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 City & Time > Vol. 3, No. 1 (2007) open journal systems 

Seridó?s built heritage: to whom it may concern

Edja B. F. Trigueiro, UFRN
Nathália Maria M. Diniz, USP/FAPESP
Gilton Batista Filho, UFRN
Iana Alexandra A. Rufino, UFRN

Abstract This paper presents an attempt to disseminate knowledge about the built heritage of Seridó ? micro-region of Rio Grande do Norte?s Sertão ? through the web. It is also an attempt to ?translate? architectural information, normally confined in Brazil within the academic sphere, to the larger community of internet users. The information presented in the site www.seol.com.br/bdc results from an extensive inventory developed from 1996 through 2001 (Trigueiro et al) in 22 towns of Seridó, aiming at: (1) register pre-modernist and modernist buildings still surviving at the end of the 20th century; (2) identify their period of construction and (3) ascertain the state of conservation of their original formal features. The inventory was motivated by the perception that the architectural scenery of nearly all older towns in Seridó, has been undergoing a rapid dismantling process following economic changes in the micro-region. Historically linked to cattle breeding, these towns changed significantly along the 19th century, accompanying the growth of commerce and the development of cotton wool plantations in Rio Grande do Norte, thereafter, functioning mainly as supporting centres for farming activities until well into the 60?s. From then on, in the trail of the urbanisation impetus that swept through Brazil, and of the local decline of beef and cotton production, both unable to compete with that of other origins, those towns rapidly turned into local centres for tertiary activities. Former residential buildings in the original town cores, where 19th and early 20th century remains can be found are being increasingly converted into shops and service outlets. As a general belief that the look of domestic buildings is incompatible with commercial use predominates in Brazil, original façades are giving way to wide glass-paned doorways and windows, topped by commercial ads, and built shells are being hollowed. In addition to the loss of decades of socio-cultural practices crystalised in spatial structures and building materials, this process seems particularly alarming in view of the fact that, in this country, although architectural integrity has not yet fully become a material asset, architectural mutilation is a strong factor for devaluation and urban decay. If the assumption advocated by various authors that the world is seeing an almost religious worship of architectural heritage is to be believed, such practices place the majority of the Brazilian population outside the world. On the other hand the increasing number of courses/events dedicated to discussing heritage and of conservation plans being produced suggest that the gap between the way scholars/technicians and the general public perceive the built environment is widening. By offering simple tools for identifying architectural vestiges that predominated in successive time periods ? colonial, eclectic and modernist ? from the form of their represented built shells we seek to contribute towards narrowing that gap in the hope that the images in the web rather than being just another set of ?virtual toy towns? may contribute to enhance awareness concerning the fading architectural heritage of Seridó, especially among young internet users.

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City & Time  ISSN: 1807-7544