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Fiocruz is a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Site


COC/Fiocruz (with information from Iphan)


The historic Fiocruz complex in Manguinhos, in Northern Rio de Janeiro, is a candidate for World Heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The institution is now part of the tentative list of sites that can become Cultural, Natural and Mixed World Heritage Sites, a primary and obligatory stage for any property to begin the process of recognition.

Inscription of the historical complex of Manguinhos is a first on the UNESCO list (photo: Jeferson Mendonça)

In addition to Fiocruz, the Chapada do Araripe, which covers areas in the states of Ceará, Pernambuco and Piauí, has joined the UNESCO Tentative List. The site contains assets dating back 180 million years, housing the memory of Earth's geological formation and archaeological records of past human presence. The two cultural properties will need to remain on the list for one year before any official application to the UNESCO World Heritage Center can be formalized.

"We have a unique opportunity to share Brazil's heritage in a world showcase. We are rich, plural and have a lot to offer. And every time we display our natural beauty, we strengthen our culture," said Culture Minister Margareth Menezes.

Brazil currently has 23 World Heritage Sites. They are divided into Cultural, Natural and Mixed World Heritage Sites – the latter when a single site has unique characteristics associated with cultural and natural values. World Heritage sites, as defined by the 1972 Unesco Convention, can be buildings, urban complexes, monuments, cultural landscapes or entire cities, biomes and sites of high environmental importance. There are currently 23 of such places throughout Brazil, including fifteen Cultural, seven Natural and one Mixed.

"The candidacy does not yet mean recognition as a World Heritage Site, but the properties that have already been recognized have been based on this Tentative list. These two properties can join the other sites in Brazil that have already been recognized as World Heritage Sites," said the president of the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN), Leandro Grass.

Health heritage: Unprecedented typology on the Unesco list

Director of the Oswaldo Cruz House (COC/Fiocruz), Marcos José Pinheiro stresses that the registration of the Manguinhos historical complex is a first on the Unesco list. "Fiocruz's candidacy is unique in that it aims to fill a gap in Unesco's recognition of health heritage. The latest pandemic has shown just how much health – in all its different dimensions – is a relevant topic and one that is imbued with meaning for the world's population. Inclusion on the tentative list is a recognition and, at the same time, a challenge which we are very excited to face."

An example of the appropriation of the language of architectural eclecticism and the most modern building technologies of the early 20th century, the historic Fiocruz complex in Manguinhos, in Northern Rio, bears witness to the institutionalization of science in Latin

America. Created with the initial aim of producing serums and vaccines to tackle the epidemics of the time, the institute headed by Oswaldo Cruz represented an original type of scientific organization, based on the confluence of tropical medicine and microbiology.

The first generations of scientists at the institution, whose greatest symbol is still the Moorish Pavilion, undertook trips to Brazil's countryside in the first decades of the 20th century, which were a milestone for the country's scientific research and knowledge, associating the civilizing ideal of the time with the proposal to integrate the hinterlands. The impact of its work in the field of health was felt beyond Brazil's borders, in Latin America, and recognized by similar institutions in Europe and the United States, with whom it maintained a fruitful scientific exchange.

Fiocruz's historic complex is an example of the appropriation of the language of architectural eclecticism and one of the most modern construction technologies of the early 20th century (photo: COC Collection/Fiocruz)

Manguinhos historical complex: Research, preservation and valorization

The Manguinhos historical complex meets all the requirements of authenticity, integrity and management. Additionally, there is a wealth of research material on the historical archives produced by researchers from Fiocruz and other institutions. To this day, Fiocruz carries out ongoing initiatives aimed at preserving and enhancing its vast and diverse cultural heritage, which, in addition to historic buildings and spaces, includes objects, photographs and other documents produced in its early years.

"As of February 2025, we will be able to make the candidacy of cultural assets official. We are going to organize material for evaluation by experts who work with Unesco," explains Iphan's international advisor for Material Heritage, Candice Ballester.

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation's candidacy: Health, science and culture in Manguinhos, presented as cultural heritage, meets criteria 2 and 6 as justification for Outstanding Universal Value.

UNESCO'S Criteria for measuring Outstanding Universal Value

1. To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;

2. To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

3. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

4. To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;

5. To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

6. To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);

7. To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

8. To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;

9. To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;

10. To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

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