I spent the last week of my Brazilian summer exploration in Rio de Janeiro during the opening days of the Olympic Games. The city -- locals and visitors alike -- hummed with nervous excitement. No one was quite sure what traffic would be like, which roads would be closed, which forms of public transit would work, which museums would be open, if the crowds would be huge...
I scheduled my trip to overlap with the Olympics because I was interested in seeing how a country puts itself on a world stage in the present day. The expression of ideas about progress and national character was a key component of Brazilian modernism in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s that I have been studying, and I took the opportunity to consider how a similar aim might be enacted now.
The Olympics seemed to pervade the city, and at times to really take over. For instance: a city holiday was declared on the day before and the day of the opening ceremony; national museums such as the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes and the Museo Histórico Nacional were closed; a short-term national law was implemented that required travelers to arrive at Brazilian airports at least two hours before any flight; military police with very large guns patrolled street corners; and volunteers in uniforms of khaki pants and yellow shirts popped up in subway stations to help visitors navigate (oh, how helpful this would have been when I first started my trip!).
My main take-away regarding a city's transformation during a major international event such as the Olympics can be summed up in one word: branding. Olympics signage was widespread, as was other related advertising. Having used Google translate extensively on my trip, their ads were especially endearing.
In many respects, however, life in Rio was relatively normal. I watched the opening ceremony with my good friend AnnAliki at a "per kilo" buffet restaurant in Ipanema, and we couldn't believe how empty it was. Just the two of us cheering for the United States and her native Greece, with a couple other Brazilians. (The party was clearly elsewhere!)
I visited Barra da Tijuca the day before the Olympics began. It took me two hours -- one way! -- to get there on public transportation. Exiting the rapid bus transit station -- the promised metro extension has not yet been opened to the public -- I emerged into miles of temporary walkways that connect the multiple arenas of the Parque Olimpico. AECOM master-planned the park, which contains nine stadiums for 13 different events. London's WilinsonEyre designed the largest of the venues, the Arenas Cariocas, which is planned to be used as an Olympic training center after the games. Some venues are being reused from the 2007 Pan American Games; others like the handball arena, the work of the Brazilian firms Oficina de Arquitetos and Lopes, Santos, and Ferreira Gomes, alongside UK-based AndArchitects, is slated to be dismantled and rebuilt as four schools after the games. I could really only skirt the park, but there was still a lot to see, including the athletes' housing in the Olympic Village, which was built on public land and will become luxury housing after the games.
In other ways, it is hard to deny how Rio suits the summer Olympics. In addition to near-perfect weather this time of year, the city has several large existing built and natural spaces for the events. Maracanã, for example, a large soccer stadium that was built for the 1950 World Cup, served as the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies. Niemeyer's Sambódromo, the site of annual samba parades during Rio's Carnival, was the venue for archery and the marathon. Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas was used for rowing, and Copacabana beach was fittingly used for beach volleyball.
I snagged tickets to a round of men's archery in the Sambódromo on the morning of the day of my flight back to the States -- $20 and a mere two subway stops away! Just a portion of the stands were used for the event, which you can see in my photos. Signs on the nearby streets instructed drivers to keep sounds/honking to a minimum so as to not distract the athletes. After archery, I walked around the Sambódromo; to the south is a storage facility for Carnival costumes that hinted at what fills this space at other times of year. To the east, directly adjacent to the Sambódromo, are favela housing conditions -- a jarring and troubling contrast to the Olympic venue.
I stopped by the Instituto Moreira Salles, a cultural institute housed in the former residence of Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya, an art patron and industrialist who lived here from 1954-57. (Steve and I visited another one of Ottoni de Castro Maya's houses during the first week of the trip, the Museu Chácara do Céu.)
Italian-educated architect Olavo Redig de Campos designed Instituto Moreira Salles with Brazilian modernist principles and a few twists. For instance, the courtyard, the mountain views, and the thin marble pilotis are all familiar tropes, but the red-walled entrance said to be inspired by the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii is a surprise. Redig de Campos also took the cobogós, or the open brick walls that Costa employed on balconies for shade, and made them decidedly decorative. Scale is modulated, making the cobogós monumental. Compare Redig de Campos's scheme with that of Costa at Parque Guinle - the last photo in this series.
It was pouring rain when we visited -- but it's always good to experience architecture under varying weather conditions! A large boulder anchors the composition of the house; interior and exterior spaces straddle it. Long horizontal extensions of the roof keep the house shaded on sunny days. Similar curving lines form other details in the house, such as the bookshelf on the lower level.
Thank you so much for visiting my blog. If you'd like to go back at flip through previous posts, the "archives" section on the righthand side of my site makes that a bit easier to do. If you've just landed on Brazil Bound for the first time, you can learn more about my project on the About page. My posts about Minas Gerais, Brasília, and São Miguel das Missoes also provide a diverse sampling of the range of my activities this summer.
I am incredibly grateful to the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts for making it possible for me to explore Brazilian architecture this summer -- my horizons have truly been broadened.
I am so thankful for my family, friends, colleagues, and mentors who supported and helped me in all stages of the planning and execution of this study. To my new friends who welcomed me in Brazil -- thank you for making me feel at home in your country. And to the dozens and dozens (probably hundreds) of Brazilian strangers who helped me find off-the-beaten-path buildings, or patiently decoded my Portuguese, or walked me to bus stops I couldn't find -- muito obgriada. This experience has opened up a completely new discourse to me as a scholar, and I look forward to seeing how it will shape my approach to my future scholarship and teaching. A state, if you will, of anticipation.