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Urban Architecture in Rio de Janeiro


Rio de Janeiro

Urban architecture of Rio de Janeiro
The Great Urban Reforms in Rio de Janeiro
Presidente Vargas Avenue
Parque do Aterro do Flamengo
Favela da Rocinha

Rio de Janeiro
Introduction This research presents a historical review of the urban development of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The study gives an overview of the city’s urban planning through the time, pointing out at some connections between the different urban factors involved in the urbanization process.
Urban architecture of Rio de Janeiro At the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Rio de Janeiro faced a huge serious social problem. Epidemics of diseases such as yellow-fetal devastate the filthy slums of the central region. The basic sanitation was quite precarious that made the local population concentrate in the Center of the city living in precarious conditions of hygiene.
The Great Urban Reforms in Rio de Janeiro The first three decades of the twentieth century formed a period of great urban transformation in Rio de Janeiro, highlighting the continuity of the renovation of the central area and the structuring and beautification of the southern part of the city. In addition to the fast pace of construction in the capital of the Republic, two major urban actions carried out by the public power, developed in processes that last several years stand out. These large events involved many foreign professionals for the job opportunities they have generated.

Fig. 1: Avenida Rio Branco, 20th Century
Presidente Vargas Avenue For one of the grandest buildings in Rio de Janeiro to be ready, it was precious to overthrow many of the other buildings. The past shows that the evolution of Rio de Janeiro City or as it is also known the “Marvelous City” is marked by numerous demolitions.
However, never before in the history of Rio de Janeiro has fallen so much that a work was completed, among several other facts this is the most striking of the memory of Avenida Presidente Vargas.
In order for Presidente Vargas Avenue to have cars running one of Vargas’s greatest desires, which encouraged the population to use motor vehicles that would help the country’s economy, many buildings had to be removed from the intervention area.

Fig. 2: Avenida Presidente Vargas (before and after demolition)

The city destroyed jewels of its history in the name of progress or modernity. And this trend continues and is present in many areas of the northeast.
In 1929, Le Corbusier was visiting Rio de Janeiro and took the opportunity to make sketches of some urban ideas for the city. However, his proposal was never become a reality.

Fig. 3: One of the Corbusier’s urban proposals for Rio de Janeiro
Parque do Aterro do Flamengo The bold as most of the “Cariocas” refers to the Flamengo Park, was a landmark in Brazilian urbanism and landscaping. It was the first park of modern lines in Brazil. Following the North American concept of parkways.
In the 1950s, the time when the Glória-Flamengo Landfill began, the increase in population density and the large real estate growth in the neighborhoods, generated the need to renovate its physical infrastructure, close to collapse, due to the coast’s commitment. The urbanization of this area conquered to the sea had as its objective to articulate and to improve the circulation between the South, Center and North Zone.
Attractions The most striking feature of the Park of the Aterro is the diversity of its flora formed, mainly, by native species and also by its vegetal richness that attracts many birds to the place.

Fig. 4: Partial aerial view of Flamengo Park, at Flamengo Aterro
Favela da Rocinha Rocinha, in Rio de Janeiro, is widely considered to be one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest, most densely populated and urbanized slums. Currently there is a wide variety of commerce and services, in addition to many quality residential.
The original favela settlements were called Bairros Africanos or Quilombos, and they were the place where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many freed black slaves and former soldiers moved in and transformed the place in an urbanized slums.
As Favela da Rocinha is located between two hills, it makes life difficult for the local resident to move flowily around the place, (narrow streets and the plan inclination of the area do not help to explore/walk from one place to another) as you can see on the image down below.

Fig. 5: Aspect of Rocinha, showing a typical urban favela pattern
Conclusion I conclude that the existence of the architectural / historical patrimony in the big cities is a challenge for the current architects and town planners. Until a few years ago, to solve problems of traffic and urban space, many badly planned decisions reached irremediably to this patrimony. However, this has changed and a new vision of conservation and use of these spaces has ensured its existence in large cities for longer. The panorama of before and after the urban plan referring to the city of Rio de Janeiro shows the concern in designing a modern model that could bring the beauty and easy mobility of the residents in the city.
Over the years, it has been noted that a major concern is not only to expand and better plan the access routes of the city but also, to the fact that the rulers at the time made the country follow the same urban model that was desired in Europe. The city of Rio de Janeiro brought many architectonic traits from other countries, before creating its own model of urbanization being guided by architects such as Oscar Niemeyer, Afonso Eduardo Reidy, Lúcio Costa among others who were the maximum reference, and who served as inspiration for many national and international architects.
References Dezeen. 2016. Eight Modernist masterpieces in Rio de Janeiro to visit during the Olympics. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Guiding Architects. 2016. Rio de Janeiro, the cradle of modern architecture in Brazil as new Guiding-Architects destination. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Luiz Dias. 2012. Av. Presidente Vargas – O antes, o durante e o depois. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Maria Lucia Pires Menezes. 2017. O Aterro e o Parque do Flamengo. 50 anos de espaço público. Sucessos e conflitos. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Irina Vinnitskaya. 2011. Regeneration of the Favela de Rocinha Slum / Jan Kudlicka. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Wikipedia. 2019. Rio de Janeiro. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Wikipedia. 2019. Architecture of Brazil. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Jan Doroteo. 2016. All The Architecture To See in Rio de Janeiro During the 2016 Olympics. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].
Sarah Brown. 2016. An Architectural Guide To Rio De Janeiro. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2019].

Perception of Human Spaces

Perception of Human Spaces
Can perception of public spaces be altered by their surrounding physical and metaphysical environments? Introduction and Narrative “The more broken, weather-stained, and decayed the stone and brick-work, the more the plants and creepers seemed to have fastened and rooted in between their joints, the more picturesque these gardens become.” Uvedale Price (Appleton, 1975)
Streams of light warm the back of my neck as I sit alone reading, a hushed silence screams out despite the room full of students. In my own head I am aware of no-one around me, the scraping of pencils across paper seems to echo off the walls as the people around me take notes, the discordant rhythm drawing me further into the yellowed pages. Fine characters appear crammed onto each leaf forming words, sentences, paragraphs. I don’t remember when I learnt to read. Seems almost impossible for me now to forget. At what point did these black lines begin to mean something to me?
A draught draws my attention to a cracked window, chill despite the clear skies outside. The sun catching in the corner of my eye as I turn, causing me to squint. My mind wanders to the hill on the horizon, glowing in the winter sun. A thin shadow wanders over the woodland that clings to the hillside. The wind swiftly carrying the wisps of cloud away. I can see myself there, atop that hill watching the world move around me, hearing the rustle of the long grasses, browned by the last of the summer. A dog panting as his master throws another tennis ball. The sweet taste of a cool gin and tonic from The Rising Sun lingering on my tongue, the scent of the cold clinging to my nose, my senses ablaze. My perception of that place persists even in my imagination.
Snapping back into focus I remember the book in my hands. A tale about a man who has come to recognise the smallness of his own life. Having witnessed true poverty and desperation, his perception of memories that he hated in the past, were forever changed. That which he saw as greed he grew to understand as necessity. He is now using his knowledge of the world to create a passion for bringing wildness back to our culture. However, what I want to focus on is the change in his perception, the change in how he now looks back on things in his past and sees them differently.
Altering people’s perceptions is not a new topic of discussion. A simple search on google will bring up hundreds of guides on how to change what people think of you, how to amend negative perceptions, but the level of effort required varies greatly. In some cases simple reflection will do the trick, while some others recommend a complete lifestyle change. What I want to look at is how you can change the perception of human spaces. How does an area get a bad name, and how can you guide people to see the same space in a new light? I hypothesise that a public square with the same dimensions and features would take on a different character depending on the height of surrounding buildings, the density of surrounding traffic and the cultures and histories associated with the square.
In an attempt to illustrate this hypothesis on a small scale I have created a maquette. A timber cube with six near identical faces, the difference being the natural grain on each face. All sides treated exactly the same have taken on their own characters and may be perceived differently based on their history and surroundings (refer to fig1).

Fig 1: The six faces of Four Converging Roads
In this document I will explore how both groups and individuals see and comprehend public spaces: the scientific basis for differences in cultural perception and how it leads to contrasting percepts of identical stimuli. All with the final aim to see whether these perceptions can be altered.
To accomplish this, I must set out all the factors that can affect perception. To start I will lay out the two main categories, Internal factors and External factors. The former referring to the needs of the individual driving their perception of the object. The latter encompassing all surrounding factors, external influences such as culture, history, climate, and lifestyle. I will try to delve into examples of these factors, examining them through a select few case studies.
What is perception?
In order to ask if it can be altered, first I must define perception. The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines perception initially as “the way we interact with the world through the senses” (Dember, et al., 2018) however, it goes on to talk about the different ways the topic can be discussed. The recognition and comprehension of the world around us, the environment we live in. In this sense I am, as all others are, in a state of constant perception.[AJ1]
Through my research reading into how the world is perceived by our brains, the line between science and philosophy has become blurred. The separation of science and philosophy is fairly recent, beginning with the classification of science as a separate field of study in the 19th century. Natural Philosophy, as it was called at the time, focussed on the facts of how we can see and sense the world around us. While Philosophy sought out the differences in how people comprehend that same world due to their diverse cultures, genders, influences and ages.
Physical perception through the senses involves a series of synapses that carry information to our brains capturing and processing images, sounds, smells, tastes and everything else around us (Samuel, 2012). There are many senses that are constantly relaying information within our bodies. The traditional five, which are most recognised for their roles in allowing us to perceive our surroundings.
– Vision (sight)
– Audition (hearing)
– Gustation (taste)
– Olfaction (smell)
– Somatosensation (touch)
Followed by many other types of receptors in our bodies that control anything from pain to thirst.
– Thermoception (temperature)
– Proprioception (where our limbs are in space)
– Nociception (pain)
– Equilibrioception (balance)
– Mechanoreception (vibration)
– Interoception (internal senses)
Finally leading to those which are not based on any specific sensory organ. Including time, agency, and familiarity (Metzinger, 2009).
When exploring the effect of these senses and how they work together to build a version of the world in our minds we must be informed that we are limited. There is a physical limit so the amount of stimuli we can conceive. This not only refers to that which lies beyond our field of vision, range of hearing or grasp; but all those things that we do not have the receptors to experience. The human eye has three types of photoreceptors sensitive to red, green and blue light, these light-detecting cells allow us to effectively colour in our surroundings depending on the way light refracts off each different material. In contrast many birds, reptiles and fish have a fourth receptor which deals with ultraviolet light a range on the colour spectrum that is invisible to us (Yong, 2014). Similarly, humans have between 350 and 400 types of olfactory receptors which convert the odour molecules into scents; where some animals, rats for example, can have between 500 and 1000 different receptors (Bernays