Petropolis Sports-for-Change, Day 1 | Talking Favelas with Jáuregui

This is the first student diary entry of the master’s field trip to Brazil to continue work on the Petropolis Sports-for-Change project in Brazil, in collaboration with Architecture for Humanity.
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A warm light bathes a chaotic sea of cubes, the flitter of colorful kites guided by barefoot children hopping atop the rooftops. Antennas, cables, improvised pools, water tanks, the flutter of clothes hung out to dry, corrugated roofs lie forth below us. It is difficult to find an open space, a pause, everything is closed, continuous, breathless…these brick slopes. My eyes cannot manage to focus on any one thing, and continue to wander restless.

Rio de Janeiro, 35 degrees: Coming from near-freezing temperatures in Barcelona, it’s not an easy transition! We are located in the Botafogo district, southeast of the city. After a hard time waking up, we slowly walk to the JMJA office, where we had an exciting meeting with architect Jorge Mario Jáuregui.

Jáuregui has been working in Rio de Janiero for the last fifteen years on public interest projects, in ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ areas around the city. He is best known for his project on the upgrading of Rio’s favelas and their integration with the rest of the city.

When we arrive at the office (Rua Martins Ferreira, 28), we enter a small red iron door that opens onto a small garden. The architect and staff welcome us into their office as if it were their home, and invite us to sit around a table. The environment at the office is comfortable and you can feel the team busy at work. With great calm and simplicity, Jauregui talks to us about his approach , methodology and philosophy of work.


The starting point of each project, he explains, is to understand the problems of a place and variables of a project using a methodology that has two basic components: analyzing the structure of each site and listening to the needs of the local community.


The Architecturbanist: A diagram of Jáuregui’s methodology.

He advocates a holistic approach that builds upon existing systems and addresses the physical, social, ecological and economic aspects of the context, the analysis of which is key to understanding the relationship between the different parts. This ensures that each proposal is specific to its particular social and geographical conditions.

“The Architect does not work for the client, but for society. He is a provider of public service activities”. The project is a tool that allows us to understand what the community wants. It is this desire that drives the creative act, and the architect has to be able to listen to this desire, or rather, reinterpret it. The relationship with the inhabitants is fundamental, but the architect’s role is to reinterpret the needs of the people; the Freudian free associations approach.

The contemporary socio-spatial context is an unstable field of work, and the challenge consists in imagining new relationships and balancing acts between city, urbanity and space.

Inspired by Jauregui’s talk, we eagerly set foot again to visit one of his most important and recent projects: the cable car system at the Complexo do Alemão in the North Zone of Rio. The project has enabled an improved quality of life for its residents in a place where public space was inexistent, promoting and facilitating connections with the surrounding neighborhoods and the city. The Teleferico has improved the connectivity between favela and city in both directions.

Finally we arrived at the colorful and crowded Bonsucesso station. The red cabins carry the message “compartilhe felicidade” which means “share happiness”. A dense expanse of favela stretches out before us, at once an intimidating and beautiful landscape.


Projeto de articulação socio-espacial – Complexo do Alemão Favelas (Escala Territorial PAC – Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento)

One of Jáuregui’s comments during our meetup resonates throughout the day:

“What then, is the role of the architect in society?” A question I often ask myself. He answers emphatically, with a smile on his face: “To transform this shit world!”

by Michela Guglielmi

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