At the Largo da Alfândega in the Brazilian city of Florianópolis, water basins show how far the sea once reached into the city

Water basins at the new Largo da Alfândega in the Brazilian city of Florianópolis.Water basins at the new Largo da Alfândega in the Brazilian city of Florianópolis.

The square was redesigned with a stone pavement

In seaside cities, the ocean plays a crucial role in development and, because both the city and the sea are so dynamic, traces of how far a coastline once extended into a city, for example, and where important facilities such as the docks or port authorities were located, usually do not remain. In Florianópolis on the Atlantic coast in southern Brazil, a project has now been completed to make visible the “historical traces“ of Largo da Alfândega, which translates as Customs Square.

The Largo da Alfândega shortly before the completion of the construction works.Historic photo showing how far the sea once reached.

Where there used to be a rather unsightly area for car parking, recently, there used to be sea, and all goods coming into the city were unloaded or loaded and checked by the authorities. The old customs office has been preserved.

For Florianópolis, today the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, the place was of central importance for trade: the town used to be spread over only a small island off the Atlantic coast and consequently all trade and goods traffic went through the port. Today there are several bridges to the mainland, but the center of the town is still on the island.

In the restoration project it was made visible how far the ocean used to reach. This was achieved in a very simple way: there are now small water basins in the square.

They also invite visitors to sit and linger at their edge. Steps were created for this purpose.

Old style pavement.Old style pavement.

The commercial life in the old part of the city is symbolically represented by the new paving. The Portuguese had brought with them this tradition of paving important paths (see our Stone Insight series

The roof is reminiscent of the old work of the lace makers.The roof is reminiscent of the old work of the lace makers.

At the heart of the new design is a roof over the square. It covers 450 square meters and consists of 224 individual slabs. Its design is striking and reminiscent of the old work of the lace makers. The immigrants had brought this craft with them from the Azores.

The aim of the redesign was to make the square a meeting place for citizens and an attraction for tourists. For this purpose, there is a store with local handicrafts on the first floor of the former customs office. The building itself was built in the neoclassical style of the period around 1870.

Around the place there are now also infrastructure such as toilets, a flower store, a police station or snack restaurants.

The square also offers a stage for artistic performances.

The transformation of Largo da Alfândega lasted two years and was initiated by the Institute of Cultural Heritage and National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, Iphan). It paid 90% of the costs, totaling R$9.5 million. The city contributed the rest.

The planning was done by the former Ateliê da Cidade and the execution by the architectural firm OCCA Arquitetas Associadas.

The stone work was done by Gramobras company; the CEO is Araciene Pessin, who has also made a name for herself as a designer and landscape architect with her company Aquila Design (see separate text

Prefeitura de Florianopolis (PMF)

Araciene Pessin (1, 2)

The new Largo da Alfândega in the Brazilian city of Florianópolis.The new Largo da Alfândega in the Brazilian city of Florianópolis.

(26.06.2023, USA: 06.26.2023)