restored burle marx at salvador de bahia: the terreiro de jesus square

Restored Burle Marx at Salvador de Bahia: the Terreiro de Jesus Square

Ana Carolina de Souza Bierrenbach and Federico Calabrese. Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brasil


The Terreiro Square is an integral part of the foundation project of the city of Salvador de Bahia (1549). At that time the city was practically divided between the upper and the lower city. In the first one there were the administrative center and the residential area, in the second one the beach, the port and the warehouses for goods storage. The Municipal Square was the central nucleus of the upper city where the main public buildings were concentrated, while in the Terreiro de Jesus, located further north, there was the Jesuit College, the most important communication node in the city, which in the 19th century hosted the Faculty of Medicine of Bahia.

Over the years it has undergone many transformations, accompanying the urban evolution of the city. In 1948, the Urban Planning Commission of the City of Salvador – CPUCS, coordinated by the architect Diógenes Rebouças, general director of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Preservation (SPHAN) – asked Roberto Burle Marx to elaborate projects of public spaces and gardens in Salvador. The invitation stems from the need of the Bahian government to revitalize and modernize the city's public spaces.

Roberto Burle Marx, in the project begun in 1950, proposes the replacement of the existing flooring and the design of a new parterre with organic, sinuous and innovative forms for the city of Salvador. Burle Marx used the same principles for other projects, as for the Square of Cataguazes, in Minas Gerais, for the Santos Dumont Square and for Largo do Machado, in Rio de Janeiro.

Burle Marx's project tends to consolidate the identity of the place using materials such as Portuguese stone, beach pebbles and shells of the region, and with the permanence of the existing fountain in the square.

It proposes the creation of a mobile stage and that of a single sinuous flowerbed with plants, that transforms the Terreiro into a place of meeting and permanence and not only a space of passage. The benches are arranged to take advantage of the shadow of the existing trees.

The attention of Burle Marx for cultural heritage and for the existing vegetation is evident in the project of the Terreiro as in that of Largo do Machado. The proposal of Burle Marx was strongly criticized, in the newspapers of the time, for proposing a solution not very adequate to the classical style of the square and the historical surroundings.[...]

More on the next Compasses issue




A&P Arquitetura e Urbanismo



Restoration of the Terreiro de Jesus Square


Salvador de Bahia

Project Team 

Team leader: Alexandre Prisco Paraíso Barreto – Arquiteto e Urbanista

Team: Paulo Costa Kalil, Edson Fernandes D’Oliveira Santos Neto, Nivaldo Vieira de Andrade Junior, Sérgio Kopinski Ekerman

Collaborators: Rodrigo Carvalho Simões de Oliveira Motta 

Additional Functions

Landscape architect: Paulo Costa Kalil 

Lighting architect: Leonardo de Castro Harth 

Drainage: Ajax Lopes Sampaio Pedreira – Civil engineer

Budget control: Everton Luis Martins Santos – Civil engineer

Image credits

Leonardo Finotti