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.
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.