History and Architecture of Solar do Unhão in Salvador

Solar do Unhão is an 18th-century historic site on the shores of the Bay of All Saints in Salvador, comprising the manor house, the Chapel of Our Lady of Conception, a private pier, aqueduct, fountain, slave quarters and an alembic with tanks. The complex currently houses the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia.

In 1690, Pedro Unhão Castelo Branco, a judge, lived there. In 1700, he sold the property to José Pires de Carvalho e Albuquerque (the old man), who established a manor there, leading the property to its golden age: the Portuguese tile panels and the fountain date from the 18th century.

The first reference to the chapel dates from 1740, when one of his granddaughters was baptised.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception at Solar do Unhão in Salvador BA
Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception at Solar do Unhão in Salvador BA

With the decline of the sugar economy, the Manor House was leased, during which time it went through a process of relative decline.

In the early 19th century, the property belonged to Antônio Joaquim Pires de Carvalho e Albuquerque, Viscount of Torre de Garcia D’Avila, and was used as the family’s urban residence.

A snuff factory operated on the premises of the sugar mill between 1816 and 1926, and a wharf in 1928.

Solar do Unhão also served as a warehouse for goods destined for the port of Salvador and later served as a barracks for marines who served in World War II.

Solar do Unhão em Salvador
Solar do Unhão em Salvador

The complex was listed by the then National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service in the 1940s.

Later, it was acquired by the State Government to host the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia. After a restoration project by architect Lina Bo Bardi, the MAM was inaugurated in 1969, offering eight exhibition rooms, a theatre-auditorium, a video room, a specialised library and a database.

Solar do Unhão is home to the Bahia Museum of Modern Art, which has a comprehensive contemporary art collection of around 1,000 works, including works by Tarsila do Amaral, Cândido Portinari, Flávio de Carvalho, Di Cavalcanti, Rubem Valentim, José Pancetti, Carybé, Mário Cravo and Sante Scaldaferri.

In addition to a specific programme for each exhibition, which usually includes meetings with artists, cycles of talks on art, workshops associated with the exhibitions, lectures and expeditions, MAM carries out differentiated cultural activities such as Jaz no MAM.

Solar do Unhão em Salvador BA
Solar do Unhão em Salvador BA

In the outdoor area, visitors will find the so-called Sculpture Park, an open-air exhibition inaugurated in 1997, and a cinema and coffee room – Cinema room MAM.

On the seafront are contemporary works by Bel Borba, Carybé, Chico Liberato, Emanoel Araújo, Fernando Coelho, Juarez Paraíso, Mário Cravo Júnior, Mestre Didi, Sante Scaldaferri, Siron Franco, Tati Moreno and Vauluizo Bezerra. Carybé was the author of the railing that surrounds the space and also signs the project of a concrete panel, located at the end of the garden and the entrance portal. The iron structure represents the sun and stylisations of acarajé.

Solar do Unhão em Salvador
Solar do Unhão em Salvador

The Solar hosts the Museum of Modern Art, which has a comprehensive collection of contemporary art, with about a thousand works, highlighting works by Tarsila do Amaral, Cândido Portinari, Flávio de Carvalho, Di Cavalcanti, Rubem Valentim, José Pancetti, Carybé, Mário Cravo and Sante Scaldaferri;

In addition to a specific programme for each exhibition, which usually includes meetings with artists, cycles of conversation about art, workshops associated with the exhibitions, lectures and expeditions, MAM carries out differentiated cultural activities such as Jaz no MAM.

In the outdoor area, visitors will find the so-called Sculpture Park, an open-air exhibition inaugurated in 1997, and a cinema and coffee room – Saladecinema MAM;

On the seafront are contemporary works by Bel Borba, Carybé, Chico Liberato, Emanoel Araújo, Fernando Coelho, Juarez Paraíso, Mário Cravo Júnior, Mestre Didi, Sante Scaldaferri, Siron Franco, Tati Moreno and Vauluizo Bezerra. Carybé was the author of the railing that surrounds the space and also signs the project of a concrete panel, located at the end of the garden and the entrance portal.

The iron structure represents the sun and stylisations of acarajé.

Museum of Modern Art of Bahia

.Are you going to spend the weekend in Salvador, do you like modern art, contemplating the beautiful, feeling yourself leaning over the beautiful sea of Bahia, with the right to an unforgettable sunset and to finish, enjoying all this to the sound of a  jazz. Your destination is the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia.

Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia
Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia

Not only is it home to countless works of art, the Bahia Museum of Modern Art is a beautiful place with a spectacular view (and, more than that, a direct connection) to the Bay of All Saints. And on Saturdays, the JAM session, with lots of jaz, is an unmissable attraction.

Solar do Unhão, where MAM is located, is a 16th-century building bathed by the Bay of All Saints. The museum was created in 1960, in the foyer of the Castro Alves Theatre, and only in 1963 had the manor as its definitive headquarters.

The Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi created the project of the MAM-BA with the intention of making a museum-school to encourage and expose the cultural production of the Northeast region.

The main modification that the architect made to the structure of the “Solar do Unhão” was to demolish the second floor of the mansion, creating a large wooden staircase, only with fittings and without nails, reproducing those used in ox carts.

The site is the most important space for contemporary art in Bahia and one of the most prominent in the country, bringing together an audience of about 200,000 people a year. It has five exhibition rooms, where works by renowned artists in Brazil and abroad are systematically exhibited. There is also an open-air gallery, the Sculpture Park, and a cinema room.

Characteristics and Architecture of Solar do Unhão

The Solar do Unhão and Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, or House and Chapel of the Old Quinta do Unhão, or simply Quinta do Unhão.

Solar do Unhão is an 18th-century historic site on the shores of the Bay of All Saints in Salvador, comprising the Solar, the Chapel of Our Lady of Conception, a private pier, aqueduct, fountain, slave quarters and a still with tanks. The complex currently houses the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia.

It is built on an embankment at the foot of Salvador’s geological fault.

It was a trading post. Sugar produced in some of Bahia’s mills was shipped from its quay. It has a remarkable landscape.

Its neighbourhood is formed by a small pebble beach, the green hillside and the group of popular houses of Gamboa de Baixo.

François René Moreaux - Solar do Unhão with the Church of Our Lady of the Conception of the Beach, Salvador da Bahia
François René Moreaux – Solar do Unhão with the Church of Our Lady of the Conception of the Beach, Salvador da Bahia

.It is an architectural complex formed by the manor house, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception, the landing pier, the fountain, the aqueduct, the fountain, the warehouses and an alembic with tanks.

Detail of the Solar do Unhão tile panel
Detail of the Solar do Unhão tile panel

On the access bridge to the manor house there are bars of polychrome tiles with Baroque ornamentation, produced in Lisbon between 1770 and 1780.

Polychrome tiles of baroque ornamentation - Lisbon production from 1770 - 1780 - Solar do Unhão, Salvador BA
Polychrome tiles of baroque ornamentation – Lisbon production from 1770 – 1780 – Solar do Unhão, Salvador BA

The fountain, originally fed by the aqueduct, is a baroque piece in dark sandstone, formed by a frown from which the water gushes, and two superimposed shells.

Chafariz is a beautiful baroque piece in dark sandstone at Solar do Unhão
Chafariz is a beautiful baroque piece in dark sandstone at Solar do Unhão

A manor house or palace is the home of a noble family. The name is also used more broadly for an old residence of great luxury and comfort, relative to its time. A manor house could be inhabited by nobles or simply a family belonging to the elite traditional and ancient of a region or city. In a few cases, the original families continue to live in their old manors.

Sometimes, some merchants and very wealthy businessmen also built their manors, notably in Brazil, but, these were all erected in the early 20th century.

.

The manor house has three floors: the ground floor, the noble floor, which is accessed by a bridge with four arches, and the second floor, which was created at the end of the 19th century.

Nothing remains of the interior of the Solar do Unhão, which was transformed into a snuff factory and trapiche. The same can be said of the chapel, which was used as a sawmill until 1960.

The fountain, which was originally fed by the aqueduct, is a beautiful Baroque piece in dark sandstone, formed by a frown from which the water gushes, and two superimposed shells.

The fountain, situated to the left of the chapel, was until a few years ago a beautiful stone frowning place. Although situated practically within the town, this complex was an agro-industrial complex of the same type as the sugar mills, with a big house, chapel and slave quarters.

Until the mid-19th century, the manor house had only two floors and “attic on both fronts with three windows and two on the sides”.

The plan of the chapel (1794) is typical of the parish and brotherhood churches of the early 18th century, but it has a special feature: the nave and chancel are the same width and height.

Its late Rococo façade probably dates from the 19th century. Listed by IPHAN in 1943, it is part of the historic city centre. Today it houses the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia.

Outside the old house, the chapel consecrated to Our Lady of the Conception is the trace of a place that served as a residence for the family of Baron José Pires de Carvalho e Albuquerque, who was very religious.

Today, in front of the chapel, a square connects the access stairs to the underground facilities of Solar do Unhão. Downstairs, elements of the slave period are present among the old trees of the place.

Bathed by the sea

Near the main pulley, the waves of the sea break as they hit the concrete platform where the equipment was fixed. In addition to being a good point for the warehouse, the location of the Solar do Unhão buildings made it possible to take advantage of an old waterfall, found in one of the green courtyards of the territory.

“There used to be a rice husking industry. To this day, you can see the waterfall, which comes from a spring. It moved the instrument through which the rice passed. Although they say the place was a sugar mill, the truth is that it never was,” explains the architect.

Currently closed, the huge windows of the buildings in the Unhão complex remained open to maximise the use of daylight, a fundamental architectural strategy during the period of the lamps.

The journey through history ends when you pass an old fountain, a source of drinking water for people who circulated around the chapel square. After the device, the stone-floored slope is now the exit from Solar do Unhão.

Goods sheds

Among the different galleries built in the lower part of the architectural ensemble of the Solar do Unhão, the rails and carts that carried goods are the remnants of the old warehouse in the region, which was managed by the judge Pedro de Unhão and Castelo Branco.

Galleries built in the lower part of the architectural ensemble of the Solar do Unhão
Galleries built in the lower part of the architectural ensemble of the Solar do Unhão

“Although he only lived there for a short time, about 15 years, he was the best known resident of the region. Therefore, Unhão was present in the name of the space where MAM was installed”.

As a warehouse, in addition to the products brought by the main pulley of the site, the sheds were the “senzalas” where the African slaves that would be traded were kept. Behind the sturdy bars of the gates that prevent visitors from entering, the natural lighting of the space is made by the few beams that pass through the small openings of the secular wooden doors positioned near the sea.

“Each trapiche, the name given to the warehouse located near the seafront, functioned autonomously. There, at the point where the doors meet, there was the flow of goods, such as slaves, considered commodities of the time,” says Senna.

Description of the building/set

  • Implantation: The complex consists of the manor house, chapel and sheds, located on the embankment of the Bay of All Saints.
  • The building was built on the shore of the Bay of All Saints.
  • Occupation: The complex occupies an area with a notable landscape presence, bathed by a small pebble beach, next to a hillside and the set of popular houses of Gamboa de Baixo. Nearby there are also the arches that supported the Avenida Contorno. Still in the period when it functioned as an agro-industrial complex, the information mentions that the Solar had a functional distribution characteristic of the colonial period, ground floor used as a service, first floor occupied by the family and stolen water used as a servants’ dormitory.
  • Number of floors: 1 to 3.
  • Structure: Manor house box in stone masonry and brick arcades on the ground floor.
  • Covering: The houses that make up the complex have a pitched and gable roof.
  • Frames: The large sash windows in colonial style that surround the houses allow a greater use of light inside the environments.
  • Architectural style and decorative elements: The buildings are mostly colonial in style.

Historical data

  • The complex served as an agro-industrial complex of the same kind as the sugar mills, with a large house, chapel and slave quarters. The extensive wharf and warehouses suggest that its function was to collect and export the production of the mills of the Recôncavo.
  • In 1616, a resident of the Recôncavo resided there.
  • In 1690, the judge Pedro de Unhão Castelo Branco lived there.
  • In the early 1700s it was bought by José Pires de Carvalho e Albuquerque.
  • At the beginning of the 19th century, the property belonged to Antônio Joaquim Pires de Carvalho e Albuquerque, after a succession of owners until the period of 1928, the property is sold to the State.

Further information

  • The ensemble underwent some important restorations after the purchase by the State:
  • 1946: Stabilisation, conservation and cleaning works.
  • 1960: Work begins on the Avenida Contorno, the project for which envisaged one of the lanes passing between the Manor House and the chapel and another that would cause the aqueduct and the fountain to disappear. After reactions from the press, the architect Diógenes Rebouças proposes an alternative route for the avenue.
  • 1962/1963: The State Government carries out a restoration to house the Museum of Popular Art of Bahia, with a project by the architect Lina Bo Bardi, including the installation of a helical staircase and the replacement of plaster with plaster in some pavilions.

Address: Av. Contorno, s/n – Dois de Julho, Salvador – BA.

See also History and Tourist Spots of Avenida Contorno in Salvador BA.

History, Architecture and Characteristics of Solar do Unhão in Salvador

Comments are closed.

Hide picture