The decay of coastal forts in southeast Brazil and its implications for the conservation of colonial built heritage

B. J. Smith*, J. A. Baptista-Neto, M. A.M. Silva, J. J. McAlister, P. A. Warke, J. M. Curran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The 500th anniversary of European arrival in Brazil was celebrated in 2000 and highlighted the need to review the condition of the country's remaining colonial built heritage. This revision is particularly apposite in the adjacent cities of Rio de Janeiro and Niterói, where the heritage that survived twentieth century reconstruction has done so largely because of ownership by the church or military. However, whilst this may have protected buildings from demolition, detailed fabric can be neglected or abused. This paper investigates this possibility through an examination of two forts, built primarily of local augen gneiss, that guard the entrance to Guanabara Bay. Natural outcrops exposed to the same humid sub-tropical maritime environment show that this rock is susceptible to slow disaggregation through salt weathering. Surveys suggest that stonework in the forts that is sheltered from rainwash is heavily loaded with salt and has passed a threshold, wherein stresses accumulated over centuries of apparent stability, combined with the effects of a more recent increase in atmospheric pollution and apparently inappropriate intervention (re-pointing), have triggered rapid breakdown that requires immediate intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-503
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Geology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2004


  • Brazil
  • Building stone decay
  • Cultural heritage
  • Salt weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Soil Science

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