Building a community center in a crowded, flood-prone Brazilian favela.
In the compact and crowded slums of Brazil, public space is a relative term. Children play in and out of front rooms and walkways, entrances to apartments often require trips through the homes of others, and parks are practically non-existent. Where there’s space to use, it’s used for housing, even in unsafe places. But when landslides wipe these homes out, or floods destroy them, an opportunity arises.
Generations of Brazilians have grown up in the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, known around the world as the Maracanã. Built for the 1950 World Cup and at the time the largest stadium in the world, it became an instant national landmark, a symbol of Brazil’s soccer-centric culture.
Luxury boxes, modern seating and safety improvements are reasons Brazil’s stadiums are changing as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The stadium, which is likely to host the 2014 World Cup opener and final, is flanked by hills and favelas, the city’s notoriously poor slums. Far above, from behind the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, the distant Maracanã looks like a still birdbath amid the pulsing metropolis.
The slums of Rio de Janeiro—the infamous favelas—pile onto and up and over the city’s iconic steep hillsides. Simply getting from point A to point B requires a sub-alphabet of zigzaggery up stairs, over switchbacks, and through alleyways that can be just a few feet wide.
There’s nowhere for public transit to go. Nowhere, that is, but up.
That’s the direction for the newest transportation system in Rio, slated to open in March: a six-station gondola line running above a collection of favelas known as the Complexo do Alemão. The government says that 152 gondolas will carry 30,000 people a day along a 2.1-mile route over the neighborhood, transforming the hour-and-a-half trudge to a nearby commuter rail station into a 16-minute sky ride.
Protecting the poor and protecting the environment are two areas we haven’t quite figured out yet. Put them together, and we’re really up a creek. And we are, because these two silos are actually linked very closely. The relationship between poverty and environmental degradation is incredibly complex, but you wouldn’t guess it by looking at some recent policies gathering support out there in the world.
Solutions, it would seem, are incredibly simple. But most of these ideas, though well-intentioned, address only one side of the poverty-environment relationship -- and really hurt the other.
Long seen as an affluent concern, environmentalism is largely a movement of the rich, but the problems the rich are fighting against are caused by everyone, rich and poor (though, of course, in varying degrees). Poor people, it’s often argued are too poor to worry about protecting the environment, leading to degradation like raw sewage in rivers and slum housing on clearcut rainforests.