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View of Guanabara Bay from the main hillock of the Manguinhos Farm. The concrete loading pier designed by Luiz Moraes Junior in 1903 juts into the bay. N.d.

In its early years, the Federal Serum Therapy Institute – forerunner of today’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation – operated out of small, makeshift laboratories on the old Manguinhos Farm, located in what is now the neighborhood of Manguinhos, in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro. When Oswaldo Cruz was appointed director in late 1902, he already had an ambitious plan in mind: he wanted to transform the Federal Serum Therapy Institute into a true center for microbiology research, along the lines of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Such a major undertaking would clearly require facilities and buildings suited to the purposes of modern science laboratories, but the institute’s crude infrastructure clearly fell short of these needs.

Cruz invited Portuguese engineer and architect Luiz Moraes Júnior (1868-1955) to implement this project. Moraes Júnior was born in Faro, in the Algarve, and attended college in Lisbon. In 1900, he was hired to help restore São Bento Monastery, in Rio de Janeiro, so he moved to Brazil. Later, as an independent architect, he worked on the project to beautify Penha Church. It was then, in 1902, while traveling by local train, that he met Oswaldo Cruz.

Moraes Júnior began his work for the Federal Serum Therapy Institute by designing a small vivarium near the original farm buildings and a dock for small vessels, both erected in 1903. His first major structure was the Plague Pavilion, built in 1904. The Stable Pavilion was added later that same year and in 1905 construction began on the Moorish Pavilion. Next came the Aquarium, built between 1909 and 1915 (razed in the 1960s), followed in 1919 by the Quinine Pavilion (also known as the Figueiredo Vasconcellos Pavilion), which was to house the Official Drug Service. Moraes Júnior’s other designs include the small-animal vivarium known as the Dovecote, built in 1904; Oswaldo Cruz Hospital (now the National Institute of Infectology), built between 1912 and 1917; and the Vaccination Pavilion, built in 1922.

Moraes Júnior designed these buildings in the eclectic architectural style. The English style is evident in the main complex – comprising the Plague, Stable, Moorish, and Quinine pavilions – and in fact finds as much expression as the Portuguese and Arabic styles. While the English influence features prominently in the architecture of the Stable Pavilion, for example, the Portuguese and Arabic styles merge magically in the Moorish Pavilion.

The cornerstone of this architectural ensemble is the Moorish Pavilion, also known as Manguinhos Castle. Moraes Júnior based his design on an original drawing by none other than Oswaldo Cruz himself, who drew inspiration from the Moorish-styled Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. The plaster, sand, gravel, and stone used in its construction were taken from the grounds of the institute. With the exception of the wood (Peroba Rosa), all other materials – such as glass, tiles, coatings, marble, ironwork, light fixtures, and so on – were imported from Europe. The bricks and roof tiles came from Marseille, France; the wall and other decorative tiles, from Portugal and Germany; porcelain fixtures like sinks and toilets, from England; the marble, from Italy. Material was shipped directly to the dock designed by Moraes Júnior. The Moorish Pavilion was inaugurated in 1918, one year after the death of Oswaldo Cruz.