.
Another very serious problem, possibly more important than the architectural restoration itself, is the social problem. Usually, the people are removed from their homes and given other temporary shelters on the outskirts of cities. In the restored buildings, boutiques are installed for tourists, along with exhibitions, handicrafts made in Sao Paulo, etc. Now, the main principle of the restoration in Salvador is precisely to maintain the population living in the houses that need to be restored.
The general idea is to make on the ground floors a subsistence trade, “sub’áquea”, that is, the production of simple meals, small handicrafts, recuperation, restoration and repair of things. And on the upper floors, residences. In Bahia that is exactly the sort of things that exists. That is the idea behind the architectural restoration of the Salvador Historical Center. The pilot plan for Misericórdia Slope has not yet been carried out because it has not yet been fully understood as something really popular, made for the area’s population and not for tourists. On the Misericórdia Slope, in Bahia, we are preserving, in accordance with all the traditional rules for preservation, something that has survived: four walls with windows. But all this was no more than an empty egg shell that required a sustaining technical and historical restoration. One could not place columns inside, pillars and beams invading spaces that hitherto had been free and had an elegant structure. Together with architect João Filgueiras Lima (“Lelé”), we used reinforced daub, a system derived from the famous iron-cement of Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, who registered it at 1937. We built buttresses, as they do in countries subject to earthquakes, and isostatic slabs permitted the reconstruction of the old environments with continuous brick walls, with no pillars and beams.