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Urban heritage preservation

Four outstanding examples of Brazil’s urban heritage will receive protection as part of a new program to safeguard that country’s urban and cultural patrimony.

In addition to specific investment projects, the program will help Brazil develop a broad-based strategy for heritage preservation, including measures to modernize the country’s National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN, after its name in Portuguese). The program is being funded with the help of a $62.5 million loan.

Initial investments will be made in the following:

Ouro Preto, in the state of Minas Gerais, focal point of the 18th century gold rush. The gold ran out, but many historic churches, bridges and fountains remain.

Olinda, a short trip from the center of Recife and one of the most outstanding complexes of colonial architecture in Brazil.

Bairro do Recife, the island where the North East city of Recife got its start. Until recently dangerous and run down, it is now being transformed into a picturesque place to visit by day and a lively place by night.

Praça Tiradentes, in Rio de Janeiro, a neighborhood of historic buildings that its promoters say could become another New York Soho.

Investment projects will include restoration of monuments, improvement of streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and provision of incentives to building owners to repair their structures. A series of experimental activities will also be carried out to promote investment by private firms and enlist the participation of local residents and nongovernmental organizations.
The program will also include training for artisans, cultural and tourism agents, and for instructors in related fields. Educational activities will include television campaigns, videos for schools and the production of documentaries.

Brazil has a wealth of historic sites with an enormous potential cultural and economic value. But of the some 800 sites recognized as historically significant, only 20 percent are in good condition. Some 40 percent are in poor condition, and 10 percent are in ruins.

In a great many cases, buildings were allowed to deteriorate because they no longer serve a purpose that justifies their maintenance and the preservation of their historic and artistic features. For example, a city of 100,000 persons no longer needs 50 churches.

Other reasons are the inability of the public sector to care for the buildings and the lack of contractors and artisans skilled in working with historic buildings. For example, a masonry façade painted with nonbreathable latex paint, rather than the traditional calcium-based paint, could cause the underlying material to deteriorate.

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