11 janeiro, 2011

How to intervene in Favelas - Working the Tools


After our research on the macro-scale Finance of Rio das Pedras and the entire Barra da Tijuca area, we have come to the conclusion that Rio das Pedras is an area under extreme pressure by the local real estate capital that seeks the opportunity to invade the favela and develop some large-scale residential and commercial projects. In the current situation Barra da Tijuca is home to some of the biggest companies in Brazil, hosts the largest convention center in Latin America, the largest shopping mall in Latin America, many luxurious hotels and housing condos. As a matter of fact, some of the wealthiest people of Brazil live in this area, since it’s the 2nd most expensive area in the country [after some parts of the capital, Brasilia].

This dynamic is further enhanced by the major event of the 2016 Olympic games in which the area of Barra da Tijuca holds a key role. Since the announcement of the Games, the properties of Barra already had an ap lose its cultural and demographic identity and be turned into another high-class suburb of the upper and upper-middle class of Barra da Tijuca?



According to the project scenario, 40.000 new inhabitants will enter the favela of Rio das Pedras by the year 2050 doubling the total population. The proposed solution examines the effect of implementing a series of programmatic tools. These tools reflect new types of buildings that host a variety of uses to the favela: the differentiating factor is whether these new typologies are inserted within the existing fabric or they are used as driving forces of development of a new sprawl fabric. These interventions that are both spatial and institutional [establishing the business association] have as goal the financial empowerment of the favela thus closing the gap between favelados and inhabitants from the surrounding mid and high-class areas.

At the same time, the new typologies introduced appeal to different urban actors involved in this context. By actors we identify three main ones: the inhabitants association; a social structure already present and powerfull in many others favelas all over Brasil, the commerce association; an actor introduced by as that we consider necessary in order to organize and promote the very large business activity that is already taking place in Rio das Pedras- and finally the private investor; meaning the large capital real estate development companies that are very active in Barra da Tijuca [as analises above] and are eager to invade Rio das Pedras.

Each actor is related with different tools which represents different goals and interests:

Irregular grid: From the analysis of the self build urban matrix of the “favela” we pretend to create a design that translate the recognized qualities in terms of the street profiles and networks. The irregular shape of the public space, the labyrinth feeling, the narrow streets profiles, the alley-ways, the irregularity of façades and plots, all this elements create a unique atmosphere that benefit the pedestrian and stimulate the appropriation of the street by the inhabitants. Gathering all these ingredients with a more formal approach we pretend to achieve the same result but solving the inequalities related with the informal approach.

Hybrid housing: It´s a concept that pretends to mix the self built system adequacy to these urban realities with a formal system in order to improve the quality of the basic infrastructure of the dwellings. This way providing part of a formal structure for the housing (could it be an all floor or just the basic structural elements) we guarantee the minimum of the requirements desirable for the human habitat, but also some coherence in the urban layout, leaving space for the self appropriation and diversity of façade designs and uses. By that we allow to create a city based on mixability and mutation. Financially this is a low budget system allowing low income families to achieve their first house unities.

Formal Housing: Defined as a final product that could be sold in the real estate market, we pretend to develop a typology related with the middle class, or families with a fixed reasonable income, where there is a special attention to create a flexible house that allows different uses besides the habitat itself, such as the commercial and production ones. Incremental growth should also be take into consideration as a essential characteristic of the final design.

Hybrid Condominium: Integrating the condominium with other functions will generate a new typology to be placed inside the “favela” urban matrix. The goal is to bring a new input into the slum area, financially and socially wise. More than a different architectural approach is a social statement that we pretend to achieve. Combining different social classes in a same building, in an unthinkable urban reality, might just be possible if the balance between their different individualities and needs is respected. In a Real Estate market where prime locations and landscape dreaming scenarios are the most valued characteristics to achieve profits, the site surroundings of Rio das Pedras is very desirable for any type of investor. If this is a reality how can we take this as a plus for the “favela”? It´s our belief that informal and formal city, condominiums and slums, rich and poor, are part of society mysterious balance, one exist because the other makes it possible, and they are depending on each other for survival. This particularly study area despite of its informality is a prominent commercial centre and has one of the most beautiful views from Tijuca Bay, and it is surrounded by nature landscape as well by several real estate prime condominiums. The pressure of the formal market over this territory is enormous, so only placing the favela in the middle of this game we can make it strong enough to survive. Maybe surviving will mean changing, but that´s evolution.

Community Units: As an analysis result of the micro entrepreneurship reality in the Brazilian slums we realize that most of the times the lack of spatial infrastructures is the main reason for not starting a business or a community activity. To tackle this situation we propose to place inside the urban matrix, in the few open areas, a flexible structure that is easily assembled, that optimizes the lack of urban space through vertical growth, and offers different spaces that allows diverse uses.

The strength of this structure is related with its flexibility of growing and the range of solutions that offers in a small plot, mainly because of its vertical definition. These units must be assembled in free areas inside the urban matrix and must establish a level of connections between the other Units and existing facilities. This network will give cohesion and structure to the economic and social reality of the slum community. Nevertheless, the most important function of these Units is to provide a workshop place for starters without other opportunities.

Using an inviting rental system, we create an opportunity reservoir for the community development dynamic, and since these Units are managed by the Commercial and Production Association (C.P.A.) they can use the rent income to upgrade other strategic areas.

Combining the desires of the formal investor that prefers the condominium typology as a way to achieve high profits in a prime location with low land cost, among the commercial ambition of this slum, we are aiming for a typology that mixes high income housing, with a shopping mall (one of the most successful models for social mixture in Brazil), and also low income housing. The low income group may benefit from the facilities of the condominium and by job opportunities that this structure always creates.

Through verticality we can take advantage of the views and place there the most valuable housing units, leaving the first levels for commercial uses and the low income dwellings. The shopping mall concept as behind it a strategy to allow formal brands entered slums areas, and also a way to formalize some potential commerce activities that begins in this dynamic territories. Also using this successful social model - the shopping mall – we want to slowly start the interaction between the different social classes that now will leave in the same part of the city.

In the end we expect to create a gentrification process that will increase the financial and commercial value of this area and consequently improve the living quality of this territory.



We believe that the best way to protect Rio das Pedras proper identity - its positive aspects - from the charging real estate development, is to invest in the favela’s economy, empower it and upgrade its role within the surrounding urban context. Apart from that, an upgraded economy will also upgrade the social status of the inhabitants. The capital produced can then be re-invested in order to improve current infrastructure acknowledging the need of the community for self-help. The scenarios proposed in the project aim at both social and financial sustainability and balance.

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