The Mirante da Granja Guarani (aka Quiosque das Lendas) in Teresópolis , Brazil, may be abandoned and in ruins, but the historic site still draws tourists to this vibrant community north of Rio de Janeiro.
Local sports director Arnaldo Guinle (1884 – 1963) financed the building of the open air structure in 1929 and had it faced with tiles worked by the Portuguese ceramist Jorge Colaço (1868 – 1942), who painted the tiles in Lisbon.
The tiles, now largely damaged or painted over by vandals, tell four stories: “O Dilúvio (The flood),” “O Anhangá (The Evil Spirit)”, “A moça que saiu pra procurar marido (The girl who left to look for her husband)” and “Como apareceu a noite (How the night appeared)”.
Despite numerous municipal-level discussions of restoration over the years, the derelict site remains listed as historically significant but otherwise unprotected.
As with any public structure, the Mirante da Granja Guarani remains susceptible to vandalism, so the prospect of restoring it comes with a modicum of hesitation. Why restore it if it cannot be protected from vandals?
Unfortunately, this indecisiveness has only left the iconic edifice open to more destruction, and one wonders how much longer it will be before Jorge Colaço’s beautiful storytelling works of art are completely defaced.
At this point, one must ask: “Which is more important — the structure itself or the artwork adorning its walls?”
It is not an easy answer.
However, due to the damage already sustained, it does not appear that the painted tiles could ever be completely restored. With that in mind, it begs the question of whether these works should be carefully removed, restored as well as they possibly can be, and displayed in a museum where they can be preserved for future generations.
On the other hand, as anyone who has ever tried to remove tile knows, such a task is difficult. Tile is incredibly brittle, and the act of removing it may completely destroy it.
So there it sits, exposed to spray-paint-wielding jackals of the night in an area unable to protect it and a community with more pressing financial matters.
No, there are no easy answers.
Years from now someone will surely ask why nothing could have been done to protect this legacy. By then it will be too late.