Maré Cultural Territory, Chicago Architecture Biennial

Rua Arquitetos was the single office from Brazil invited for the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Either seen as territories of violence, inventiveness or celebration, the views on the favelas stigmatize and reinforce the idea of an independent entity, apart from the rest of the city. From the exhibition Favelité (Gare RER Luxembourg, Paris, 2005) to our contribution to the Uneven Growth Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities show (MoMA, New York, 2015), including architectural designs for art and education centers in the favelas, we investigate the idea of disrupting these representations.

 Maré is a huge flat territory in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro that is home to about 130,000 people, distributed in about 30,000 small buildings, mostly up to 3 floors. It is located amidst the main highways of the city, occupying an area of ??about 400ha, in a parallel size and population to Copacabana. In a first glance a single and homogeneous favela, it is actually constituted of 16 neighborhoods, with particular historical processes and present challenges. 

In 2011, we were invited by local organization Observatório de Favelas and the art producer Automática to design the renovation of an old warehouse, in the fringes of one of Maré's neighborhoods, into the Bela Maré (Beautiful Maré) Art Center, as well as the exhibitions for the Travessias (Crossings) arts initiative, that happens in the place once a year. Now in its 4th edition, the event proposes the incorporation of Maré into the map of the visual arts, emphasizing its role in the process of territorial and aesthetic integration. Through exhibitions that combine the best Brazilian contemporary artists, local initiatives and workshops, it aims to facilitate a flow of people and ideas, repositioning Maré in the context of the city.

Inspired by the vision of Observatório de Favelas, the renovation design for the warehouse proposes the addition of a tower, a vertical placemark in a horizontal landscape, establishing a series of territorial and symbolic relations. In parallel to the design work, we started to build a large-scale incremental model made of small wooden blocks, to represent the whole Maré and be an invitation for ideas and conversations. Since 2013 it has been growing and changing and is exhibited at the Travessias exhibition.

The extract of the model featured in Chicago includes the proposed tower, raising questions about the architectural element itself, its imaginary, and news possibilities.

 After the biannual the extract will be shipped to Brazil, to join the rest of the model in the Bela Maré Art Center.