Docomomo International became aware by Docomomo Brazil that Hospital Octávio Mangabeira (HEOM) is in high danger of being lost, due to the remodeling project proposed by the Secretaria de Saúde do Estado da Bahia [Bahia State Secretary of Health, SESAB]), that leads to irreversibly damage of cultural value elements of this health heritage site developed in Bahia at the beginning of the 1940s: the former Santa Terezinha Hospital Sanatorium, an icon of the Bahian antituberculosis architecture, and one of the major projects responsible for the consolidation of Modern Architecture in the State.
“The former Santa Terezinha Hospital, now HEOM, began construction in 1937 and was inaugurated in 1942, with the intention of housing a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in Salvador. With a very clear original volumetry, developed from a horizontal block with curved ends to which three prismatic blocks are connected, surrounded by continuous and linear solariums that reinforce its horizontality, it was built in order to favor, as much as possible, natural ventilation and sunlight which at the time was understood to be important elements in the treatment of tuberculosis, having been an important tool in the fight against this disease in Bahia, and emblematic in the establishment of modern architecture in the city. Currently, it continues to care for patients with tuberculosis and other pulmonary diseases, and is a highly regarded hospital in the State of Bahia for respiratory disease treatment, including resistant tuberculosis.
Its relevance as a representative of the establishment of modern architecture in Salvador can be demonstrated by the fact that, soon after its inauguration, Hospital Santa Terezinha was one of the two buildings selected to represent Bahia in the exhibition and respective catalog Brazil Builds: Architecture new and old, made by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) of New York, published in 1943.”
Registered as Cultural Heritage Site since 2019 at the Institute of Artistic and Cultural Heritage of Bahia and after a great effort by the Institute of Architects of Brazil – Department of Bahia to get it protected, “on June 30, 2021, SESAB announced in the press that it would transfer tuberculosis patients to “long-term care units”, and TB and HIV/AIDS patients needing hospitalization would be transferred to the Couto Maia Institute. Health professionals, doctors and employees, hospital patients, recognize its cultural value and are looking for several possible ways to prevent this damage to this cultural heritage site and to the dismantling of the highly regarded care network of respiratory diseases that this hospital unit represents in the Unified Health System (SUS).
Furthermore, health entities also filed a petition with the health prosecutor of the Public Ministry and with the Public Defender of the State of Bahia. In addition to the cultural heritage issue, it is possible to clearly see in the news the change in the care profile and the disruption of the antituberculosis network in the state of Bahia, which is concerning, considering that tuberculosis has not been eradicated and Brazil, according to the World Organization (WHO), is among the thirty countries with a high TB burden between 2019 and 2020.
Currently, despite the various modifications undertaken over its nearly 80 years to adapt to new demands, most of the modern elements that distinguish it have been preserved. However, the project prepared by the Government of the State of Bahia, and presented as part of a clear privatization of the hospital, is completely insensitive to its historical, care and architectural values. The proposal to enclose all balconies with glass, while disregarding the staggered volumetry of the building, eliminates any integration between the interior and exterior, the abundance of natural light and ventilation, and the use of solariums as remarkable elements of this architecture, which demonstrate total compatibility with the most recent discussions of the health architecture regarding the character of the “hospital of the future” from the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, the radical modification inside the building, with the elimination of the walls between the infirmaries, largely corresponding to the original distribution, irreversibly adversely affects its internal spatiality.
The hospital remodeling project is also a threat to the change in the healthcare provided (according to news released by the State Government). This situation presents a grave threat to the disruption of the antituberculosis care network in the State of Bahia.”
Together with the members of the College of Architecture, of the Professional Master’s in Conservation and Restauration of Monuments and Historical Centers (MP-CECRE) and of Graduate Studies in Architecture and Urbanism at the Federal University of Bahia (PPGAU-UFBA), the Architects of Brazil Institute Bahia Department (IAB-BA), Docomomo Brazil, Docomomo International wishes to raise awareness on this case and attention to the immediately stop of the current works so that this Modern Movement Monument will be preserved.
The full letter can be read in English and Portuguese