From the 14th to the 27th of March, our students along with our Co-director Carmen Mendoza-Arroyo and thanks to the coordination of Raquel Colacios, participated in a field trip that took place in Rio das Pedras, one of the biggest slums of Rio de Janeiro. As part of the fieldtrip, this year’s students participated in an international workshop held at ‘Studio X Río’, of Columbia University NY, with the participation of planning students of the Graduate School of Planning and Preservation of Columbia NY and their professors Alejandro de Castro and Marcela Tovar-Restrepo.
The favela Rio das Pedras has a population of 80.000 people, and is located in the west of the city, next to Barra da Tijuca, between the mountains and a lacunar system with abundance of turf soil and the following pressing challenges faced by these settlements such as:
- Flooding, sanitation and health problems due to environmental degradation
- Transportation, mobility and connectivity to the rest of the city
- Presence of militias
The city plans to make important interventions in Barra da Tijuca for the Olympic Games being held in 2016, that will impact the life in Rio das Pedras which include up-grading the transport and connectivity with a BRT system, developing touristic infrastructure and improving water management and purification of surrounding lagoons. The City of Rio has plans to acquire a former factory land in Anil, 1,5km far from Rio das Pedras, to build Minha Casa Minha Vida Program (MCMV) inclusive housing units.
In the workshop, our students focused on exploring how to improve the existing living conditions of vulnerable families living in Rio das Pedras. The workshop’s objective was to develop an integrated betterment plan for Rio das Pedras through socio-spatial analysis in order to deliver recomendations and upgrading strategies. In mixed groups of students of UIC and Columbia NY the following topics were analyzed and developed: Water Management, Spatial strategies, Mobility, accesibility and transportation and Economic Development.
The students and professors carried out an intense fieldwork plan to establish a comprehensive dialogue with all the agents related to the project. The everyday schedule included a general tour to Rio das Pedras, Barra and downtown Rio to develop greater understanding of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro’s historical and socio-economic conditions; a visit to the flooding areas and lacunar system, Barra and the high-income residential area to understand water management, the frequency and impacts of flooding; they also accomplished several guided trips from Rio das Pedras to Anil, Rio das Pedras to Barra and Rio das Pedras to downtown to analyse transportation/mobility/accessibility issues; an exploration of the principal business areas to learn about labor and economic potentials; and finally, interviews about security and territory control.
The workshop was once again a great learning experience for all at a personal and academic level.