This is the student blog documenting the master’s field trip to Brazil to continue work on the Rio Floods Petropolis Sports-for-Change project in Brazil, in collaboration with Architecture for Humanity. Click here for the entire series.
Part 1 | by Ana Livi
On the third day of our trip we went on a bus tour through the city of Rio de Janeiro and Niteroi, the state’s 6th largest city, where we visited interesting and well-known sites in both cities.
Our first stop was Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum (MAC), designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer with the assistance of the structural engineer Bruno Contarini. Built in 1996, the museum is 16 meters high and has a cupola with a diameter of 50 meters that contains three floors. The museum projects itself over the beach of Boa Viagem, and a reflecting pool surrounds the cylindrical base “like a flower,” in the words of Niemeyer.
The building is located in a strategic position that offers a wonderful view of the city of Rio de Janeiro from Niteroi’s side of the Guanabara Bay. Whether it’s looking out from inside inside or outside of the building, it is clear that the sea, the mountains and the Rio skyline are important elements of Niemeyer’s architecture. The building’s isolated position allows visitors to appreciate the different external angles, which coincide with those of the surrounding mountains and the amplitude of the water, with its reflective surface that transforms the heavy concrete structure into a one that transmits lightness and fluidity. From the interior, the 360-degree-windows allow visitors to enjoy the entire landscape from a higher viewpoint. It is an impressive construction and the art exhibit become secondary to the geometric lines and the natural landscape always on display.
Either you like it or you don’t, but it certainly it is difficult to be indifferent to the space created around and inside the museum. The wind and the sea bring a pleasant feeling of freedom and peace.
Another building that we stopped by to take some pictures of was the social housing complex called ‘Minho cão’ (“big worm” in Portuguese). Designed by the architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy, the project is located in the São Cristóvão district of Rio de Janeiro, opposite from MAC Niteroi. It’s location within the dense urban fabric makes it difficult to appreciate the entire volume, while the busy avenue that crosses Minhocão with a tunnel that crosss underneath the apartments makes it even more difficult to get close up. Its sinuous 260m length that rise 7 floors above ground is an impressive sight.
An icon of Brazil’s modernism period, it was built in 1947 and was supposed to be one of the many buildings of the project for the Residential Complex of Pedregulho. However Reidy never saw his project built; he died before its construction and the project was not built according to his design. Many of the complementary buildings for the complex were never realized and Minhocão today has an avenue that intersects at ground level, which was not part of the original project.
The picture above shows the building from the street and the only perspective we were able to have (we could not get closer or enter the complex). The impression is that the building has a very high density of inhabitants and that the cars passing so near the apartments make it very noise and disturbing. Because it is a high-speed avenue, and it is just another tunnel like so many in Rio de Janeiro, many people pass the building everyday without realizing that it is a residential building or acknowledging its historical significance and value as a symbol Brazilian’s modernist architecture.
Part 2 | by Aude Choppinet
Our last stop was a visit to the Rocinha favela. Framed by one of the famous tanga-shaped footbridges of Oscar Niemeyer–inspired by the well known curves of Brazilian women–the Rocinha favela rises between the hills of the South Zone of Rio.
Our guide helps us to navigate through the overwhelmingly urbanized slum, one of Brazil’s biggest. Rocinha has a better developed infrastructure than most other favelas and we can see houses up to four stories high.
The street is filled with people, colourful ads, clothes and food shops. Peeking into the houses we see textile activities and children everywhere. Looking up we are amazed by the tangle of electric wires. Dozens of motorcycles sound their horns trying to navigate up the steep chaotic hillside. The community looks amused by our confusion.
As we continue our walk we are invited to enter a childcare educational center called Escola Saci Sabe Tudo, funded by an Italian NGO Sorriso Dei Miei Bimbi and local NGO Projeto Amigos da Vida. For over ten years they have provided education and activities that help families reintegrate into society.
The heat slaps us in the face as we enter the narrow building. A small group of children welcomes us with a freshly learned “Buenos dias!” as they are in the middle of a Spanish language class. Reflecting on the teachers and women that we’ve met in the last couple of days, I am amazed by the Brazilian resilience, warmth, and culture.
Crossing the footbridge we have an amazing view of the textures and contrasts. The favela appears to endlessly grow and fade into the deep green tropical nature, only the steep hillside forcing an end to its vast expansion.
In a moment of contemplation I try to envision my future for the next three months, which I will be spending in Brazil for my internship. The challenge of absorbing the culture and capturing the role of gender through my work in Sao Paulo and the implementation and customization of favela-mapping tools.