At 122 years old, it is not surprising that the Teatro Nacional (National Theater) suffers a permanent process of deterioration associated with natural causes such as the aging of its materials, pollution, earthquakes and the excrement of pigeons.

The southern side of the National Theater is exposed to both traffic and pedestrians, exposed to vandalism and people urinating. Photo: Rafael Pacheco / La Nacion

But there are other factors: urine and vandalism.

The face of the National Theater more vulnerable to the damages associated with the behavior of the people is the south facade, which was recently restored.

“The other three facades have a setback, this is not the case for the south, on the sidewalk, so it more difficult to control the damage,” said Andrea Aguilar, an engineer in charge of maintenance.

This proximity to the sidewalk and the Avenida Segunda, means that the structure is subjected daily to pollution but also to that produced the physiological needs of people.

“The cleaning (of the building) is not only for aesthetics but also to avoid accidents and minimize the acidity that impacts the stones due the urine of people,” Carmen Marín, the restorer of the National Theater, told La Nacion.

The recently restored wall on the south side of the National Theater was vandalized on May 2. Photo: Courtesy of the National Theater

The exterior walls of the national monument are also victims of vandalism.

One of the most recent events occurred on May 2, when the recently restored wall was the canvas for crayon graffiti.

“It’s constant and we have to be attacking it immediately. This is by people who by various reasons decide to scratch the walls or use it for drawing,” said Marín.

The damage caused on the material used, so when a graffiti is detected, it is immediately removed.

The crayon graffiti had to be removed as carefully as possible to avoid further damage. Photo: Courtesy of the National Theater.

“In this (May 2)  it was with crayon, the largest area was carefully removed with a scalpel and the rest with an eraser to avoid using solvents, since these, although they are water and soap, can cause the pigments to cause a stain, slight but stained at the end.

“Thus, it was removed mechanically, without mistreating the repelle (stucco) that had just been restored,” the restorer explained.

The National Theater

The Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica is Costa Rica’s national theater, located in the center of San José. Construction began in 1891, and it opened to the public on 21 October 1897 with a performance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust.

The theater stood as a cultural icon of the country during a time when coffee exports were a source of its success.

The building is considered the finest historic building in the capital, and it is known for its exquisite interior which includes its lavish furnishings.

As well as having performances several times a week, the theater today is a tourist attraction. Performances by the National Symphonic Orchestra (NSO) take place as part of orchestra’s regular season, and include both Costa Rican and foreign composers.