Botafogo’s Moorish Pavillion – 1910


Moorish Pavillion / Pavilhão do Mourisco – 1910
(w/ the Botafogo Rowing Club Pavillion in the backround, along the water)

The Pavillion was planned by the architect Alfredo Burnier during the Perreira Passos government as an end marker of the Avenida Beira-Mar but it was built during the Souza Aguiar administration, from 1906 to 1909. The Pavillion was actually destined to become a music hall, but it never ended up as such, rather it became a tea room, restaurant and cafe. Its construction was quite remarkable, with its five golden domes, and it quickly went from being a simple building to being a placename.

One might wonder why build something Moorish in what was a chic Zona Sul neighborhood. Well, during the Passos era, there was a push to leave certain architectual aspects (colonial, Luso-Brazilian) in the past and to look towards Europe (Iberia, in particular) for inspiration, where neo-Moorish architecture was popular. Above the main entrance, they even placed the words “Café Cantante” (lit. Singing Cafe, also the name for flamenco clubs in southern Spain) written in Arabic. By the way, here’s a 3D model of the building.

(The Pavillion wasn’t the only neo-Moorish construction in Rio at the time, there was also the castle at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Manguinhos, and the Basilica of the Immaculate Heart in Meier.)

From 1934, it housed the Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s Library), managed by poet Cecília Meireles. In her hands it transformed into a cultural center for children, as it went beyond the objectives of a simple library because it brang together other activities such as films, music, maps, games, etc. The enterprise was very original because, at the time, libraries didn’t allow the presence of unaccompanied children. The Mourisco’s Children’s Library didn’t just allow children there, rather it incentivized them to visit. The library was closed in 1937 by the Estado Novo. The building later served as a tax collection office and then it was demolished in 1952, in order to build the Pasmado Tunnel. The name, however, survived and the area near the tunnel is still called Mourisco by some.

Click to see what exists in its place…(the Centro Empresarial Mourisco, built in the 90s)



praiadebotafogo1926(Another child clothed by the Pavillion)

Manequinho is the popular name of a statue of a boy urinating, in front of the Botafogo Soccer and Rowing Club. In 2002, the statue was declared part of Rio’s heritage.

In the Pavillion’s early years, many charity events were hosted by the city’s most elegant women, who would raise money for at-risk children (likely what is being referenced in the picture above), as evidenced at a 1914 charity tea session (here, 1, 2, and 3). Seeing as the Manequinho was transferred from downtown Rio to a place near the Pavillion in 1927, I’d guess the sign and clothes were put there between ’27 and ’34, before the building became a children’s library. Another possibility is that the word Ouvidor at the bottom means the statue was still downtown. Decades later, the statue would be redressed for another purpose.

Manequinho+1957In 1957, when Botafogo won the Carioca Championship of soccer, someone dressed the little man in a Botafogo jersey (news clip), making it a symbol of the neighborhood from then on. Unfortunately, since that time, it has been stolen, destroyed, remade, vandalized, and repaired…but it still stands.


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