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October 2004 Issue

Looking Back, Moving Forward
Can the revitalization of a colonial landscape in Amazonia advance landscape architecture in Latin America?

By Jimena Martignoni

Looking Back, Moving Forward Joao Ramid

Born at the confluence of three natural rivers, the Brazilian city of Belém was sustained by three metaphorical streams—commerce, cultural exchange, and leisure—for more than 300 years. After decades of decline, Belém's colonial-era parks and riverfront, monuments, and buildings now show off their former glory and offer new connections with the modern city. This renaissance is the product of a sweeping rehabilitation funded by the state and carried out by a team of private-sector designers, including São Paulo-based landscape architect Rosa Kliass.

While a preservation-centered revival in which a landscape architect plays a prominent role may not be unusual in the United States, it is striking in South America, where architects dominate urban design and state governments don't typically invest in public landscapes. Two projects in particular, the Residence of Pará, the early twentieth-century governor's palace; and Feliz Lusitânia, a complex of architectural and open spaces, illustrate how Belém's restoration not only breathes life into an old city but also models a professional process that could transform other Latin American cities.

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