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de la hoz

the favela typology


The Favela Typology: Architecture in the Self-Built City Carly De La Hoz

Mario Gandelsonas, Adviser Bruno Carvalho, Second Reader A senior thesis submitted to the School of Architecture of Princeton University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. Spring 2013

I hereby declare that I am the sole author of this thesis. I authorize Princeton University to lend this thesis to other institutions or individuals for the purpose of scholarly research. I further authorize Princeton University to reproduce this thesis by photocopying or by other means in total or in part, at the request of other institutions or individuals for the purpose of scholarly research.

Para Igor, Vinícius e PJ, por me levarem para dentro da comunidade como uma amiga, e por me fazerem sentir-me como uma pesquisadora, não uma turista. E para os moradores que me acolheram em suas casas. Sem vocês, eu não poderia ter realizado este trabalho.

Acknowledgments A special thanks to those who were with me throughout the research and writing process: To Dad, for dealing with me in Rio. To Mom, Mike and Matt, for all the support, and to Misty, for always helping me to relax. To Mario, for having confidence in my capabilities, and for being excited about my ideas from the beginning. To Bruno, for introducing me to Rio, and for nurturing my interests. To PLAS and PIIRS, whose generous grants allowed me to travel to Brazil. To Gabriel, for the complimentary advising session in Santa Teresa. To Dipika, for waking up early to work in the library with me, and for setting spring break deadlines to help us both stay on track. To Greer, Tom and Alyssa, for keeping me company and working with me in the Architecture Library. To Ubaldo, for being my thesis twin. To minha menina Nshira and meu menino Cam, for sharing in my first impressions of the favelas and for accompanying me nearly everywhere I ventured in Rio. Ficamos. And to the friends who continually motivated me, in thesis boot camp and elsewhere.

Table of Contents Introduction.......................................................................................................1 I. Architecture and the Favela............................................................................13 • Asfalto e Morro....................................................................................16 • Problem vs. Solution............................................................................20 II. The Phenomenon of Favelização...................................................................25 • Squatters..............................................................................................25 • Mid- to Late-1900s...............................................................................26 • Rocinha, Vidigal and Santa Marta.......................................................29 • The Past Ten Years..............................................................................29 III. Favela Hype, Media, Projects and Interventions............................................35 • Favela-Bairro.......................................................................................35 • Recent Works and Media Attention.....................................................40 • The Favela Typology: A Theoretical Project........................................44 IV. Boundaries in Flux: An Organized Chaos.......................................................47 • Public and Private Space....................................................................47 • Porosity and Flexibility.........................................................................50 • Mapping the Un-Mappable..................................................................55 • Collage: Order in Chaos......................................................................60 • The Oblique Advantage.......................................................................64 V. Self-Construction............................................................................................67 • “No two houses are the same”............................................................68 • Building Stories: Case Studies in Brazil..............................................70 • Self-Built Entrepreneurship..................................................................76 • Self-Built Benefits................................................................................77 • Sustainable Development....................................................................78 Conclusions and Projections..........................................................................83

Appendix A: Thesis Key Terms.......................................................................87 Appendix B: Interview in Rocinha...................................................................88 Appendix C: Additional Building Stories.........................................................90

Bibliography and Works Consulted.................................................................95

List of Figures Introduction 1 Rocinha, South Zone, Rio de Janeiro. (4) 2 Vidigal, South Zone, Rio de Janeiro. (5) 3 Santa Marta, South Zone, Rio de Janeiro. (6) Chapter I I.1 A Gato, a tangle of power lines. Author’s photograph, Summer 2012. (16-17) I.2 Empty Praça. (19) I.3 Activated Praça, Multi-Dança Event. Author’s photograph, Summer 2012. (19) Chapter II II.1 Graph of Favela Growth. From Janice Perlman, “It All Depends: Buying and Selling Houses in Rio’s Favelas,” International Housing Coalition, March 2010, 6. (27) II.2 Water reservoirs, Vidigal. Author’s photograph, Summer 2012. (32) Chapter III III.1 Abandoned soccer field in Vidigal. Author’s photograph, Summer 2012. (37) III.2 Vila Olímpica do Vidigal. Author’s photograph, Summer 2012. (38) III.3 Graffiti advertisements for PAC, Rocinha. Author’s photograph, January 2013. (39) III.4 Steep slope where homes were cleared. Author’s photograph, January 2013. (39) III.5 Multi-colored government housing within Rocinha. Author’s photograph, January 2013. (39) III.6 Housing contract for PAC housing through Rocinha Mudança. Author’s photograph, January 2013. (40) III.7 Floor plans for PAC housing, given to residents with their contract and ownership packet. Author’s photographs, January 2013. (41) III.8 Haas&Hahn’s O Morro project in Praça Cantão, Santa Marta. Author’s photographs, January 2013. (41) III.9 JR Art, Morro da Providência. Featured in Lotus International no. 143 (2010): 2-8. (42) III.10 Project Morrinho, Pereira da Silva Favela. Featured in Lotus International no. 143 (2010): 66-67, and Abitare no. 457 (2006): 140-145. (43) Chapter IV IV.1 Entrance to “underground” home in Vidigal. Author’s photographs, Summer 2012. (51) IV.2 A puxadinho in Santa Marta. Author’s photograph, January 2013 (52)

IV.3 Finished versus unfinished: the hybrid residence of a Vidigal woman and her exhusband. Author’s photographs, Summer 2012. (53) IV.4 Boilerplate sale document for real estate transactions within the favela. Compiled and translated by Perlman in “It All Depends,” 17. (54) IV.5 Hand-painted street sign in Santa Marta. Author’s photograph, January 2013. (56) IV.6 Street signs in Santa Marta. Author’s photographs, January 2013. (56) IV.7 Tourist-style map of Vidigal, from (56) IV.8 Diagrammatic plans of development in Rocinha, from Dider Drummond’s Architectes des Favelas. (58) IV.9 Plan of Rocinha, with topographic information. AutoCAD drawings from Vinícius Carvalho. (59) IV.10 Peripatetic journey through Santa Marta. Author’s drawings, 2013. (62-63) IV.11 Diagram of utricles in a horizontal position and at a thirty-degree angle. In Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka, Sensory Design, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 105. (64) IV.12 Habitable stasis, in The function of the oblique: The architecture of Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1963-1969, London: AA Publications, 1996, 12. (64) IV.13 Habitable circulation, in The function of the oblique, 12. (64) IV.14 Oblique circulation, in The function of the oblique, 12. (65) IV.15 Propulsion and potential energy, in The function of the oblique, 67. (65) IV.16 Multiplication versus Addition, in The function of the oblique. (65) Chapter V V.1 Iconic red brick favela dwellings, favela near Copacabana. Google Images. (68) V.2 Roof pool in the Cidade de Deus favela. Photograph by Tony Barros, featured in Vivafavela. (68) V.3 Kiddie pool on the laje, Rocinha. Photograph by Nando Dias, featured in Vivafavela. (69) V.4 Wood and mud construction. Author’s photographs, Summer 2012. (69) V.5 Plaster coating, Rocinha. Left: Photograph in Vivafavela. Right: Author’s photograph, January 2013. (70) V.6 Construction materials, Rocinha, Vidigal, Santa Marta. Author’s photographs, January 2013. (70) V.7 Materials yard (“Tôca do VIdigal”). Author’s photograph, January 2013. (70) V.8 Home addition in Vidigal. Author’s photographs, Summer 2012. (71) V.9 Covered laje porch under construction, Rocinha. Author’s photograph, January 2013. (71) V.10 Diagrams of construction on a slope. (71) V.11 Home under construction, Rocinha. Author’s photograph, January 2013. (72) V.12 Conduite, pulling wiring through tubes; home under construction in Rocinha. Author’s photographs, January 2013. (72)

V.13 Floor plans of home under construction, Rocinha. Author’s drawings, 2013. (73-75) V.14 Sections of Rocinha paths and alleyways, from Adriana Navarro Sertich’s blog FAVELissues, 2010. (72) V.15 “Livability Matrix,” from “Perceived Livability and Sense of Community: Lessons for Designers from a Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” in Community Livability: Issues and Approaches to Sustaining the Well-Being of People and Communities, ed. Fritz Wagner and Roger Caves (London: Routledge, 2012), 103. (80) Conclusions & Projections 5 MVRDV’s proposed Long Tan Park. Renderings from MVRDV website. (84) 6 Frédéric Druot’s proposals for Rocinha. Featured in Lotus International no. 143 (2010): 6869. (85) 7 Célula Urbana project. Featured in Lotus International no. 143 (2010): 70-71. (84)



1. Janice Perlman, Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 147-8.

2. Bryan McCann, “The Political Evolution of Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas: Recent Works,” Latin American Research Review, Vol. 41, No. 3 (2006), 156, http://www.

Eu sou favela… Porque para o pobre não tem outro jeito Apenas só tem o direito a um salário de fome E uma vida normal A favela é um problema social. This samba written in 1994 by Noca da Portela and Sergio Mosca translates to: “I am favela / … / Because for the poor there is no other way / We only have the right to a salary of hunger / That’s our normal life / The favela is a social problem.”1 The lyrics cut deep into the sentiment of the times. In the early 1990s the favelados – favela residents – were trying to maintain their resilience after a tough decade of distress and violence. As Rio became an important export node for the cocaine trade to Bolivia and Colombia in the 1980s, the city saw the emergence of drug gangs, increased military police corruption, and several local wars and massacres.2 At the moment when the samba “Eu Sou Favela” was written, there was not much hope for any quality of life improvements in the favela communities. Thus, one can understand the despair in the sambista’s tone when he says, “There is no other way… The favela is a social problem.” Not long after the samba was written, the state government of Rio de Janeiro implemented a public service program to try to help integrate favelas into the infrastructure of the “formal,” planned city. In the years that followed, many upgrades and improvements were put into effect in favela communities throughout Rio. This thesis focuses on three favelas in Rio de Janeiro – Rocinha, Vidigal, and Santa Marta – and their evolution over the past ten years, a period of significant transition for the favelas, and for Rio as a whole. By revealing the changes in favelas over the years, this thesis presents the favela, not as a housing or social problem, but as a vital architectural typology for Rio de Janeiro, one that has shown tremendous resilience in withstanding the tests of time, and will continue to flourish and persevere in the coming years. This thesis also proposes an action, a specific way of dealing with the favela typology. It implores architects, planners, designers and scholars to read each favela as a unique entity, and to decipher the community with specificity



and attention to detail. Popular media tends to generalize favelas as a whole, lumping disparate communities under the umbrella term “slum.” Yet, each favela has its own story, its own shape, and its own people. Architects, planners and artists should spend extensive amounts of time in an individual favela community – learning and absorbing its personality and typology – before projecting their own ideas on it as if it were a blank canvas. In this thesis, the question of the vernacular as architecture is addressed, followed by a history of favela development that provides a background for the favelados’ legacy of self-construction. Next, a survey of government-driven and designer-initiated projects is assessed on the basis of motives and subsequent impacts on the community, followed by a discussion of this thesis as its own type of project or intervention. And lastly, this thesis looks at the flexible boundaries and complex spatiality that are intrinsic to favelas, followed by case studies of self-construction, in order to present the favela as a typology worthy of being studied.

Favelização The term “favela” was coined in the 1800s to refer to the squatter settlements that sprung up and clung to the hillsides in Brazil. The name is quite fitting: it comes from the favela bush, a stubborn plant with spiked leaves and nuts that survives in stony soil in the northeast region of Brazil.3 Like the favela bush, favela communities on the hillsides in Rio are rooted in stony, shallow soil. Through decades of perseverance, the favelas have clung to the literal and figurative shallow roots that hold them in place within the greater Rio region. Against the odds, favelas have maintained their position on the periphery of the planned city. In the mid-twentieth century, favelas in urban areas, and specifically in Rio de Janeiro, experienced a huge population influx due to the vast number of rural migrants who came to the city in search of work. These migrants were allowed to build their shanties on the outskirts of the city on the condition that the built structures would be temporary. In a 2010 study

3. Perlman, Favela, 24.


4. Janice Perlman, “It All Depends: Buying and Selling Houses in Rio’s Favelas,” International Housing Coalition, March 2010, 4.

5. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 4.

6. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 4.


of real estate markets in Rio de Janeiro, Janice Perlman – author of Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro – describes the type of land on which favelados settled as vacant and undesirable, on “hillsides too steep for conventional construction,” in the mud along the bay, or in swamps on the edges of the city.4 In the 1970s favela removal programs flourished. Perlman explains that over the course of one decade of favela removal, more than 100 favelas were removed in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, and nearly 100,000 favela residents were forced to relocate to government issued housing projects.5 In 1985, Rio returned to democracy after twenty-one years of military dictatorship, and, since then, the prospect of eviction has been lowered.6 By 1995, Rio de Janeiro was beginning to accept the stubborn persistence of the favelas and instated the FavelaBairro program. This program, which continues to operate to this day, attempts to incorporate favelas into the formal city through various projects – including physical upgrades, infrastructure incorporation, property ownership incentives, and sanitation improvements.

“Formal” versus “Informal” For the purposes of this thesis, the terms “formal” and “informal” must be defined. The “planned” city in Rio de Janeiro, which was modeled after the Parisian Haussmannian grid, is referred to as asfalto, because of its location on the asphalt. Favelas are often referred to as o morro, which means hill in Portuguese. Because the asfalto was designed and planned by city and state officials and design professionals, that part of the city is classified as “formal” in this thesis. Most of the residents who live in the formal city in this study’s area of analysis – close to the beach in Gávea, Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana – are from the upper middle class. On the other hand, the favelas were unplanned, and have a legacy of being built by the residents themselves without the help of professionals in the construction industry. For this reason, the favela, o morro, is classified as the “informal” city. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mayor Pereira


Passos ordered the construction of the Avenida Central, which cut through the “urban fabric of Rio,” forcing the relocation of its inhabitants to “swampy areas and the slopes of Rio’s hills.”7 In the article “A favela e sua hora” – “The favela and its moment” – from the Rio-based culture magazine piauí, Bruno Carvalho discusses the impacts of the Haussmannian grid on the city of Rio, and mentions prominent architects’ impressions of Brazilian urbanism. For instance, in response to Le Corbusier’s defense of the Cartesian-Hausmannian legacy of the formal, planned city, Carvalho writes, “The path to modernity would not tolerate the donkey’s lack of objectivity, the winding roads of the medieval city or the sociability of the sidewalks. Mort de la rue! proclaimed the architect of the expressway. Streets, with their pedestrians blocking traffic, primitive carnivals and chit-chatting neighbors, were an obsolete concept.”8 Nonetheless, Carvalho’s article mentions that Le Corbusier himself could not help feeling impressed by the “‘magisterial dignity’ of the place” when he visited the favelas. At the time of Le Corbusier’s visit to Brazil, modernity was tied to the machine and industry, and forward-looking thinkers like him were only interested in streamlined cities, ones that could be governed by the straight line. In contrast, straight lines hardly exist in the densely wound paths and roads in hillside favelas. Studying the informality and spontaneity in the urban fabric of favela communities could have some interesting implications for the future of planned cities, as the world becomes increasingly urban and slum settlements proliferate.


7. Bruno Carvalho, “A favela e sua hora,” piauí, Edição 67, April 2012, http://revistapiaui.estadao.

8. Carvalho, “A favela e sua hora.”

The Past Ten Years: A Transition Period The three favelas chosen for this study are Rocinha, Vidigal and Santa Marta in the South Zone of the city in Rio de Janeiro. These three were chosen for their specific topographic conditions and geographic locations, in addition to the availability of information and accessibility of each favela to the author on multiple research trips. Rocinha (Fig. 1) is the most populous favela in the city of Rio, and is believed to be one of the largest slums in all of Latin America.9 It is a sprawling development covering two large

Figure 1 9. Perlman, Favela, 273.


Figure 2

10. Information gathered from visits to Vidigal, Summer 2012.


hills and their interconnecting valley, and is located in between São Conrado and Gávea, two affluent districts on the asfalto. Because of the immense size of each of the three favelas, extensive surveys of the homes in all neighborhoods could not have been undertaken in the time in which this research was completed. Thus, only certain construction projects are examined in this study, with the intent that these case studies can serve as architectural examples of the vernacular in their respective favelas. Vidigal (Fig. 2) is the favela that is said to have “a melhor vista,” the “best view,” in all of Rio. It is nestled on an oceanfront hillside with a view towards the Cagarras Islands, the uninhabited archipelagos off the shoreline of Ipanema, and is located in between São Conrado and Leblon, other affluent neighborhoods in the formal city. Until only one year ago, Vidigal had been run by drug lords. Between the summers of 2011 and 2012 a Police Pacifying Unit (UPP) was permanently installed in Vidigal. Most of the drug lords were chased out, and ever since, the residents have been adjusting to the change in authority. Over the last decade, Vidigal has acquired its own WiFi – “Viginet” – and the city invested in a recreational center for youth and adults alike, which provides a futebol field, dance classes, martial arts, and other sporting activities. The recreational center is a good distraction from the types of activities that used to be more prevalent in Vidigal, before the UPP was instated. As for infrastructure, power lines are strewn across poles and into people’s homes. The knotted appearance of the wires reveals their “informal” past, when electricity was illegally pulled from the formal city up onto the hillsides. Water is pumped into residents’ rooftop water reservoirs twice a week and is free because it had originated as an illegal service. Unfortunately for residents with low-paying jobs, the water will probably become a charged service in the coming years, as the city of Rio moves toward the regularization of infrastructure in favelas.10 The last of the three favelas chosen for this study is Santa Marta (Fig. 3), which is structurally, topographically, and socially distinct from the other two. Also situated in Rio’s affluent South Zone, Santa Marta is located in the mostly



upper middle class neighborhood of Botafogo. Santa Marta is one of the smallest, oldest, and steepest favelas in Rio’s South Zone. Many of the houses still retain traces of their original construction – wood pilings and tin roofs. In 2008, the first Police Pacifying Unit to ever be installed in Rio was permanently stationed in the Santa Marta favela. In Favela, Janice Perlman praises the current governor of the state of Rio, Sérgio Cabral, for improving conditions in Santa Marta: As of December 2008, he had succeeded in cleaning up one of the oldest and best organized favelas of the South Zone, Santa Marta, which has a valiant history of independent community organizing going back several generations. It would be a great victory for the people and the state if they succeed in maintaining Santa Marta free from any drug faction and from any militia.11 The favela had come a long way from its dire state in 1987, when the Santa Marta “war” ravaged the favela in a weeklong struggle between rival organizations who were fighting for control of the favela and its access to the middle-class drug market.12 While many articles in contemporary architectural journals are concerned with the issue of informality and the idea of favelas as a phenomenon, very little work has been done that focuses on specific favela communities as unique entities. Most of the specific work that has been done is in Portuguese, and is more sociological and ethnographic than architectural. By paying close attention to the distinct characteristics of Rocinha, Vidigal and Santa Marta, this study aims to disclose the inherent qualities that have allowed these communities to persist throughout the years.

Favela Hype: Recent Works In recent years, much attention has been paid to designer intervention in slum and squatter settlements across the globe. As an architect, it is encouraging to see such ingenuity and innovation being brought to underserved populations,

Figure 3

11. Perlman, Favela, 168.

12. McCann, “Political Evolution,” 156.


13. Adriana Navarro-Sertich, “From Product to Process: Building on Urban-Think Tank’s Approach to the Informal City,” AD, May-June 2011, 105. 14. Navarro-Sertich, “From Product to Process,” 105.

15. Navarro-Sertich, “From Product to Process,” 106.

16. Navarro-Sertich, “From Process to Product,” 107-108.


but sometimes it is unclear whether the “hype” is doing the communities more harm than good, and that uncertainty is a bit disconcerting. In “Latin America at a Crossroads,” the May/ June 2011 issue of AD magazine, Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner of Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) are spotlighted for their work in slum settlements. Adriana Navarro-Sertich of AD magazine writes, “Through interventions that acknowledge and legitimise the potentials of urban informality, designers have begun to adopt the ‘informal city’ as a new paradigm.”13 In the article, Brillembourg and Klumpner call themselves “contemporary architects working in conflict zones.”14 In their practice, U-TT aims to connect the formal city to the informal city, and they suggest that best practices for “slum lifting” are sustainable development, urban agriculture, prefabrication and modular design. U-TT’s design process in slum areas is different than the process for designing and implementing projects in the formal city, where they had worked in the past. “U-TT creates a framework, hands it over to municipalities, and welcomes re-adaptations from local communities.” Being on the ground and engaging with the community socially, politically and economically, is key to proposing design interventions in informal communities.15 Brillembourg stresses the importance of working with municipalities when designing in informal communities: When considering the informal, we need to acknowledge multiple dynamics, including income levels and employment, the value of real-estate, tenure and legality. By looking at informality as a product, or as merely an issue of form and morphological conditions, physical design interventions ignore critical factors related to the process. The importance of linking design to policy is testimony to the significance of these factors… For these projects to be effective, they need to be part of the larger city plan, thereby becoming integral to strategies of social inclusion, mobility, security and environmental protection.16 The article goes on by reporting that much of U-TT’s time is spent engaging with city politicians throughout the process and “communicating the power of design in bringing visibility


and awareness.”17 U-TT believes innovative design can help instill pride in the informal community: “If there is no pride, the community will not feel integrated with the building.”18 While U-TT often warns against romanticizing favelas, their work shows an obsession with working in informal communities. On the surface, their interventions can be seen as working towards the public good, but one has to wonder if they are ‘preying’ on these communities because they provide easy access for experimental work. Brillembourg’s classification of himself and his partner, Klumpner, as “film producers” or “entrepreneurs” is somewhat alarming – as if they are using informal settlements as blank canvases on which to project their own ideas.19 Designer intervention in favela communities is not restricted to architecture and city planning, but can also be found in the realm of art. The Dutch artistic duo Haas&Hahn set out to paint a mural in the Santa Marta favela in 2012. The motif of the O Morro – literally “The Hill” – project is streaks of color radiating from a central square at the favela’s entrance, Praça Cantão. The mural spanned over 34 houses. Instead of the typical earthen red and brown colors that make up the façade of most hillside favelas, projects like O Morro bring more light and life into the community. The upgrade in appearance has been said to heighten community morale, and no doubt attracted – and still attracts – media attention. Again, as with U-TT’s projects, one cannot help but be somewhat wary of this “beautification” project. Tourists recognize the favela-painting project as a piece of artwork, and tend to forget the abject poverty that exists behind those painted walls. Yes, the project brought notoriety to a longunderserved population, but it also, to some extent, glorified the image of the favela. As more artists and architects enter favelas and propose their own projects, many more artists and architects will want to show how they, too, can contribute to this new “trend.” Architecture’s obsession with these communities might be more of an effort to impose self-promoting design interventions on a more-or-less blank slate of urban fabric, than it is an effort to serve the public good. Only more research in a wider pool of examples can attempt to assess how “favela hype” and romanticization will affect the longevity of these


17. Navarro-Sertich, “From Process to Product,” 108. 18. Navarro-Sertich, “From Process to Product,” 107.

19. Navarro-Sertich, “From Process to Product,” 105-109.



favela communities. This thesis examines a selection of recent works with the aim of assessing their impact on said communities.

Maps and Zoning: Issues and Previous Attempts

20. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 3.

21. Princeton SoA thesis symposium, comments by Willem Boning, January 10, 2013.

22. Princeton SoA thesis symposium, comments by Axel Kilian, January 10, 2013.

Despite the city’s acceptance of favelas as permanent communities, many residents of the formal city in Rio are still uncomfortable with their presence and tend to ignore their existence altogether. Favela communities are even represented as blurred-out, non-delineated, areas on some official maps of Rio de Janeiro. Other maps do not represent them at all, showing bare green hillsides that deny the presence of the hundreds of thousands of people who call favelas home. In “It All Depends: Buying and Selling Houses in Rio’s Favelas,” Janice Perlman acknowledges the favelas’ lack of presence in city maps when she writes that favelas, tenements, and loteamentos – places where nearly 40% of all urbanites live – are historically “off the grid,” represented as “unoccupied green spaces” on maps, and are not covered by the public services provided by the city government.20 While work has been done as far back as the 1960s attempting to map informal settlements, not much has been officially published for a number of reasons. The major reason is that, with official zoning, cities would be required to provide public services to those slum areas.21 Now, with the onset of regularization and infrastructure improvements, it is crucial that formal maps of the informal communities are drawn, if only to help locate possible sites for upgrading projects. The Mapping the Un-Mappable section in Chapter IV examines the issue of mapping and its implications for the integration of favelas into the urban fabric of Rio. Another issue hindering formal mapping is the idiosyncratic spatiality in the favelas.22 In Vidigal, for instance, there is a house in which a woman lives on the bottom floor, and her ex-husband lives on the top floor (See Fig. IV.3). They had bought and built the house together, but after the divorce they each claimed ownership of a separate level. The woman has invested in home improvement, renovating her half with


brick paneling and a new front door, while the man has left his half largely unfinished.23 Although the house is physically one building, the homeowners came to an agreement to split the land, and they consider their two floors to be two separate homes. Because no formal records of land titles exist for most areas in favelas, it is difficult to discern where one home ends and another begins. Homes can be built on top of, underneath, behind, or in between other homes – all housing separate families. The unique spatiality of the urban fabric in favelas, then, can be likened to a collage. Collages defy the traditional figure/ground relationship found in traditional city planning. Because the collage is comprised of many images layered upon and within one another, the overall assemblage skews the viewer’s perception. It is often unclear how far apart are certain objects, how recessed is the space, or which object is in front of which. Additionally, collages do not follow the order of a grid. Despite the lack of rigid guidelines, the collage is not necessarily disorderly. Its logic can be defined as an organized chaos, an unconventional urban form that inherently defies traditional cartographic representation. Rio’s hillside favelas – informally settled by the residents themselves, rather than designed by city planners – do not follow a rigid grid but, rather, accumulate according to the topography of the hillside. The oldest homes wind up the sloping hills, while newer homes and businesses fill in the interstitial space, building up from below, in between, and above. Nearly no space is wasted, not even for roads. A main road wide enough for one car to pass is usually centrally located, while the rest of the homes – layered behind each other – are separated by narrow paths and alleyways. Organized chaos is the natural order of things, and has been the way favelas have developed for many decades. The collage of people, architecture, food, business and entertainment enlivens the urban fabric and presents a more dynamic typology than the unvaried, monotonous grid of the formal city. Mapping and understanding the organized chaos of Rocinha, Vidigal and Santa Marta is certainly a challenge, as it requires new methods for diagramming and classifying space, but this challenge is attempted by the author in Chapter IV: Boundaries in Flux.


23. Information gathered from visits to Vidigal, Summer 2012.



Sustainable Development

24. Carl A. Maida, ed., Sustainability and Communities of Place (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007), 1-3.

There is a difference between sustainable developments – settlements that are structurally and socially sound and will last for years to come – and environmentally sustainable developments – those that employ “green” design, etc. This thesis focuses on the former: the “sustainable development” aspect of favelas. In Sustainability and Communities of Place, Carl Maida defines sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs… engender[ing] a collective identity and ecology of public symbols that help a community to define place-centered ethical and aesthetic norms.”24 This thesis posits that favelas are sustainable developments, created by the hands of the residents themselves. The complexity in the physical layering of homes upon homes fosters a multiplicity of daily interactions. The rich texture of the urban fabric contributes to a heightened sense of community engagement and interconnectivity. Additionally, by evaluating the social and structural improvements that have been implemented over the past ten years in Rocinha, Vidigal, and Santa Marta, this thesis shows that favelas have evolved from makeshift settlements to stable communities. In studying how homeowners have constructed and improved their own homes, the thesis reveals how this raw, hand-crafted urbanism leads to the longevity and vitality of the favela as an architectural typology. By providing in depth analyses of the three specific favela communities, this thesis contributes new ideas to the contemporary discourse on favelas. The research methods employed in this study are historical analysis, literature review, interviews, firsthand observations of the architecture through written descriptions, sketches, and photographs, and formal architectural analysis. Additionally, the diagrams and maps of these communities serve to present favelas in a new light – not in a romanticized, idealized form – but as a vital, permanent urban typology.


I. ARCHITECTURE AND THE FAVELA What is architectural about the owner-built dwelling?

25. Bernard Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects: A Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1964), Preface.

26. Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects, 3.

27. Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects, 4.

Long before architecture was established in modern times as an autonomous profession, structures were being built by artisans who had little to no formal training in the realm of design and construction. When a building is constructed by an amateur, a non-architect, can it still be considered “architecture”? In his 1964 book and exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art – Architecture Without Architects – Bernard Rudofsky posits that the vernacular can be just as architectural as the work produced by professional architects. Critical of modernist dogma, Rudofsky lauded the vernacular for its “perfection” in terms of functionality, simplicity, and efficiency. He wrote, “Vernacular architecture does not go through fashion cycles. It is nearly immutable, indeed, unimprovable.”25 Surveying the architecture of the favela dwelling unit from the early 1900s to this day, it appears that not much has changed or been improved in terms of building techniques. The only major difference is the shift from temporary materials like wood to more permanent materials like brick and concrete. The favela vernacular has withstood the tests of time, and its aesthetic is echoed across the favelas of the South Zone of Rio and beyond. Rudofsky furthers his validation of the ‘vernacular as architecture’ by comparing the architecture of underdeveloped countries with that of industrial countries. He claims that the vernacular has a certain tranquility about it, a calmness, that is not present in the “blighted” cities of the First World, an assertion he links to the fact that vernacular architecture is produced through “communal enterprise” while conventional architectural history emphasizes the work of the “individual architect.”26 The richness of communal architecture stems from its production as a “spontaneous and continuing activity of a whole people with a common heritage, acting under a ‘community of experience.’”27


One could apply Rudofsky’s underdeveloped / industrial dichotomy to Rio de Janeiro, where the informal and formal coexist in the same city. The “underdeveloped” would be the favela, and the “industrial” would be the planned city on the asphalt. A large amount of the buildings in the planned city bear the modernist aesthetic, which placed an emphasis on the autonomous architect rather than on communal enterprise. This type of architecture is created when the city or a private investor commissions an architect – who often has little to no personal connection to the site or to the client – to design a building. On the other hand, favela architecture is created by the homeowner, in conjunction with family, friends, and amateur builders. The entire process is a communal activity, one that brings neighbors closer together and strengthens community ties. One aspect of Rudofsky’s discourse that is not particularly applicable, though, is the idea of serenity versus blight. In Rio de Janeiro, the “blight” – seen in the inner cities of the developed world – was never truly associated with an “inner city” or a ghetto within the planned, formal city. The blight of the poor was always sanctioned to the near peripheries – the hillsides – or the distant suburbs. Additionally, the “serenity” in Rudofsky’s description is also absent in the favelas, which are constantly bustling with activity, and, until very recently, riddled with extreme violence. One facet of Rudofsky’s discourse that can be readily applied to the architecture of Rio’s hillside favelas is his discussion of the vernacular’s relationship to nature. Whereas ‘civilized’ architecture favors flat terrain and promptly levels any unevenness, vernacular architecture does not attempt to conquer nature.28 Such “untutored builders” welcome the challenge of climate and topography.29 The opposing attitudes towards topography become most evident when comparing the hillside favelas in Rio to the planned city on the asphalt. Throughout Rio’s history, entire hills have been leveled and removed to create some of the major landscape parks and sections of the formal city.30 Conversely, squatters who settled in the hills overlooking the planned city did not force the topography to mold to their building strategies, but rather came up with building techniques for constructing dwellings


28. Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects, 4. 29. Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects, 4.

30. Information gathered from class at PUC-Rio, and from information on city tours, Summer 2012.



that clung to the hillsides and worked with the natural slope. The technique of self-construction is examined in more detail in Chapter V, but is briefly addressed here in terms of its architectural merit. As was previously stated, nearly all favela home construction is carried out by amateur builders, pedreiros, and family friends who have had some building experience, or who just want to help a neighbor in need. While much of the building process is not pre-planned – meaning it is not designed on paper before construction – I would argue that the resulting product is architecture nonetheless. An architect can be defined as one who orchestrates space, manipulating form in order to define the space and shape it into place. The builders of favela communities manipulate form, negotiating space by creating dwellings that fit over and under, in between and alongside other homes. Space is surprisingly fluid in the favela. No space is wasted or unused – an architectural feat that can only be attributed to the mind of the builders, the vernacular architects. Studying the owner-built dwelling in conjunction with the urban form of Rio’s hillside favelas has some compelling implications for architectural and urban studies. Whereas “formal” cities – a concept that discussed in detail in the following section – are designed in plan, from a birds-eye view, Rio’s hillside favelas have developed in section, clinging to the oblique topography. Starting with the first squatters, favela hillside communities began as discrete residential units. The favela – itself a process over time – eventually evolved into a living, breathing organism, expanding outward, upward, and within itself. Each favela is a mini city, comprised of homes, schools, small businesses, eateries, and in recent years, a permanent police station. As a city that has developed in section, the urban fabric of the favela does not follow the pattern of traditional zoning, with districts or quarters sanctioned as residential, commercial, business, etc. Instead, various building types have sprung up due to demand and the entrepreneurship of residents. Whereas traditional planning is a priori, imposed upon the inhabitants of the formal city, the design and land use in the hillside favelas is implemented posteriori, based on necessity. The most palpable downside to posteriori “planning” is



insufficient or inadequate infrastructure. In planned cities and towns, roads, sewage, electricity and water infrastructures create grids that are then filled with houses and other buildings. As Daniela Fabricius writes in her article “Resisting Representation: The Informal Geographies of Rio de Janeiro,” favelas develop in reverse: The infrastructures do not officially come until much later, when the favela is urbanized and partially absorbed by the city. First the people come and build their houses; then the roads evolve; electricity and water are pirated in. The infrastructure develops with the houses, one connection at a time. A community forms.31 Access to infrastructure is one of the major elements assessed when one attempts to distinguish between the “formal” and the “informal” city.

Asfalto e Morro: Formal and Informal, Planned and Unplanned As was stated in the previous section, on the asfalto in Rio de Janeiro is where one will find “architecture” in the traditional sense of the word: mostly modern and designed by an individual architect, not constructed by the community. The asfalto is the planned, gridded city. The morro, literally “hill” in Portuguese, is the favela. It is off the grid and develops according to its own logic. Daniela Fabricius notes a “topographical split” that would define the social structure of Rio, where favelas came to border extremely wealthy residential zones – like Gávea, Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana in the South Zone – yet remained “vertically isolated” from the material wealth.32 The boundary lines of where the asfalto ended and the informal city began were maintained in the cultural imaginary by the stereotype of favelas as places of “disease and poverty, dangerous and chaotic zones that could not comfortably be considered part of the city.”33 In spite of the aversion of certain formal city residents to favelados, the former still relies on the latter for cheap manual labor and for filling service sector


Figure I.1


jobs like doormen, receptionists, maids, nannies and cooks. In the Preface to his forthcoming book Porous City, Bruno Carvalho writes that the split between asfalto and morro – the “two Rios de Janeiro” – in the cultural imaginary was driven by Haussmannian-inspired urban reform and occurred during the Belle Époque, in the first two decades of the twentieth century.34 The asfalto would be considered “modern and beautiful,” while the morro came to be seen as “uncivilized and inhabited by the undesired.”35 A crucial distinction between the formal city and the informal city is access to infrastructure, a topic that was introduced in the previous section. In the hillside favelas of Rio de Janeiro, formalized public services had not always been, and in some areas still is not, readily available. Before services began to be regularized, favela residents had to come up with crafty solutions for obtaining infrastructure. Figure I.1 shows what is called a gato. A gato refers to the cluster of water or power lines that are unofficially and often illegally connected to legal infrastructure sources.36 The term gato literally means “cat” in Portuguese, and most likely refers to its semblance to a tangled feline hairball. In recent years, most of the favelas in the South Zone – and in particular those three considered in this study: Rocinha, Vidigal, and Santa Marta – have enjoyed regularized access to infrastructure such as power, water and even Internet. The specific infrastructural improvements in these three favelas are detailed in Chapter II. Another distinction between the asfalto and the morro is the grid versus the non-grid, or the anti-grid. Regarding the engineers of Rio’s Belle Époque, Maria Alice Rezende de Carvalho writes of a “longstanding desire to ‘govern by straight lines.’”37 Historically, city planners have viewed straight lines as a surefire way to impose order and control over the population. If we consider the straight line and the grid as methods of control, then the irregularity and the overlapping, collagetype nature of the hillside favelas would be considered an “ungovernable” landscape. Carvalho writes that the “pursuit of order” can be “liberating and empowering,” but also “delirious and cruel,” and that urban reforms driven by this obsession with order and control are “divorced from the complexities of city life.”38 The pursuit of order can be rather easily attempted



in a flat, planned city, where all straight lines can be monitored. But Rio de Janeiro is unique: its natural topography allows select swaths of land to become “formalized” while others remain uncharted. The former mayor, Luis Paulo Conde, and the former Housing Secretariat, Sergio Magalhães – both of whom are architects – note in their Lotus International article on “Favela-Bairro” that Rio’s topography helped to influence the social landscape: It was found that, while many Brazilian cities display one predominant urban pattern, e.g. high rises, Rio has a very diversified morphology. Furthermore, the diverse topography of Rio contributed significantly toward the formation of various urban environments, where an equally rich and varied cultural life took shape and developed.39 An examination of the “equally rich and varied cultural life” in the formal versus the informal city was conducted by the author of this thesis on a research trip to a historic square, Praça Tiradentes, in the formal city. Praça Tiradentes is a large square in the center of Rio de Janeiro’s historic district. Its origins date back to the eighteenth century. At the behest of emperor Pedro II in the nineteenth century, the square evolved into its present state. Several statues were added and it acquired its current name “Praça Tiradentes” in commemoration of Tiradentes, the martyred leader of a Brazilian insurrection against the Portuguese.40 Although the Centro, or “Center,” district of Rio de Janeiro was planned with human activity and recreation in mind – evidenced by the squares that are scattered throughout the city – many of the public spaces often remain empty. Praça Tiradentes’ large size – it is two blocks by one block – heightens the sense of emptiness. It appears hollow to the observer. On certain occasions – dance festivals, markets, exhibitions – the space comes alive. Figures I.2 and I.3 show the disparity between empty and full. More often than not, the public spaces in the center of Rio lie inactive, dull, and uninviting due to their apparent hollowness. While the Praça is activated only when the human element is introduced, the urban tissue in favelas is seemingly

48. Daniela Fabricius, “Resisting Representation: The Informal Geographies of Rio de Janeiro,” Harvard Design Magazine no. 28 (2008), 10. 47. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 8. 46. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 9.

45. Bruno Carvalho, Porous City: A Cultural History of Rio de Janeiro (from the 1810s onward), (Forthcoming 2013), 4. 44. Carvalho, Porous City, 4. 43. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 12. 42. As quoted in Carvalho, Porous City, 14. 41. Carvalho, Porous City, 15.

40. Luiz Paulo Conde and Sergio Magalhães, “Favela-Bairro: Rewriting the History of Rio,” Lotus International no. 143 (2010), 64. 31. Information gathered from city tours and plaques in the square, Summer 2012.



Figure I.2

Figure I.3

always animated. This constant liveliness can be due to the fact that the architecture in favelas is so closely connected to the human hand, the craftsmanship of its creation. These buildings have hardly ever been abstracted or separated from the human element, unlike underutilized city spaces that had been preconceived by designers, abstracted on paper, and then realized in physical form, with the introduction of people to these spaces only coming later. In his article “City of all Colours and Shades� in Topos magazine, Eckhart Ribbeck writes of the danger that



befalls public spaces that are abandoned by urbanites: At night and on weekends, however, the city centre is empty and dangerous because it has no residential population. The latter was rigorously eliminated years ago through demolition and evictions in order to transform the historic centre into a central business district along North American lines.41 Due to a lack of residential population, public spaces located in commercial and business districts like the South Zone’s Centro are abandoned during off-work hours. This dangerous emptiness could have been avoided if planners had chosen a mixed-use model for the city, rather than a model rigidly delineated into zones of use. In this sense, the favela model – the unplanned, non-gridded city – is more successful at activating space, because residential areas are inherently intertwined with business and commerce. The empty squares on the asfalto can be considered failures in planning, while the favela – in certain respects – should be deemed a success of non-planning, but these considerations do not stop many people from regarding the favela as a “problem” within the city of Rio de Janeiro.

32. Eckhart Ribbeck, “City of all Colours and Shades: Redevelopment Projects in Rio de Janeiro,” Topos: The International Review of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design no. 64 (2008), 32, view/851760020?accountid=13314.

What constitutes an architectural “problem” versus a “solution”? To characterize them as “slums” mass-produced by neoliberal structural adjustments… dumped onto hazardous sites, while not untrue in a reductive sense, misses all their contradictory but without a doubt creative vitality. - James Holston and Teresa Caldeira, 2008 42

Although favelas are not generally considered an “architectural” problem per se, it is important in this study to flesh out what constitutes a problem versus a solution. Since their first appearance on the hillsides, Rio’s favelas have been considered the bane of the city, diseases spreading before the eyes of those on the asfalto. Because of the living conditions

33. James Holston and Teresa Caldeira, “Urban Peripheries and the Invention of Citizenship,” Harvard Design Magazine no. 28 (2008), 23.


34. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 12.

35. John Beardsley and Christian Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” Topos: The International Review of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design no. 64 (2008), 36.

36. Vyjayanthi Rao, “Slum As Theory,” Lotus International no. 143 (2010), 13.


in the informal communities, which are radically different but not inherently negative in comparison with the formal city, those on the outside have often considered favelas to be housing or social problems. This sentiment is echoed across the formal city, perpetuated by passed-down stereotypes of favelados as dangerous and crude non-citizens, even as the communities are becoming increasingly safer and more secure. Daniela Fabricius notes in “Resisting Representation” that discussion of “informality” is “often contradictory because it describes both the “problem” – the effects of the benign neglect characteristic of economic liberalism – and the “solution” – the strategies of political and social agency within that framework.”43 She argues that the problems and solutions within informal settlements should not be determined solely by the neglect of the government versus the aid provided by that same government. But before we can proceed further in our examination of favelas in the context of these classifications, it is necessary to further unpack the concepts of problem and solution. Within the past few decades, “informal urbanism” has become the “primary mode of expansion” in growing cities of the developing world, and the United Nations expects the number of slum-dwellers to double from one billion to two billion people by 2030.44 The “slum” has emerged more prominently than ever as a “theoretically productive spatial ecology.”45 Because it harnesses such a unique and raw urban fabric, the slum presents designers and planners with an interesting dilemma: should we attempt to regularize and incorporate slums into existing cities or can we somehow learn from their spatial logic? Perhaps there is some way architects and planners can do both at the same time, by absorbing the urban fabric of the formal city into the texture of favelas, and producing a gradient typology that spans formality and informality. The slum is considered a housing problem because it is highly dense, not easily monitored, and often is not up to hygiene standards due to its close quarters, deficiency in fresh air and light, and lack of proper sewage networks. Yet, on the other hand, the slum can be considered a housing solution when viewed as a place that houses millions of people who



would otherwise be left homeless. On the negative side, the slum is most succinctly characterized by what it lacks, rather than what it possesses. A list of negatives is as follows: “inadequate housing, insufficient living space, insecure land tenure, and lack of access to basic services, especially clean water and sanitation.”46 Other factors that contribute to the “problem” are inadequate transportation networks and lack of public space. On these two fronts, Rio’s South Zone favelas have seen tremendous improvement. These improvements are detailed in Chapter II, but it is important to note that favela residents are incredibly mobile – there are cars, motor bikes, vans and even city buses that run through the favelas, connecting them to the formal city. Additionally, public space in the traditional sense of the word is quite a different notion in the favela communities. While lack of open space may be viewed as a problem to residents of the formal city, favela residents seem to be quite happy with the space they do have. Residents congregate in the streets, on roofs, in alleys, at corners and in homes. The boundaries of public and private space – which are detailed in Chapter IV – are much more fluid than in the formal city. Residents do not experience a “lack” of public space, but rather have a different understanding of what public space means. Indeed, the favelas have proven to be solutions to the housing needs of the masses that are unable to pay for rent in the “formal city.”47 In light of infrastructural improvements, new conceptions of public space, and their ability to house multitudes, the favela should be reconsidered as a “solution.” Janice Perlman makes an apt point regarding the old conceptions of the favela as places of “lack,” in her International Housing Coalition article “It all Depends: Buying and Selling Houses in Rio’s Favelas”: This constant, incremental improvement in the conditions and services in the older favelas means that the classic definitions of favela, based on a series of deficits – in housing and urban services – are no longer useful.48 The favela should no longer be considered a settlement of deficiency, but rather a legitimate urban typology whose formal qualities are worth studying architecturally.

37. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 38.

38. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 3.

39. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 4.


II. THE PHENOMENON OF FAVELIZAÇÃO Situating the Favela in Rio de Janeiro

49. McCann, “Political Evolution,” 149-150.

50. “[T]alvez um ou outro cidadão, movido pela curiosidade ou por algum trabalho que exija uma subida ao morro. E só. Em geral, é raríssimo encontrar moradores do asfalto dispostos a fazer uma visitinha a essas areas, consideradas cada vez mais “de risco”… [A] favela carioca é… infinitamente mais interessante do que o que se vê na imagem transmitida pela grande mídia, que tende a cobrir majoritariamente fatos ligados à violência.” From Cristiane Ramalho, Notícias da Favela (Rio de Janeiro: Aeroplano, 2007), 15. 51. Adriana Erthal Abdenur, “Favelas on the Asphalt: Land Conflict in Urban Brazil,” (PhD dissertation, Princeton University, 2006), 45. 52. Information on slavery abolition and rural migration acquired from classes taken on Brazil.

53. Holston and Caldeira, “Urban Peripheries,” 19.

Over the last four decades, Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have been among the “most studied low-income neighborhoods in the world,” mostly in the social sciences.49 This chapter attempts to situate each of the three favelas – Rocinha, Vidigal and Santa Marta – within the city of Rio in order to set up a background prior to moving forward with architectural and formal analysis. In Notícias da Favela, Cristiana Ramalho writes that it is impossible to understand Rio without knowing the favela, which she believes is one of the most intense places in the city.50 This thesis argues that the favela is essential to the city of Rio de Janeiro, due to the unique and complex urbanity that has visually and culturally become so characteristic of the city’s image as a whole.

Squatters Enter the City Brazil’s Land Law of 1850 formalized private land ownership by instating property deeds, but the benefits were enjoyed only by the elite, for the law prohibited rural workers from acquiring land.51 In 1888, slavery was abolished in Brazil and many former slaves set out to start new lives away from their rural roots.52 Rural migrants, former slaves, and veteran soldiers came to Rio in search of work. James Holston and Teresa Caldeira provide some percentages regarding rural to urban migration in their article “Urban Peripheries and the Invention of Citizenship”: In 1940, Brazil was 70% rural and 30% urban. By 1980, a mere 40 years later, these percentages had inverted: 70% of Brazilians had come to live in cities. Today the number is more than 80%. These dramatic rates of urbanization are typical of the developing world generally.53


As Brazil became increasingly urban, the city of Rio lacked the capacity to house the influx of migrants, and thus settlers began to squat on vacant lands. Most of these lands were – and still are – owned by the state, the armed forces, or the church.54 When looking at the hillside favelas in the South Zone, especially Vidigal, which has a prime view the ocean, an outsider might wonder why such beautiful locations were not first obtained by investors as prime real estate. The reason is that most of the land that is now favela territory was found to be too steep for “conventional” construction, or was located near swamps or riverbeds subject to floods.55 Additionally, the areas were left vacant because, in some cases, building codes restricted development, or the land was simply neglected by the title holders.56 Because the “irregular settlements” were not directly obtrusive to development in the formal city, but rather were on the peripheries, the government “tended to tolerate the occupations, neither razing the settlements nor providing them with urban infrastructure and services.”57 Due to large-scale urban reforms, the city’s poor were sometimes left with no other choice but to inhabit the most undesirable locations. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mayor Pereira Passos commissioned the construction of the Avenida Central, which cut through the center of the city and would later become one of Rio’s main thoroughfares.58 In “A favela e sua hora,” Bruno Carvalho reports that the construction of the Avenida Central cut through the “urban fabric of Rio” and forced the relocation of its inhabitants to “swampy areas and the slopes of Rio’s hills.”59 The slicing of the urban fabric only helped to exacerbate the divide between rich and poor, with the wealthy remaining on the asfalto and the poor being sanctioned to the morro.

The Mid- to Late-1900s As of the 1950 census, the city of Rio de Janeiro officially defines the favelas as “abnormal agglomerations.”60 Currently, Rio has an urban population of over six million, and 20% of that population is estimated to reside in the favelas.61


54. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 12.

55. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 3.

56. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 3.

57. Abdenur, “Favelas on the asphalt,” 48-49. 58. Carvalho, “A favela e sua hora.” 59. This major infrastructural intervention predated by several decades a similar implementation in the United States, the 1965 Highway Act. Both interventions had the same effect: displacement of residents resulting in the creation of slum-like conditions. In the US, thousands were forced out of their homes to make way for highways that stretched out to the suburbs, away from the city centers. These highways oftentimes sliced through vital neighborhood centers, segmenting and thus weakening communities. These fragmented neighborhoods essentially lost their “hearts” and were forced into squalor, forming what are now considered American ghettos. 60. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 6. 61. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 6.



Figure II.1

62. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 6.

63. Carvalho, Porous City, 6.

64. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 41.

65. McCann, “Political Evolution.”

66. McCann, “Political Evolution.” 67. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 4.

Figure II.1 is a graph that shows the growth of Rio and the growth of favelas since the post-World War II period.62 Janice Perlman notes on the graph that favelas have grown six times more than the formal city in the five-year period between 2000 and 2005 alone. The massive size and growth of Rio favelas make them a fine sample for studying urbanization in this developing country. Carvalho notes that Rio de Janeiro often “acted as a showcase – or laboratory – for numerous architectural, city planning, and urbanism typologies.”63 In a similar vein, John Beardsley and Christian Werthmann write of the city’s various approaches to favelas: Rio is an excellent showcase of varying governmental approaches to informal settlements over the past century, ranging from indifference, brutal eradication, and relocation to more recent efforts to upgrade and integrate slums, known as favelas in Brazil, into the formal city.64 The “brutal eradication” began to occur in the early 1960s with a campaign to wipe out South Zone favelas and relocate residents.65 Between the 1960s and the 1970s, Residents Associations were established in nearly every favela, with residents mobilizing to fight for their right to not be removed. By the 1980s, favela permanence was assured – for the most part.66 As Janice Perlman writes in her article on real estate in Rio, as recently as 2009 the mayor “declared that with regard to favela policy, ‘nothing is off the table.’”67 In 2004, a columnist


for a popular Rio newspaper endorsed a proposal to remove the residents of Rocinha, and the writer claimed to have received a flood of letters from readers in support of the idea.68 Clearly residents on the asfalto are still uncomfortable with the existence of favelas, but there is no doubt that if a favela is faced with removal the residents will put up a strong fight. Aside from being a decade of significant grassroots mobilization, the 1980s were also a time of great structural change in the favelas. Governor Leonel Brizola – of the Democratic Labour Party – made housing and sanitation a priority in the poorest neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro.69 Lu Petersen reports that in 1980, “the state public power institution invested in supplying electricity at a charge and basic sanitation at no charge to the favela.”70 Infrastructure in the favelas was finally beginning to become formalized. Today, the favelas are about 98% electrified.71 The year 1984 saw the introduction of the “Remunerated Collective Effort of the Municipal Secretary of Social Development,” whose principal objective was to lessen the sanitation and environmental risks caused by “unregulated occupation.”72 Not only was the government working to assure land security for favela residents, but it was also beginning to instate programs that would help monitor and maintain the structural safety of the built environment. In 1995, the city of Rio de Janeiro instated the FavelaBairro program, which has become a world-renowned model for slum upgrading. The program – which is currently in Phase III of its operation and is detailed in Chapter III – attempts to incorporate favelas into the formal city through various projects, including physical upgrades, infrastructure incorporation, property ownership incentives, and sanitation improvements. Brazil’s growing economy, as evidenced by the country’s classification as a Global Economic BRIC, has provided “financial means to consider programs for communityimprovement, despite significant and in many places widening gaps between the rich and the poor.”73, 74


68. Abdenur, “Favelas on the Asphalt,” 226.

69. Lu Petersen, “Interventions for the Socio-Urban Integration of the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro,” Harvard Design Magazine no. 28 (2008), 52. 70. Petersen, “Interventions,” 52. 71. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 13.

72. Petersen, “Interventions,” 53.

73. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 39.

74. “Many of Latin America’s largest cities, including Mexico City, Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, have among the world’s largest urban GDPs when measured by “purchasing power parity” exchange rates. At the same time, Latin America has some of the world’s highest “Gini coefficients,” which measure disparity in income and wealth distribution.” From John Beardsley and Christian Werthmann, “Improving Informal Settlements: Ideas from Latin America,” Harvard Design Magazine no. 28 (2008), 31.



The Three Favelas: Rocinha, Vidigal and Santa Marta

75. Perlman, Favela, 273. 76. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 10. 77. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 10. 78. Information gathered from visits to Vidigal, Summer 2012.

79. Madson Araujo, “My Rio Travel Guide,” last modified February, 2013, http://www.myriotravelguide. com/visiting-favela-santa-marta-riode-janeiro/.

The three favelas chosen for this study are located in the South Zone, Zona Sul, of Rio de Janeiro, the wealthiest of Rio’s four zones and the most well known and recognized by foreigners as a tourist destination. Rocinha, which is said to be one of the largest slum settlements in all of Latin America with a perimeter of over two miles, has a population that is estimated to be anywhere from 69,000 to 150,000.75 The city named Rocinha a “legitimate neighborhood” in 1986 – one of the first neighborhoods to be granted this form of legitimization – and in 1993 designated the favela an “administrative region.”76 Today, Rocinha has fourteen distinct subneighborhoods and its commercial area “boasts 2,100 establishments.”77 Vidigal is said to have the best view out of all the hillside favelas, and has a population ranging from 11,000 to 40,000.78 Vidigal, along with Rocinha, is one of the most desirable favelas in all of Rio, and has attracted artists and foreign students for many years. Recently, Vidigal real estate has become a prime target for foreign investors. (See Appendix C: Additional Building Stories for one Austrian entrepreneur’s real estate story in Vidigal.) Santa Marta, also referred to as “Dona Marta,” is one of the oldest of Rio’s South Zone favelas and is also the steepest. According to My Rio Travel Guide, there are about 8,000 residents in an estimated 2,500 dwellings – 500 wooden and 2000 brick.79 In 1996, Michael Jackson’s video “They Don’t Care About Us” showed the world what the inside of a favela looked like, and the video’s notoriety continues to attract tourists to the video’s setting in Santa Marta.

The Past Ten Years: A Transition Period

80. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Improving Informal Settlements,” 34.

Apart from climate change, there are few greater challenges to widespread planetary health and security than the vast proliferation of non-formal settlements. And, as with addressing climate change, there is no time to waste. - John Beardsley and Christian Werthmann, 200880


In the past ten years, the city of Rio de Janeiro has changed drastically. This change can be seen most vividly in the favelas, whose social and structural alterations are partially due to utilities improvements in preparation for the World Cup and the Olympics, and, maybe more significantly, the pacification of neighborhoods by a permanent localized police force. Examining a timeline from the early 2000s to the present day, it is clear that there have been significant changes in Rio’s South Zone favelas. A visitor from the mid-2000s would have had a completely different, and inevitably more negative, perception of the favelas than someone who has visited within the past two years. Between 2003 and 2004, Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2014 World Cup. Then, between 2007 and 2008 the city won the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Winning these two bids brought pride and honor to a city that had long been suffering from violence and insecurity. By hosting the World Cup and the Olympic Games, the government hopes to present Brazil – through Rio – to the world as a successful, thriving nation with a growing economy, ready to enter the world stage as a global competitor. In 2007, the Progama de Aceleração do Crescimento (“PAC”), or the “Acceleration of Growth Program,” was launched. The program was instated to promote the acceleration of economic growth in Brazil and was supported by President Lula and federal funding.81,82 PAC focuses its efforts on three of Rio’s largest favelas: Rocinha, Complexo do Manguinhos, and Complexo do Alemão.83 The work done through PAC is further discussed in Chapter III, in the section on government interventions and initiatives. In 2008, the first Pacifying Police Unit (“UPP”) in Rio de Janeiro was established in the favela of Santa Marta. The UPP is a permanent police force – distinct from the corrupt military police who were known to take bribes from drug traffickers – that is stationed within the bounds of the favela community. Each of the three favelas in this study has a Pacifying Police Unit. In fact, there were thirty UPPs in Rio’s favelas as of January 2013, and the city plans to have a total of 40 UPPs by 2014.84 With the increased police presence came a shift in authority. Whereas drug traffickers had previously maintained


81. Conde and Magalhães, “Favela-Bairro,” 61. 82. Moises Lino e Silva, “Redbrick in Rio,” New Geographies 2, (2010), 136, http://search.proquest. com/docview/1020955609?accoun tid=13314. 83. Lino e Silva, “Redbrick in Rio,” 136,

84. Information from class at PUCRio, Summer 2012, and from visit to Rio, January 2013.


85. Lino e Silva, “Redbrick in Rio,” 133.

86. Conversations with Vidigal residents – including Princeton graduate PJ Das, who had lived in the favela for three consecutive summers – July 2012.

87. Petersen, “Interventions,” 52.


full control of the favela communities, the UPP – after forcing out the drug gangs – now holds primary authority. In Santa Marta, the residents complain that the UPP banned their popular baile funk dance parties to maintain “order.”85 Likewise, the residents of Vidigal had similar complaints. On a visit to the favela in the summer of 2012, I was told that the community was “more fun” when the drug lords ruled the favela: “Baile funk was always playing from stereos in the streets.”86 At the time of my visit, residents were still adjusting to the change in authority – it had only been one year since the drug lord reign was usurped by the UPP. Additionally, people claimed they had felt safe within the favela before the UPP installment because of the drug dealers’ strict laws and enforcement methods. For instance, the penalty for stealing would be to cut off the thief’s hand, and rape was punishable by murder. Apparently, the punishments were so fierce that people were too fearful to commit crimes, and thus crime outside the drug traffic was relatively rare. In spite of bringing a supposed reduction in fun, the UPP presence has no doubt made a significant, positive impact on the favela communities. Outsiders no longer have to fear entering the communities, and residents do not have to be on the lookout for gunshots and crossfire. The benefits will continue to be seen as the city and the favelas increasingly open themselves up to the world, especially on the advent of the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games. In addition to housing upgrading programs and security improvements, the favelas have seen great improvements in water, electricity, mobility and wireless Internet infrastructures in recent decades. While in the past, infrastructural deficiencies have been major factors in categorically defining certain areas as slums, infrastructure in the favelas is increasingly becoming less deficient and more standardized. Water and electricity are nearly completely regularized in the older and well-established favelas of the South Zone, including Santa Marta, Rocinha and Vidigal. The favelas are now nearly 98% electrified, due to initiatives by the state public power institution under Leonel Brizola in the 1980s.87 Water infrastructures began to be regularized in the twenty years



following electricity standardization. In Vidigal, for instance, water became automatic nearly ten years ago, in the early 2000s.88 Within the favela, water is pumped twice a week to the plastic blue water reservoirs (Fig. II.2) on top of each household roof. Currently, water is free to Vidigal residents because it used to be piped in illegally. Although it has a lot of chlorine and chemicals in it, residents can drink the water, but many just use it for cleaning purposes. Near the south of the favela there is a water mine, which contains clear mineral water from natural springs. Residents come to this water mine to fill bottles for drinking. As the water pump system becomes more formalized, the residents will most likely have to start paying for the service. Regarding transportation, favela residents are highly mobile. The city bus line cuts directly through Rocinha with designated stops within the favela, and buses can be taken to stops near the entrances of both Vidigal and Santa Marta. Within the favelas motos, or motor bikes, offer rides to anywhere within the favela – including the uppermost points – for the same low fare of R$2.50, about US$1.25.89 The easiest way to get from the favela to the formal city and back, though, is the van. Formal city residents even use the vans to get to and from locations entirely within the asfalto. Like the motos, vans cost a mere R$2.50, no matter how close or how far the rider’s destination.90 Most vans have 15 passenger seats – two next to the driver, and two rows of three and one row of four in the back – but they tend to squeeze in as many people as can fit inside standing. Daniela Fabricius notes: When the paratransit vans first appeared in the early 1990s, around 600 were in operation. Now the number has risen to about 10,000 (in contrast to the city’s bus fleet of 7,366), with 600,000 riders per day.91 Her statement reveals the popularity of the van as a mode of transportation. Unfortunately, the future of the van is currently in limbo. In December 2012, O Globo newspaper reported that vans will be restricted to internal routes within favelas as of April 2013.92 Most favela residents rely on the cheap and efficient service of vans to take them from their homes in the

88. Information from a Vidigal resident, July 24, 2012.

Figure II.2

89. Although, if someone looks a foreigner, he or she will receive the “tourist price” of 5 reais.

90. Like the moto bikes, a “tourist price” of 5 reais is applied.

91. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 14. 92. Célia Costa, “Vans serão proibidas de circular no Centro, Zona Sul e vias expressas a partir de abril,” O Globo, 5 December 2012, vans-serao-proibidas-de-circularno-centro-zona-sul-vias-expressaspartir-de-abril-6935371.


93. Bernardo Sorj and Luís Eduardo Guedes, Internet na F@ vela: Quantos, Quem, Onde, Para Quê, Rio de Janeiro: Gramma Livraria e Editora, 2005, 4, 7. 94. No information regarding Internet use in Santa Marta could be found at this time. 95. Sorj and Guedes, Internet na F@vela, 145-146.


favela to their jobs in the formal city, many of which are in the service sector. With vans restricted to internal favela routes, the favela residents will be spatially cut off from the formal city. The impact of this drastic change remains to be seen, but it does seem to be a step backward in terms of favela integration… Even as favelados’ connections to the city remain in question due to the van quandary, residents are becoming increasingly linked to the outside world by means of the Internet. According to a 2005 study by Bernard Sorj and Luís Eduardo Guedes on Internet service and usage in Rio, the favelas have made great strides in the realm of technology. Sorj and Guedes found that 9% of favela households in the municipality of Rio own a computer, while 20.3% use computers.93 In Vidigal, the wireless Internet is called “Viginet,” but residents complain that the service is spotty and inconsistent.94 In Rocinha, there is an institution called “Estação Futuro” that provides Internet to favela residents at several public locations. The 2005 study found that 86.1% of Rocinha residents knew of Estação Futuro, while only 65.5% of residents used the service.95 While only a small percentage of favela residents own computers, many more use the Internet outside the home in cybercafés, educational institutions or at work. The old stereotypes of favelados as “non-citizens” need to be reconsidered. Not only do favela residents enjoy some of the same public services as residents on the asfalto, but there is also seemingly no distinction between a favelado and a formal city resident in the cyber world of the Internet and social media sites. The next chapter focuses on specific interventions and projects that have received significant media attention in recent years, and assesses their impact on the residents and the built environment.



Media, Projects and Interventions Over the years, numerous upgrading initiatives have been introduced to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. In “Dirty Work,” John Beardsley and Christian Werthmann write about the different types of design that is implemented in cities, claiming that the two most common are “designer-initiated” and “governmentdriven”:

96. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 39.

97. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 39.

In the first case, the designer is acting without client or government funding, and assumes more roles including that of surveyor, community worker, fundraiser, developer, and contractor, in addition to designer. In the governmentdriven approach, the designer acts in the familiar structure of the profession with a client seeking services for a given site and budget.96 Beardsley and Werthmann – both professors of Landscape Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design – believe that Latin America, and in particular Brazil, can serve as a “laboratory” for “slum upgrading” off of which other developing countries might model their own approaches.97 This chapter examines key design approaches to favela upgrading, ranging from government programs to designer-initiated projects – a category that has become quite a hot topic in the media and in popular architectural journals in recent years, and has created what is referred to in this thesis as “Favela Hype.”

Favela-Bairro: An International Model

98. Conde and Magalhães, “Favela-Bairro,” 61.

Favela-Bairro is the most important program of “neighborhood upgrading” in the world. - Luiz Paulo Conde and Sergio Magalhães, 201098


After a tumultuous decade when removal programs were on the rise and land security was not guaranteed for residents of Rio de Janeiro’s hillside favelas, the 1980s ushered in a new era of favela acceptance and favela permanence. Residents Associations were established and advocated for residents’ rights. In the early 1990s, a paradigm shift occurred in the city’s approach to the prominent slum settlements. In 1993, mayor Cesar Maia instituted the Favela-Bairro program, with the aim to turn the slums into bairros, or neighborhoods, through the “provision of improved infrastructure, services, housing, and public facilities, including plazas, parks, schools, sport fields, and employment and health centers.”99 The mayor believed it was cheaper to consolidate the favelas and provide them with resources, rather than to remove entire communities and displace residents. The program, which is now worldrenowned and “widely copied” began with an investment of $300 million – 40% from the city of Rio de Janeiro and 60% from the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB).100,101 Over the years, Favela-Bairro’s impact has been monumental. By 2008 it had brought improvements to nearly 650,000 favela residents, and is expected to reach one million by 2015 – currently an estimated 1.2 million cariocas live in favelas.102 According to Gabriel Duarte, a Rio-based architect and professor whose architecture firm works on Favela-Bairro projects, gradual empowerment is the best method for bottomup urban renewal.103 The objective of the Favela-Bairro program is to design social programs that can be taken over by the community, granting them the power to control their own built environment and to function autonomously. Duarte noted that the city of Rio looks to Medellín in Colombia as a model for dealing with slums. He believes that Medellín is doing so well because they are relying on good architecture, and implementing multi-modal intelligence into the slums – for instance, linking train stations to cable car networks.104 This type of intelligence is being established in the city of Rio de Janeiro as well. Next to Ipanema is the favela of Cantagalo. The city of Rio built an elevator that is directly connected to the public Metrô station, and takes favela residents up to a convenient location on the hill so that they do not have to walk up steep and extensive stairs. The same idea was implemented


99. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 41. 100. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 41. 101. Benar de Barros Correia Filho and Niuxa Dias Drago, “Favela-Bairro,” a presentation given to the Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, Laboratory of Urban Analysis and Digital Representation, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, 1997, 4. 102. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Dirty Work,” 41.

103. Notes from class lecture by Gabriel Duarte at PUC-Rio, July 18, 2012. 104. Another point on Medellín that Gabriel noted as particularly successful: The mayor is a defender of land rights. He says, “Do you wash a rental car? No, so give the people land ownership and they will take better care of the property.” While this process would take years, Gabriel believes micro-management of the favela real estate market could allow processes to be more controlled by the city at first, but then become increasingly more self-maintained, empowering residents to take ownership of their neighborhoods.


Figure III.1

105. Email correspondence with “Vidiga Vidigal,” blogger, April 10, 2013.


in Santa Marta as well, where a funicular rides along the outer edge of the favela and stops at several locations in order to ease residents’ daily commute from the bottom of the hill to their homes. As for public facilities within favelas, advocates for the Favela-Bairro program believe that more public space can help reduce violence and crime. “Public space” in the traditional sense of the word – squares and open plazas that are prevalent in “formal” cities, yet oftentimes left deserted, like Praça Tiradentes, discussed in Chapter I – may not be the type of space that is needed or effective in the unique spatiality of favela communities. But, there is something to be said for the benefits of sporting facilities for youth. While I have witnessed failed public space on my trips to the favelas, it is important to note that context is everything. In Vidigal, there lies a particularly empty concrete soccer field. Figure III.1 shows what is now a perpetually locked, unused recreation center. According to former Vidigal resident PJ Das, this space used to be drug lord territory. The traffickers would hang out in the space, which in turn deterred residents from wanting to play soccer there. PJ believed people were probably buried under the pavement, and said this particular rumor kept people away from the spot, for fear of a similar fate. Additionally the space was not very well lit, and thus was thought to be dangerous by nightfall. As any outsider can see, the spatial and social contexts of this soccer field contribute to its failure as a public space. The negative association with the drug traffic, combined with the poor lighting and awkward location, destined this soccer field for demise from the start. On the other end of the failure–success spectrum is Vila Olímpica in Vidigal (Fig. III.2). While the plans for a soccer field and sports center were first conceived by a traficante named Gato in the 1990s, Vila Olímpica as a formal recreational facility was a Favela-Bairro initiative that came to completion in 2011.105 The sports complex is well-known throughout the favela, and visitors can even request to be dropped off there on a moto from the main favela entrance. The sports complex consists of a fenced-in turf soccer field, indoor facilities for dance and other athletic classes, public restrooms, and pavilions for barbequing and social gatherings. One end of



the field boasts a spectacular view of the forested hills and the ocean beyond. According to a Favela-Bairro government report, the objective in constructing a recreational center on the edge of the development was to conserve the natural environment and to bolster a development node within the favela: To create, in this peripheral space, a development pole that would echo the quality of the existing image in the border zone along Avenida Niemeyer in recognition of the fact that the quality and arrangement of the structures are most precarious in the peripheral areas of the hillside. Thus, an axis of environmental restoration would be established, starting in the green space with an ecological reserve, which includes a training center, going along to a multi-purpose gymnasium and, finally, to the soccer field.106 Each time I have visited Vila Olímpica, it has been bustling with activity. Its prime location on a main axis within the favela, in addition to its origins as a public initiative rather than as a derelict territory, ensure Vila Olímpica’s “success” and longevity. Another plus: the open pavilions are directly next to the mineral water mine that was addressed in Chapter II – a perfect refreshment after a game of soccer. While some believe the Favela-Bairro program has been too optimistic with its hopes for initiating social change through architecture,107 many flourishing projects can attest to its upgrading success. According to Christian Werthmann, several additional upgrading programs have been initiated by the city of Rio since 1997, in light of the success of the FavelaBairro program: The Bairrinho program addresses the smallest settlements (less than 500 residences) and the Grandes Favelas program much larger and more complex communities (up to 70,000 people). In 1999 architect Lu Petersen founded Urban Cell, which widened the scope of Favela Bairro through experimental projects. The latest addition is POUSO, a program that monitors favelas for up to five

Figure III.2 106. de Barros Correia Filho and Dias Drago, “Favela-Bairro,” 10.

107. Notes from Bryan McCann lecture, “Favela Politics,” Princeton University, March 5, 2013.

III. FAVELA HYPE 108. Christian Werthmann, “Making History: Rio de Janeiro - the Favela Bairro Program and More,” Harvard Design Magazine no. 28 (2008), 47.

Figure III.3

109. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 19.

Figure III.4

Figure III.5

110. Notes from meeting with Vinícius Carvalho, Rocinha, January 24, 2013.


years after major interventions.108 POUSO is responsible for assessing the soundness of dwellings. When a home has been assessed as structurally sound, the owners are granted a permit of occupancy, called Habite-se, which is not a legal land title, but it functions as an authorization that the residents can safely keep their built dwelling on the land.109 Another recently initiated government program is PAC – Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento, or “The Growth Acceleration Program.” Figure III.3 shows graffiti advertisements for PAC on a main thoroughfare in Rocinha. According to Vinícius Carvalho, a longtime Rocinha resident and PUC School of Architecture graduate, PAC is in charge of constructing public recreation centers, pools and hospitals, and housing within the favela for residents whose homes have been demolished. (See Appendix B: Interview in Rocinha for an interview with Vinícius Carvalho.) Homes on the highest part of the hill that is adjacent to Vidigal were cleared between 2007 and 2009. About 90% of the homes were demolished to make way for the construction of a wider road, while the other 10% were demolished because of their precarious location and susceptibility to landslides during heavy rainfall (Fig. III.4). Through PAC, multi-colored public housing units were constructed within Rocinha, as shown in Figure III.5. For those residents whose homes had been demolished, the government provided three options. With Option (1) PAC would give the homeowners R$30,000, and the residents could do whatever they wanted with the money. With Option (2) PAC would give the homeowners R$30,000, and the residents could buy another house in Rocinha. Or, with Option (3) the residents would receive a unit in government housing, with all current and future expenses paid.110 One of the major deterrents to living in government housing, even though it is still within the favela, is that there is no room for making personal alterations to the housing unit. In fact, unit customization is prohibited in the contract, according to one Rocinha resident who lives in PAC housing. Figures III.6 and III.7 show the woman’s housing contract and floor plans, architectural drawings that she and other residents



joked they could hardly understand. In the end, the woman admitted to being happy with her current living conditions, especially since structural stability was assured, something that was not guaranteed in her former home.

Favela Hype: Recent Works and Media Attention While government-led programs are met with varying degrees of success and resident satisfaction, designer-initiated projects are seemingly a whole other ballgame. The designer-initiated projects speak to the recent architectural seduction by and obsession with slum settlements.111 All the talk about informality and slum urbanism has taken architectural media by storm, and has, in some cases, become problematic. “Favela hype” places excessive emphasis on the novelty of the informal, romanticizes slums, attracts publicity to areas that may want to be left alone, and generalizes “informal” conditions too much by using “slum” as a blanket term, even though the causes and conditions of slum settlements vary greatly by country, city and region. This thesis hopes to avoid the danger that comes with generalization, by focusing on the three specific favelas, in addition to specific designer-initiated projects within the city of Rio de Janeiro. The “hype” projects that are surveyed in this chapter are Haas&Hahn’s favela paintings, JR Art’s larger than life installation in the Morro da Providência favela, and the Morrinho project. There is a key distinction between the art installations and the Morrinho project: the first two are foreign designers’ interventions, whereas the third is a project that was implemented by an “insider,” a young favela resident. The motives for each project and their subsequent impacts on the communities must be evaluated accordingly. The Santa Marta Painting Project, which was mentioned in the Introduction, was a project that was completed by Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn in 2010. By the time the Dutch artists began their project in Santa Marta, they had already executed several favela murals, with much community and media success. The painting projects were not geared to professionally promote “Haas&Hahn,” but were intended to help boost community pride and engagement. The team

Figure III.6

111. The major difference between American ghettos and favelas is “formality” versus “informality.” Impoverished areas like Harlem in New York City, or even places like poor sections of French banlieue housing projects, are not greeted with the same “obsession” by architects and urban planners as with places like informal squatter settlements in Brazil, Lagos, India, etc. The reason could be that, because of zoning laws and property ownership, residents of US ghettos and French banlieues are still restricted to the physical boundaries of the planned city. Though squatters may settle inside existing buildings, inhabitants of these ghettos cannot necessarily construct their own homes without purchasing land or receiving governmental assistance in the form of housing vouchers. On the contrary, and perhaps the root of the obsession, favela-dwellers have crafted an almost “organic” urbanism in the development of informal settlements, informal economies and informal infrastructure. The informal economy in and around favelas, and throughout places like Lagos and Mumbai, is chaotic on the outside, but upon closer observation is incredibly successful, efficient and organized.


Figure III.7

Figure III.8


employed local youth to paint on a daily basis, providing a month’s salary and practical painting skills. The O Morro project painted streaks of color radiating from a central square at the favela’s entrance, Praça Cantão (Fig. III.8). The mural spanned over 34 houses. Instead of the typical earthen red and brown colors, intrinsic to the natural materials used in the construction of hillside favelas, projects like O Morro bring more light and life into the community. The upgrade in appearance has been said to have heightened community morale, and no doubt has attracted – and still attracts – media attention. Yet, the colorful hillside image can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse. The favela mural brought light and brightness to the community, empowering the inhabitants, but it also helped contribute to the favela’s portrayal as an artistic image, one that is literally painted like a billboard, or a pretty backdrop. This imageability of the favela can be dangerous in commercial contexts. For instance, the department store Macy’s used screen-printed images of hillside favelas – including the Haas&Hahn facades of Santa Marta – for its in-store displays during the summer of 2012. The idea of community building and youth involvement is lost when the attractive mural becomes an iconic image. In Macy’s, the favela was reduced to an exotic setting, one that complemented designers’ “Brasil-inspired” seasonal clothing. Tourists recognize the favela-painting project as a piece of artwork, and tend to forget the abject poverty that exists behind those painted walls. Yes, the project brought notoriety to a long-underserved population, but it also, to some extent, glorified the image of the favela. As more artists and architects enter favelas and propose their own projects, many more artists and architects will want to show how they, too, can contribute to this new “trend.” Architecture’s obsession with these communities might be more of an effort to impose selfpromoting design interventions on a more-or-less blank slate of urban fabric, than it is an effort to serve the public good. In a similar vein, JR Art – installations produced by a French photographer who goes by the name of JR – used the favela dwelling façades as canvasses. JR photographed Brazilian favela residents, blew up their photographs in black and white,


and postered buildings and stairways with the images (Fig. III.9). While the artist’s intent was to “distort the stereotypical image” of low-income residents that is portrayed in the media and emphasize their “more expressive sides by making them vibrate to the point of caricature,” not all residents saw the installation as a form of empowerment.112 When I visited Morro da Providência in the summer of 2012, community volunteers were cleaning paper remnants from the project off their homes, diligently soaking the paper in soap and water, scrubbing and peeling. These volunteers said the art had been left to ruin, and was beginning to flake off. A community photographer who had been giving my class a personal tour of the favela did not seem too happy with the art project either. He lamented the use of the favela as an art canvas, and implored us to remember that there are “real people” living inside the homes, not just funny or solemn faces printed on paper. The last “hype” project to be examined here is quite different from the other two because it is not necessarily an artistic installation, nor is it a “designer”-initiated project. This project is called Morrinho, or “Little Hill,” and it was created by a fourteen-year-old favela resident in 1997 (Fig. III.10). The scale replica of a favela community is an extensive, built model that would intrigue and excite any architecture student. Project Morrinho is a “metaphorical favela”: painted bricks and other recycled materials represent dwellings, and toy cars, Lego people and props like guns and hand-painted signs are interspersed throughout the intricately winding paths, streets, corridors, and dead ends.113 Created by favela residents, Project Morrinho is a reflection on the challenges one faces within the community. Drug traffic and police raids are acted out, poverty is widespread, but ingenuity and optimism are also prevalent. The teenage builders oversee all, and control the goings-on within the mini favela. In a way they are controlling their own fate. Like the favela it represents, Morrinho has continued to grow, change and expand over the years, and as of 2007 it covered 320 square meters of hillside.114 Project Morrinho has brought notoriety to the “builders” – Nelcirlan Souza de Oliveira and his friends – and because they had been “just ordinary favela boys,” the notoriety has helped to open up opportunities


112. “JR Art,” Lotus International no. 143 (2010), 2.

Figure III.9

113. Andrés Otero, “Rio de Janeiro, Morrinho: Favela Metaforica = Rio de Janeiro, Morrinho: A Metaphorical Favela,” Abitare no. 457 (2006), 140-145. 114. “Projeto Morrinho, Pereira da Silva Favela, Rio de Janeiro, 2007,” Lotus International no. 143 (2010), 67.


115. “Projeto Morrinho,” 67. 116. “Projeto Morrinho,” 67.


that would not have been available to them otherwise. Morrinho has become an international exhibit, has been the subject of a film, is used as a backdrop in music videos and TV programs, and smaller versions have toured Brazil and Europe, including the Urban World Forum in Barcelona in 2004 and the Venice Biennale in 2007.115 Project Morrinho is now managed by an NGO, and some of the project’s founding members have been lucky enough to break into the film and production industry.116 Whether or not government-based programs or designerinitiated projects are implemented with selfless intentions – meaning they are carried out for the sake of the people, and not for the notoriety it would bring the producer – interventions within favelas have helped to shape the social and spatial landscape of the communities they touch, for better or for worse. In some cases, slum-upgrading programs like Favela-Bairro have made certain areas so desirable that their real estate values are now spiking. Beautification, renovation, and public facilities construction has begun to attract foreign investors in the more desirably-located favelas, like Rocinha and Vidigal. As upgrades and “hype” projects become trendier as Rio prepares to host the World Cup and the Olympics, residents

Figure III.10


fear they may be outpriced of their homes. While gentrification may help to improve living conditions in Rio’s hillside favelas, it may also disrupt the social landscape – forcing out families who have been tied to the land for generations, and dissolving the personal bonds and mutual trust among neighbors that had accumulated over the years.

The Favela Typology: A Theoretical Project Instead of upgrading favela communities to the standards set by formal cities, designers and planners should learn from their spatial logic, absorbing the urban fabric of the formal city into the texture of favelas, and producing a gradient typology that spans formality and informality. In a way, this thesis itself is an intervention. It is a theoretical project for considering architecture in the self-built city. By examining case studies of owner-built dwellings in Chapter V, this thesis takes the ideological construct of the “favela,” and attempts to disassemble and observe its typology on a micro level – analyzing the self-built home specifically. Because this thesis is not a physical project imposed upon a community, it implores architects, planners and designers to consider the favela in a different light: to move away from generalizations of slums, deficiencies, and irrelevant constructs of what public and private space should be. While “hype” projects bring some benefits into favela communities, the agenda of the designer and the subsequent notoriety of the project often take something away from the inherent personality of the favela. Outsiders come to recognize certain favela spaces by the branding of a foreign designer, rather than looking at the original community and learning from its intricacies. The final two chapters of this thesis look at the flexible boundaries and complex spatiality that are intrinsic to favelas, followed by case studies of self-construction, in order to present the favela as a typology worthy of being studied on the micro level – not just the macro level of large-scale city planning.



IV. BOUNDARIES IN FLUX Like some amorphous tide, they spread everywhere, taking over the interstitial spaces. - Nelson Brissac, Paisagens Urbanas117 117. As quoted in Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 12.

Upon first glance, the favela escapes description. A dense mass of homes, layered on top of, over and within each other, and intermixed with shops, restaurants, cafés, bars, schools and sundry other establishments, the favela is a complex organism. Walking through a favela, one gets the sense that he is both inside – within buildings, corridors, alleys – and outside – in the open air, the streets – at the same time. This chapter examines the flexible boundaries within the urban fabric of the favela by analyzing the fluidity between public and private space, permeability in the real estate market and in property ownership, the trouble of mapping boundaries in flux, and the notion that high density and obliqueness promote vibrancy and produce a heightened sensory experience, and thus generate a more dynamic physical environment.

Public is Private, and Vice Versa

118. Richard Sennett, The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities (New York: W.W. Norton and Company), 1992, xi-xii.

Richard Sennett, a contemporary sociologist, laments that in modern society, we have lost the ancient Greek concept of the city as a classroom, a place where one can contemplate the complexities of life. Sennett writes, “…modern culture suffers from a divide between the inside and the outside. It is a divide between subjective experience and worldly experience, self and city.”118 This divide is made especially prominent by the construction of walls, gates, and cross-cutting highways that create boundaries and demarcate which spaces are intended for public use, and which are meant to be private. Sennett notes that the modern city walls off differences between people mainly because people are afraid of “exposure” – of being made vulnerable to strangers. He believes the city


should be a learning ground, a place where one can learn to lead a “centered life,” but this can only be achieved through exposure to the “outside world.”119 By observing strangers and social interactions, one can learn about himself and how to live a truly fulfilled life. Between the 1860s and the 1890s tremendous technological shifts occurred that would reshape the world and completely shift the structure of cities. These technological advances included the railroad, the steamship, the internal combustion engine, the production of steel, the printing press, and the telegraph. With the railroads came the introduction of time as a key driver for scheduling the day. People now needed to be punctual in order to catch the train, and pocket watches proliferated. The introduction of punctuality led to the routinization of everyday life, and also contributed to the closing off of the individual from his neighbor. Time, in addition to space, was no longer as fluid as it had been. Private, internalized space developed in the modern city, when we as a society began to live among “strangers.” In “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” Georg Simmel explains that with the compartmentalization of daily life came the impersonalization of transactions and exchanges.120 He asserts that the impersonalization of commercial interactions is due to the mechanics of the market economy and modern or advanced capitalism.121 He believed that punctuality and exactness had replaced intuition and impulse: whereas before, people made decisions and engaged in social interactions based on whims or instincts, Simmel’s modern city caused people to think twice before taking action. Yet, in some areas of the Global South, the concept of time in the social sphere – as opposed to the professional or business sphere – is still functioning at a pre-1870s standard. In places like Rio de Janeiro it is nearly taboo to be on time, and the compartmentalization of daily life is much less rigid than in the Global North. Especially in the favela communities, there is a certain fluidity in the spatial arrangement of the dwellings that allows for a continuity between public and private life, and even, in some cases, between work and home life (see the Self-Built Entrepreneurship section of Chapter V). In Sennett’s The Fall of Public Man, the author mourns the breakdown of rituals and social exchanges, the moment


119. Sennett, The Conscience of the Eye, xiv.

120. Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” 1903, 13. 121. Simmel explains that the impersonalization of everyday life in the Global North is a way to cope with the modern metropolis and the constant inundation of stimuli that comes with it. It is a way to deal with density among strangers. In order to handle the perpetual excitement that surrounds us in the modern city, we have had to acquire a numbness – the blasé – and close off our private lives from the outside world. We are no longer affected by violence, horrors on the news, or commotion in the streets. We have become desensitized to small shifts toward difference.


122. It is important to note that, in spite of the personal and relational advantages of faceto-face commerce, bartering often also involves swindling and manipulation.


in history when strangers acquired a right not to address each other – the right to be left alone. This impersonalization is starkly different from barter economics elsewhere, specifically in the Global South, where transactions require trust, negotiation, and are conducted face to face.122 The barter economy thrives in Rio de Janeiro, especially in the informal sector, and the people involved in these personalized transactions are also more attune to a fluidity between public and private life, internal and external space. In Rio’s favelas, there still exists a strong sentiment of community pride and attachment to the land. Whereas the “modern” city is filled with strangers, many favela inhabitants have been living on the same plot of land for generations. Neighbors know each other by name and share the alleys and pathways in between homes as both a public and a private space: public, for circulation through the neighborhood, and private, as a backyard or side yard. The streets are bustling with life, interactions and exchanges. Additionally, the boundaries of where one home ends and another begins are often in flux. In the formal city in Rio de Janeiro, there exists a dichotomy between inside, “private,” life and outside, “public,” life, explicit in the planned grid of the city. Most of the midto upper-middle class apartment complexes are walled off, with metal or glass fences lining the adjacent sidewalks. These gated communities illustrate Sennett’s point about the modern city dweller’s fear of exposure. Passersby walking in the public space of the sidewalk are physically cut off from the private space of the apartment courtyards. A jarring contrast to the “walled” city is the complex urban fabric of the favela communities nearby. As was touched upon earlier, there is more of a “neighborhood feeling” in the favela than in the grid of insular, private apartments. The conflation of “in” and “out” contributes to the vibrancy of favela communities. Certain proponents of Favela-Bairro would argue that a major issue in favelas is precisely that of public versus private space. One particular Favela-Bairro project in Vidigal was a public space initiative. Its intent was to implement a street system that would penetrate the “traditional introverted orientation of the area” and facilitate connections between “new spaces (like plazas) and social functions (like daycare



centers), and permit vehicular access to the highest areas.”123 The introversion of favela spaces can be viewed as insular, and in need of “opening up,” especially to make way for automobile traffic. According to Luiz Paulo Conde and Sergio Magalhães, a common characteristic of slums is the “the predominance of private areas over public spaces,” which they claim is due to the fact that housing and topography shape the urban fabric, rather than a pre-planned street map.124 Essentially, they claim that residential dwellings built to adhere to the hillsides are the primary shapers of favela urbanism. They write that public space is ambiguous in the favela, since non-private space is a mixture of “circulation, recreation and gathering due to the lack of formal definition and/or to use. The serious outcome is that often the public side is compromised.”125 Both Conde and Magalhães are formally-trained architects, and their backgrounds in traditional design and city planning is evident in the way they assess public space in the favelas. While they claim public space is “compromised” due to a lack of definition, I would posit that public space – areas of “circulation, recreation and gathering” – in the favela is not in need of more physical space or definition. These interstitial spaces become public when they are amplified by human activity and human interaction. Spaces that seem compact upon first glance unravel and unfold as one ventures through space and time. Public space is not compromised by the insularity of the favela’s urban fabric because, in the highly dense environment of favela communities, public space is private space, and vice versa.

Porosity and Flexibility: “Every boundary is permeable”126 [Rio de Janeiro] is a metropolis without a past of defined ethnic boundaries, a city permeated by a history of often fluid frontiers between order and disorder, popular and erudite, black and white, nature and urban, public and private, sacred and profane, center and periphery. - Bruno Carvalho, 2013127

123. de Barros Correia Filho and Dias Drago, “Favela-Bairro,” 10. (At the time the research report was published, the project was still in the planning stages.)

124. Conde and Magalhães, “Favela-Bairro,” 65.

125. Conde and Magalhães, “Favela-Bairro,” 65.

126. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 21.

127. Carvalho, Porous City, 12.


Figure IV.1 128. This underground home is said to have been the residence of one of the former leading drug lords, who has since been “dethroned” and chased out of the favela by the Police Pacifying Unit.

129. de Barros Correia Filho and Dias Drago, “Favela-Bairro,” 9.


As Bruno Carvalho points out in Porous City, Rio de Janeiro is a city of sundry dichotomies, with boundaries both intricate and penetrable. In planned cities there exist clear distinctions between plots of land – where one resident’s property ends and another begins. Favela communities in Rio de Janeiro present a different kind of spatiality. The mass of dwellings can be described as “hybrid homes” in an urban fabric whose boundaries are always in flux. In response to the natural contours of Rio’s physical landscape, the favela dwelling adjusts and molds to the topography of the hillsides. Homes are rooted into the slopes and are sometimes even embedded within each other. Figure IV.1 shows the entrance to a home in Vidigal that is literally underground, and is surrounded by other homes that are partially submerged as well.128 The “unconventional” boundaries between properties – for instance, which parts of a dwelling belong to whom, and where property lines are drawn – make the favela a typology that is difficult to map in the traditional cartographic sense. In Rio’s South Zone, spatial hierarchy and geographic location are major factors that contribute to the hillside favela as “peripheral” to the formal city on the asfalto. Yet, spatial hierarchy does not apply only to the relationship between the favela and the formal city; it also dictates spatial relations within the favela. For instance, wooden houses – those homes built with weaker, less permanent materials – are found higher up the hillside, while the materials used in buildings near the base of hills are nearly indistinguishable from those used in the architecture of the formal city. In a 1997 report on Favela-Bairro and its attempts at integrating the informal city into the asfalto, architecture graduate students at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro wrote about the spatial hierarchies within the favela of Vidigal: The middle-class residential buildings at the entrance of the favela exist side by side with precarious homes located up the face of the nearby hillsides, which compels the spatial interactions among different social groups.129 The porosity in spatial relations within favelas is not restricted to the ambiguous distinctions between discrete properties,


but is also characteristic of ambiguities within individual dwellings themselves. In the favela, the house is not always an autonomous, mono-functional structure. The favela house is amorphous and the lack of building codes allows favelados to grow their homes upward, underground, and into interstitial space. Figure IV.2 shows a puxadinho, literally “a little pull,” which is an additional room or space added onto a home. Puxadinhos are most often found attached to favela dwellings, but they can be seen in the formal city as well.130 People construct puxadinhos as both permanent and temporary provisions for cunhados – in-laws – or friends who need a place to stay. As was mentioned in the Introduction, one compelling example of the amorphous, hybrid housing unit is a home in Vidigal in which the residents had previously owned the home together, but then split ownership, dismantling the former spatial boundaries. The woman lives on the bottom floor, and her exhusband lives on the top floor. The woman owns several small businesses within the favela: she buys clothing in the formal city, adds special touches like stitchery and accessories, and resells the clothes. She also runs a small bar down the road from her home. With her fiscal success, she has invested in home improvement – cladding her façade in faux brick paneling, and installing an expensive front door and new windows. On the other hand, the man has left his part of the house in its original condition, with rough concrete and exposed rebar (Fig. IV.3). Although the house is physically one building, the homeowners have “split” the land, and they consider their two floors to be two separate homes. Legally, the distinction of the woman owning the bottom story and her ex-husband owning the top would not hold up in a court of law, because neither resident actually holds land title for the property – they only hold “titles” for the built structures on the property. Figure IV.4 is a sample sale document used in favela real estate transactions that is administered by the President of the Residents Association, and is contingent upon the signatures of the seller, the “buyer-new owner,” and two witnesses who can verify that the seller is the resident and that the “property lines and house description are correct.”131 In “It All Depends,” Janice Perlman notes that most favela residents


Figure IV.2 130. As Janice Perlman notes in “It All Depends,” zoning regulations and the permit process are rather lax in the formal city. Homeowners are known to pay bribes to inspectors for non-permitted construction. For instance, a landlord can add space onto his apartment, or unofficially construct subdivisions within his home, and then rent out the unregulated divisions illegally. The new rooms would be placed on the real estate market – most likely through word of mouth – “illegally,” because they would not be registered, and the landlord would avoid paying taxes or fees on the additional rooms.

131. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 17. Sample sale document was compiled and translated by Janice Perlman.


53 Ex-Husband’s Half

Figure IV.3

Ex-Wife’s Half



Figure IV.4



– even in the oldest favelas – do not have land title:

132. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 11.

The people with legal title are generally those who have a bill of sale from their own or their parents’ purchase of the house from a previous owner. But most have either an “informal title” which may be a handwritten paper from the community association attesting to their residence, or no title at all.132 Hybrid spatiality and porosity in the legality of land ownership begs the question: how can one map existing categories of ownership, when such distinctions are constantly in flux?

Mapping the Un-Mappable

133. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 11.

134. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 3.

As geographers, architects, or planners, accepting our inability to articulate urban boundaries is infinitely useful for describing the contemporary city. Accepting partial knowledge and relinquishing epistemic control is a step toward a geography of the informal. -Daniela Fabricius, 2008133

Any favela settlement begins its life with a few residential buildings. Then, as more people move into the area and construct their homes, a neighborhood is formed. In turn, stairs, paths, and sinuous alleyways emerge as the leftover, interstitial space of circulation. Thus, the favela starts as a place for living and then develops into spaces to move through. Unfortunately, informal settlements have been historically “off the grid,” and “not included in the coverage area of urban services provided by the city government,” an issue that began to change in the 1980s, when “Municipal authorities began extensive cadastral surveys and maps of the favelas and of irregular subdivisions. These became the basis of upgrading programs such as “Programa Mutirão” (1984-1988) and later Favela-Bairro (1994-present).”134 In some neighborhoods, addresses and street signs are hand painted and are not formally documented in city records. Figures IV.5 and IV.6 show two different types of favela street



signs within the favela Santa Marta, one of the oldest, steepest favelas, located in the Botofogo neighborhood in Rio’s South Zone. The sign in Figure IV.6 is nearly indistinguishable from street signs on the asfalto, and is evidence of the Prefeitura’s attempts at integrating Santa Marta into the fabric of the formal city. Figure IV.7 shows a tourist-style map of Vidigal, one of the first of its kind for a favela. The map, created in the spring of 2012 in preparation for the Rio +20 United Nations conference for sustainable development, points out tourist attractions, restaurants, lodging and shopping locations. This tourist map is evidence of the city’s acknowledgment of Vidigal as a sought-after destination. Despite attempts at integration, the favelas as an essential component in the Rio’s urban fabric is still a point of contention. In fact, Google recently removed the word “favela” from its Maps, as a result of campaigns started in 2009 by Rio’s Mayor and the tourism company Riotur to “reduce the prominence given to the communities.”135 This move is seen by critics as an attempt to clean up Rio’s image in preparation for the World Cup and Olympic Games. In “Mapping the Urbanized Beaches of Rio de Janeiro,” Bruno Carvalho poses an intriguing question, “To what extent, then, may we understand cartography as a mode of cultural transmission?”136 He goes on to quote Michel de Certeau, “an element of mapping is the presupposition of a certain itinerary.”137 It is clear in Carvalho’s article that, when looking at

Figures IV.5, IV.6

135. Google has kept the word in certain areas, like “Favela do Vidigal,” while Rocinha is now just “Rocinha” and Santa Marta is “Morro Santa Marta.” From Donna Bowater, “Google ‘removes word favela’ from Rio maps,” The Telegraph, 9 April 2013, http:// google/9982153/Google-removesword-favela-from-Rio-maps.html. 136. Carvalho, “Mapping the urbanized beaches,” 325. 137. Carvalho, “Mapping the urbanized beaches,” 325.

Figure IV.7


138. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 6. 139. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 6.


an official map of Rio de Janeiro, one can begin to understand the “cultural imaginary” of how the city sees itself: the beaches are centrally located, belying the actual Central Business District, and the favelas are often invisible. Clearly, favelas are still considered to be eyesores to the formal city. On the contrary, this thesis has put forth the idea that favelas are characteristic of the city. They inject vitality and spontaneity into the realm of the asfalto. Without favelas, there would be no “Rio.” Daniela Fabricius, a PhD candidate at the Princeton University School of Architecture, has done extensive research in Rio’s planning archives, and was able to access “statistics on favelas” that were assembled by the city, but are “filed separately, in a grey zone between official urban data and the realm of what can’t be represented or understood.”138 According to Fabricius, the official city plans “do not show the buildings or streets of the city’s favelas.”139 Vinícius Carvalho, the Rocinha resident and PUC graduate who had interned for PAC, was able to provide me with architectural plans from the city’s archives. Figure IV.8 shows diagrammatic plans of development in and around Estrada da Gávea – the central thoroughfare in Rocinha – from 1930 to 1980. Figure IV.9 shows the most recent AutoCAD plans of Rocinha that Vinícius had in his possession. Figure IV.9 is part of a set of drawings that PAC used to help plan the locations of their projects from 2007 onward. While the city has access to plans and maps of the favelas, it is the conscious decision of politicians and city officials to withhold this recognition of spatial information from public maps. In an essay on “Slum As Theory,” anthropologist Vyjayanthi Rao discusses the complexities of diagramming “extreme geographies” like favelas: [A]rchitect-theorists like Rem Koolhaas propose to diagram and understand the functional dysfunction of cities like Lagos as a normative rather than pathological state and thereby shift the focus of the endpoint of modernity from one exemplified by the orderly and planned metropolis of happy consumers to the extreme geographies of cities across the globe which are nevertheless regulated by



Figure IV.8



Figure IV.9



markets for resources, goods and capital (both human and financial) through the constant production and reproduction of volatility.140

140. Rao, “Slum As Theory,” 14.

It is not just the city’s attempts at diminishing the presence of the favela in the cultural imaginary that lead to their underrepresentation in traditional cartography. The “functional dysfunction” of slum settlements is something that has not been adequately studied or understood by scholars and designers, and thus contributes to the difficulty in mapping such urban typologies.

The Favela as Collage: Order in Chaos As was stated in the Introduction, the “functional dysfunction” and unique spatiality of the urban fabric in favelas can be likened to a collage. Collages defy any notion of a traditional figure/ground relationship. Because the collage is comprised of many images layered upon and within one another, the overall assemblage skews the viewer’s perception and depth. It is often unclear how far apart are certain objects, how recessed is the space, or which object is in front of which. Additionally, collages do not follow the order of a grid. Similarly, the organized chaos of the collage can be applied to architecture in the form of unplanned, non-grid cities. Because no formal records of land titles exist for most areas in favelas, it is difficult to discern where one home ends and another begins. Homes can be built on top of, underneath, behind, or in between other homes – all housing separate families. Despite the lack of rigid guidelines, the collage of the favela typology is not necessarily disorderly. Its logic can be defined as an organized chaos. Le Corbusier was “attracted to the natural order of things.”141 Though his idea of order was straight lines and ninety-degree angles, I would argue there is order in the chaos, a logic behind the development of favelas. An analogy can be drawn to Jackson Pollock paintings. The splashes and gashes of color might be viewed as random upon first glance, but upon closer analysis, it can be seen that the artist had

141. Le Corbusier, The Radiant City, 6.


142. Jane Jacobs, The Life and Death of Great American Cities (New York: Random House), 1961.

143. “Peripatetic” from the Greek peripatētikos, “to think best while walking.” Notes from class at PUCRio, August 2, 2012.

144. Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka, Sensory Design (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 120.


complete control over the brush strokes and deliberately chose their placement, creating an organized chaos. The influential urban activist and thinker Jane Jacobs lauded high density, multi-use development, and even wrote that order often looks chaotic to an outsider.142 Similarly, the favelas are clusters of organized chaos, examples of thriving high-density, sustainable development. The architectural – and specifically gringo – obsession with the favela stems from more than just a fascination with the “exotic” or the unfamiliar. There is a formal element to the favela’s appeal that is not just ocular-centric. The collage of the urban fabric imposes a sensory experience. It reveals itself piecemeal to the observer, through space and time. The hillside favela produces a different sensory experience of space than what is experienced in a flat, “formally” planned city. The winding, narrow paths and alleys – most of which are no wider than one meter – privileges the pedestrian over the automobile. The pedestrian encounters a soundscape, an olfactive and haptic journey when walking through the dense urban fabric. Figure IV.10 is a drawing/diagram and collage of my own peripatetic journey: the descent from the highest stop on the funicular in Santa Marta to the base of the hill.143 The diagram charts the spatial and temporal paths as they unfold over time, and tries to make sense of the physical complexity by accounting for overlap, obscurity and chance encounters. In Sensory Design, Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka write that while “certain spaces may be static and eternal in nature… pathways through structures are active, participatory, and temporal.”144 Indeed, the interstitial space – pathways, hidden staircases and alley-corridors – are the veins that enliven the fabric of favela urbanity. The density-proximity combined with the spatial complexity in the built environment produces heightened interconnectivity and community interaction, generating a multiplicity of chance encounters among favelados.



Figure IV.10





The Oblique Advantage Malnar and Vodvarka incorporate Hermann Schöne’s study of utricles – stabilizing organs in the brain – into their discussion of haptic perception, claiming that subtle alterations in tactile information heighten the observer’s sensory experience.145 Figure IV.11 is a diagram based on Schöne’s theory of utricles. The individual on the left is looking straight ahead and his utricles are tilted back, in a position where their effectiveness is reduced. The individual on the right is tilting his head downward approximately thirty degrees – the angle at which one observes the path ahead of him while walking – and his utricles are in their most sensitive, horizontal position.146 Thus, paying attention to a path while walking increases biological sensitivity to one’s spatial environment. Similarly, in the 1960s Paul Virilio and Claude Parent theorized that the oblique plane functioned to heighten the occupant’s sensory experience of space. For Virilio, the oblique meant dynamism and propulsion. The incline was the catalyst for movement, activity and interaction. Figures IV.12 and IV.13 are Virilio’s diagrams of a flat space versus an oblique space.147 The flat boxes represent “habitable stasis,” which implies a restrictive environment. Virilio notes that habitable stasis is the form of the “ancien habitat,” the old form of settlement, whereas “habitable circulation” is the “nouvel” form of settlement, and causes space to develop around it. The oblique plane propels the individual and encourages circulation (Figs. IV.14 and IV.15). Virilio wrote that he and Parent wanted to “create an ‘ordinary place’ where experimentation replaces contemplation, where the architecture is experienced through movement and the quality of that movement.”148 While Virilio and Parent’s theoretical framework was intended for the architecturally designed and formally built environment, I would be intrigued to hear their opinion of Rio’s hillside favelas, whose spatial typology incites the same sort of dynamism suggested in the theory of the oblique. Figure IV.16 is the drawing that sums up Virilio’s theoretical framework in a few strokes. The horizontal plus the vertical – the featureless and rigid typology of the planned, gridded city

Figure IV.11

145. Malnar and Vodvarka, Sensory Design, 103. 146. Malnar and Vodvarka, Sensory Design, 105.

Figure IV.12

147. The function of the oblique, 12.

Figure IV.13

148. The function of the oblique: The architecture of Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1963-1969 (London: AA Publications, 1996), 5.



– equals addition, while the oblique plus the oblique equals multiplication. Virilio believed the oblique plane could multiply 149. The function of the oblique, 13. interactions and activity. The “habitable circulation” of oblique settlements would propel the human body, setting it “in tune with the rhythms of life.”149 Much like Sennett’s desire to return to the Greek conception of the city as a classroom, the oblique settlement has the ability to make inhabitants more aware of the “rhythms of life,” and of the physical and sensory environment that surrounds them:

Figure IV.14

150. The function of the oblique, 5.

The purpose of the oblique was to encourage a constant awareness of gravity, bringing the body into a tactile relationship with the building. The qualities of the architecture were to be perceived in a sensitive, sensual manner, as people became free to move beyond conventional spatial situations.150

Moving beyond conventional spatial situations – the “HORIZONTAL order of the rural habitat in the agricultural era” and the “VERTICAL order of the urban habitat in the industrial era” – the “next logical (or, rather, topological) step” is the “OBLIQUE order of the post-industrial era.”151 It is as if Virilio and Parent had been writing specifically about Rio. The hillside favela typology, a product of migrants from rural (horizontal) Brazil who moved to the urban (vertical) center for industrial jobs, has evolved into something uniquely its own: an Figure IV.15 oblique collage whose urban fabric induces a wholly sensory experience and generates community interconnectivity and 151. The function of the oblique, 12. vibrancy.

Figure IV.16



Since he himself helped to shape and preserve his environment, he never seems to tire of it. - Bernard Rudofsky, 1964152 152. Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects, 7.

153. Malnar and Vodvarka, Sensory Design, 76-77.

154. Malnar and Vodvarka, Sensory Design, 76.

155. Elisabete França, “Informality and São Paulo Municipality,” SLUM Lab Magazine. Fall 2011, 36.

In 1964, Bernard Rudofsky praised self-construction, asserting that residents living in homes that they themselves helped to construct were more content with their built environments than those who took no part in the building process. Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka, authors of Sensory Design, advance Rudofsky’s claim by explaining that the vernacular is inextricably tied to a community’s culture because it is innately highly contextual.153 Malnar and Vodvarka compare the contextual vernacular to “high design,” which is lowcontext – think: iconic buildings by starchitects – and is seemingly portable, easily transplanted into different contexts or other cities. Malnar and Vodvarka note that the vernacular’s variability within a local context depends upon “parameters such as climate, materials availability, personal finances, and social acceptability.”154 This chapter looks at specific construction projects and building “stories” from within Rio’s hillside favelas, with the aim of reading the formal language of the favela dwelling, and presenting the architectural findings in an accessible format. Some of the stories show the possibilities for upward mobility through the residents’ tremendous innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, and others reveal the precariousness of self-construction as a building technique. When studying favelas, or slums in general, one must be conscious of the fact that there is some danger in romanticizing the settlements. In the Fall 2011 edition of SLUM Lab Magazine, Elisabete França warns, “It is important to recognize that these settlements are not an ideal model for urban planners and designers. Effective planning and design for these areas cannot be achieved from a vantage point of romanticizing the settlements.”155 This thesis is not averse to exposing the structural precariousness



of certain homes, but the case studies in this chapter have been compiled with an intent to reveal that favelas have often been given a “bad rap,” spurred by the formal city residents’ fear of this unknown territory. In 1984, the “Remunerated Collective Effort of the Municipal Secretary of Social Development” was initiated with the principal objective of lessening the sanitation and environmental risks caused by “unregulated occupation.”156 The city itself admitted its “ignorance” regarding construction techniques for “highly complex areas” – like steep hillsides – and set up exchanges between residents and design professionals.157 Currently, POUSO, which was introduced in Chapter III as an offshoot of Favela-Bairro, has service centers in favelas, where a “city-paid staff of architects, engineers and social workers” operates to assess the soundness of dwellings.158 When a home has been assessed as structurally sound, the owners are granted a permit of occupancy. This permit, called Habite-se, is not a legal land title, but it functions as an authorization that the residents can safely keep their built dwelling on the land.159 Thus, while precarious home construction is inevitable due to the lack of building codes in favelas, there are systems in place that help to promote and regulate structural stability.

156. Petersen, “Interventions,” 53.

157. Petersen, “Interventions,” 53.

158. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 19.

159. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 19.

“No two houses are the same” As Janice Perlman notes in her report on real estate in Rio, the house is most often the favelados’ only asset, and they make the most of this asset by expanding the home to “accommodate family growth or generate rental income,” which is something that cannot be so easily achieved with apartments in the formal city.160 Expansion, modulation and personalization are signature qualities of the favela vernacular. Daniela Fabricius writes about the self-built favela dwelling in her article for Harvard Design Magazine: The organizational cell of the favela is the self-built singlefamily unit that has the ability to form both very small and very large communities, to be repeated ad infinitum in

Figure V.1 160. Perlman, “It All Depends,” 13.

Figure V.2


161. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 8-9.

Figure V.3

162. A revealing account of the customization of interiors versus redbrick exteriors can be found in Lino e Silva, “Redbrick in Rio.”

Figure V.4

163. Notes from meeting with Igor Barbosa, Rocinha resident, January 20, 2013. 164. Ramalho, Notícias da Favela, 272. 165. Name has been changed.


what seems like monotonous replication but is actually a relentless singularity – no two houses are the same.161 Indeed, no two houses are the same. While some photographs of favelas display the communities as seas of monotonous red brick buildings (Fig. V.1), upon closer examination – on the ground, inside the favela – it becomes clear that each home is unique and that design elements are adapted to the needs and tastes of the individual dweller.162 Figures V.2 and V.3 show different approaches to roof, or laje, design. The home in Figure V.2 has a built-in pool on the laje, while Figure V.3 shows two separate lajes – one with tiled floors and half-walls, and one with a portable kiddie pool placed on rough concrete. Due to the favelados’ unrestricted freedom to build, each favela community is comprised of a diverse set of unique dwellings. Whereas the first favela homes were built out of wood and mud (Fig. V.4) because they were meant to be temporary – a government stipulation – most homes built after the slum eradication movement are built with more permanent materials, like brick. According to Igor Barbosa, a Rocinha resident and my main point of contact in the favela, the plaster-type coating that is applied over the iconic red brick is a material “muito fraco” – very weak – in the humidity of the tropical climate, and is prone to peeling and flaking (Fig. V.5).163 Additionally, the cheap materials used in favela construction (Figs. V.6 and V.7) are said to give workers skin cancer. Regardless of the health risk that accompanies construction work, a pedreiro can make a decent salary and live relatively comfortably. Some workers, like José da Silva – who has built more than sixty homes in Rocinha – can make up to R$7,000 per month as a pedreiro.164 A pedreiro, or mestre de obra, which means “master of work” or mason, is the term used for the amateur builder, usually a man, who is hired in a favela to handle the construction process if the home owner is not going to perform the construction his or herself. I met with Renato,165 a pedreiro in Rocinha who told me he could typically finish the primeira andar, the first floor, of a house within two months, and complete the entire house in ten to twelve months. When I asked about his design approach, he looked at me skeptically, saying, “Nada desenhar” – meaning he does not design anything. He



said he tests que forte, how strong the material is, lays the fundação, the foundation, and then builds up. The following section provides an inside look at different approaches to the construction process in two of Rio’s hillside favelas: Vidigal and Rocinha.166

Building “Stories”: Case Studies in Brazil While many people think of favelas as shantytowns for only the most impoverished residents – a generalization about slums in general – there are middle class, and sometimes even uppermiddle class residents in favelas. Without question, upward mobility is a tangible goal for many residents of the informal city. The house as an asset provides residents with the means for moving upward – physically adding multiple stories onto homes to rent out and generate income – and outward – some residents even move into the formal city once they have saved enough money.167 Building additional stories onto homes, rather than building new homes on open land, which is becoming more and more scarce, is now the main driver of population growth within the favelas. According to Daniela Fabricius, the number of residences in Rocinha doubled from nearly 12,000 in the 1990s to almost 24,000 in the year 2000, mainly due to the construction of additional stories.168 Construction in favelas is a constant process. In my travels to Rio’s hillside favelas, I have found that no matter where on the socioeconomic scale someone may fall, most residents take pride in the upkeep of their homes, and are willing to invest the money they have in home modification. The following stories of home improvement represent varying methods of self-construction. (Additional short building stories can be found in Appendix C.) In the summer of 2012, I met a Vidigal resident named Taina169 who was building an addition onto her home (Fig. V.8). She was unemployed with three young children, and her husband worked as a bus boy at a restaurant in the formal city. When I asked how she dealt with construction, she told me family members and neighbors would come together once a week to help build, and some would bring their own tools

Figure V.5 166. I was unable to procure a contact in Santa Marta, and thus had minimal contact with residents there as I walked through the community.

Figure V.6 167. Although, speaking with residents, I found that many prefer the favela to formal housing because of the freedom of customization and variability in the building process. 168. Fabricius, “Resisting Representation,” 11.

Figure V.7 169. Name has been changed.


Figure V.8

Figure V.9 170. Meeting with Vinícius Carvalho, Rocinha, January 24, 2013. 171. Name has been changed.

Figure V.10


and materials. Taina had asked me if I would like to take part in the construction, along with the other amateur builders. I ultimately was unable to make it to the bricklaying day, but I recently found out that her house was condemned soon after I left Brazil. The Prefeitura had deemed Taina’s home unsafe, and she and her family were forced to rent a home elsewhere in the favela. They found a home lower down the hill and are currently renting it for 350 reais per month until they are able to find an affordable house to purchase. With government funds provided for relocation, Taina and her family plan to move out to Mangueira, a favela in Rio’s less affluent North Zone. There they can find a larger home for a cheaper price than in Vidigal, where real estate is becoming more and more desirable and thus costlier. In Rocinha, I met a man whose family was luckier than Taina’s when it came to self-construction. Vinícius Carvalho, a lifelong Rocinha resident, told me that, like other favela residents, his family treated their home as a lifetime investment. They continually improved the building and performed additional construction over the course of twenty years. The home started as a one-room, single-story dwelling. Then, when Vinícius was a teenager, he helped his father build a second floor. Eventually they added a covered porch to the laje (Fig. V.9). As of January 2013, Vinícius’s parents were planning to enclose the roof porch, make it a proper third story, and rent out the entire floor. Vinícius’s brother-in-law runs his own small construction company out of Rocinha, and I was able to visit the site of one of his personal building projects.170 The brother-in-law, Leandro,171 had bought an empty lot where previously only a few large stones had stuck out of the ground. First, he drilled in the ground until he hit rock – about three meters down. He noted that many homes in Rocinha are extremely stable because they are built on rock, not on earth. Then, he dug holes, each big enough for two men to fit inside, and filled them with concrete to serve as the foundation. For a plot of land with a steeper slope, the pedreiro would first equalize the ground level, and then build the foundational stilts (Fig. V.10). Vinícius, who went to University for a degree in architecture, shared an observation with me: he noticed that because


amateur builders in favelas are not formally trained and do not know how to “properly” construct homes, they overdo it, doubling the amount of structural supports and beams. He believes that overdoing construction is not necessarily a bad thing, seeing that it makes for extra-sturdy homes in many cases. On the other hand, overdoing construction is incredibly inefficient, causing favelados to pay for more material than is necessary. Leandro’s plan is to build a three-story dwelling that he will later rent out, floor by floor. The house has already been under construction for two years, but only the foundation and frame of the three stories have so far been built (Figs. V.11 and V.12). Leandro said that for construction projects that are not a person’s primary home but rather a real estate investment, that person may work a total of two months out of the year, depending on his or her finances. This slower approach to construction is different than what we saw with Taina and Vinícius’s family, who conducted home improvements while they were living in their homes. Figure V.13 is a set of floorplans I drew up after visiting the site. (See Figure V.14 for sections of an alley in the same neighborhood, drawn by Adriana Navarro Sertich.) Leandro approached construction much like Renato, the pedreiro: building without any formal drawings or pre-planning. The drawings and diagrams in this thesis are attempts at rationalizing the favela typology, and at presenting its logic through architectural representation. If Leandro had not owned his own small business, he would have hired a construction company. He said residents hire the company, pay for their services, and the company buys the building materials. Typically the number of construction workers on site at a time is one to two: the pedreiro and his helper, if he has one. The homeowner pays the pedreiro around R$80 to R$100, and the helper is paid half that amount. To buy materials wholesale, the homeowner can order a truck bed of 1,000 bricks, for instance, for R$1,000. But, Vinícius noted, if someone ordered 12,000 bricks it would only be half the cost, R$6,000. The homeowner also pays for the truck to carry the materials to the construction site. The cost of transport is the same amount as the money paid for the materials. Not surprisingly, it costs much more to deliver materials to higher


Figure V.11

Figure V.12

Figure V.14



Figure V.13 Ground floor



Figure V.13 Second floor



Figure V.13 Third floor


and steeper locations in the favela than to locations closer to the base of the hill. In turn, houses in those inconvenient locations are built with cheaper, less permanent materials like wood and mud framing, and tin roofs. Oftentimes, though, residents do not have enough money up front to purchase large amounts of wholesale materials. VinĂ­cius and Leandro mentioned that many favelados make most of their construction purchases with their “13th month salary,â€? which is a sort of bonus paid to workers at the end of the year. Thus, people make small incremental improvements on their houses over the course of several years, which actually ends up costing more than if everything was paid for in advance.

Self-Built Entrepreneurship Favelados do not only build their own homes, but many also build their own commercial establishments. The favela storefront is a prime example of the self-contained favela economy, a glimpse of the favela as a mini city. From Rocinha to Vidigal, Cantagalo to Santa Marta, residents often exhibit their entrepreneurial spirit by opening up the first floor of their homes to business. These businesses range from tattoo parlors, hair salons and clothing shops, to restaurants and grocery stores. If a resident is in need of something, he or she need search no further than the extents of the favela community. Although many favela residents work in manual labor and service sector jobs in the formal city, the self-contained favela economy serves everyone in the community. Retired elders, children, and those who stay closer to home to take care of their families draw especial benefit from favela storefronts. These storefronts are then tied into the larger social network of the formal city as word of mouth draws people from outside the community to come into the favelas, whether the reason is cheaper prices, good quality, or just a more personal touch. In informal construction, infrastructure and informal economy there is an enormous sense of creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Many favelados have to scrounge from the ground up and forge their own way in an informal economy,




and their hard work and spirit are evident in their storefront businesses. Though many residents would fit into the category of “low-income,” the community vitality is very different from what is often seen in public housing blocks in the US. People seem to feel a sense of ownership over their dwellings and storefronts, and this may be due to the mode of construction; the people are more connected to the human element of their community’s creation, as opposed to “The Man” or the government machine that is behind large-scale grid city planning.

Self-Built Benefits

172. John F. C. Turner and Robert Fichter, eds. Freedom to Build: Dweller Control of the Housing Process (New York: Macmillan), 1972, vii.

173. Turner and Fichter, eds., Freedom to Build, 19-20.

In Turner and Fichter’s seminal work Freedom to Build: Dweller Control of the Housing Process, the authors suggest that housing standards are based on the needs of a “hypothetical standardized inhabitant,” when value should really be evaluated based on the dweller’s ability to “maintain environments which serve both their material and their psychological needs.”172 Favelas are not considered to be up to the housing standards of a formal city, but perhaps the designers, city officials and planners who are assessing living conditions should reconsider their concept of standards. As was addressed in Chapter IV with the discussion of variable concepts of public space, the hillside favela is a completely unique paradigm – a “new” typology in the sense that it has not been formally recognized in architectural discourse as a viable model worthy of study and reproduction. Density in the favela urban fabric, in addition to the complexities and intricacies of interstitial space within the built environment, allow for “new” possibilities for public space: as opposed to the traditional view of public space as “open” space within cities. Likewise, what looks like “cramped” quarters and messy electrical wires and pipes to an outsider, is actually an organized chaos that serves the material needs of the residents. Unlike a prospective homebuyer who buys his house as a commodity – a product that he can take or leave as is – the “owner-builder” can make adjustments as he sees fit.173 The authors of Freedom to Build believe that a key factor that contributes to the “living patterns” of a resident is his “sense of



having a choice,” his ability to take part in and make decisions regarding the construction of his own built environment.”174 Alterations, like having the ability to build a roof pool, construct a covered porch, or rent out the laje – all without having to worry about permits, approvals, or zoning and building codes – contribute to the owner-builder’s satisfaction with his living conditions. Turner and Fichter had a hypothesis for how housing satisfaction impacts the dweller’s life: When dwellers control the major decisions and are free to make their own contributions in the design, construction, or management of their housing, both this process and the environment produced stimulate individual and social well-being.175 Thus, it would follow from this statement that favela communities are breeding grounds for individual and social well-being. While this idea sounds fantastical and utopian – especially when juxtaposed with the stereotypical perception of favelas as dangerous pits of filth and violence – the improvements in infrastructure and security over the last ten years have opened up the possibility for favelas to be viewed in a new light. Without the blight of inadequate infrastructure and traficante reign, favelas can begin to be viewed as centers of innovation and creativity, starting with the practice of self-construction. When all is said and done, the favela owner-builder can provide himself with a home that would have cost “twice as much” if it were built by a professional, and the investment in housing can often yield four or five times the owner-builder’s income, which is “twice the normal maximum that can be obtained through mortgage borrowing on commercially built and sold property,” according to Turner and Fichter.176 Favelados’ significant investment in housing not only contributes to their attachment to the land, but is also instrumental in the longevity of the community as a unit.

The Favela as a Sustainable Development As was mentioned in the Introduction, there is a difference

174. Turner and Fichter, eds., Freedom to Build, 63.

175. Turner and Fichter, eds., Freedom to Build, 241.

176. Turner and Fichter, eds., Freedom to Build, 241-242. Figures are based on owner-builders in the US and squatters in Peru in the 1970s, and thus are only rough estimates.


177. Beardsley and Werthmann, “Improving Informal Settlements,” 31.

178. Vicente del Rio, Daniel Levi, and Cristiane Rose Duarte, “Perceived Livability and Sense of Community: Lessons for Designers from a Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” in Community Livability: Issues and Approaches to Sustaining the Well-Being of People and Communities, ed. Fritz Wagner and Roger Caves (London: Routledge, 2012), 103. 179. del Rio, Levi and Duarte, “Perceived Livability,” 103.


between sustainable developments – settlements that are structurally and socially sound and will last for years to come – and environmentally sustainable developments – those that employ “green” design, and are built using recyclable materials, etc. That is not to say that the two forms of sustainability do not often go hand in hand, but this thesis is more concerned with the sustainable development aspect of favelas, because of its implications for the study of the favela as a viable architectural and urban typology. As has been noted several times in this thesis, the population of slum dwellers is swelling across the globe. Because of this slum proliferation, the issue of favela formalization is becoming increasingly critical to the discourse on urban and low-income housing. John Beardsley and Christian Werthmann acknowledge that improving informal settlements is “more cumbersome and arguably more expensive than building right in the first place,” but is essential to “leaving intact the economic and social networks that residents have created for themselves.”177 Economic and social networks are key to the sustainability of favela communities. As was mentioned in Chapter IV, the barter economy in the informal sector in Rio still maintains a level of personal interaction that is no longer apparent in the nearly mechanic transactions in the capitalist marketplace of the modern metropolis. Trust and personal relations are crucial to the health of the favela economy, and are the glue that holds communities together. Figure V.15 is Vicente del Rio et al.’s “Livability Matrix” from his essay “Perceived Livability and Sense of Community: Lessons for Designers from a Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.”178 The table shows that “mixed land use” and “compactness and density” are “very important topics” for not only the residential environment, but also for the neighborhood and community, and for environmental sustainability. Del Rio praises compactness and density, asserting that these sustainable design qualities help to “minimize sprawl and transportation use, protect the surrounding rural environment, and reduce energy consumption and pollution.”179 By the “Livability Matrix” standards, the favela is a highly “livable” urban typology. Del Rio continues by linking the environmental benefits of sustainable design concepts with the community benefits:



Figure V.15

Although density may increase crowding, it helps to promote neighboring and a sense of community. Mixed land use has also been linked to increases in neighborhood social interactions and a sense of community… Natural environments in urban areas increase neighborhood interactions and safety.180 Like del Rio et al., Jane Jacobs would applaud the favela for its high density, mixed-use fabric, an environment conducive to neighborhood livelihood and “eyes on the street” systems of trust and protection. As an aspiring architect and city planner, I agree with a statement made by the modernist Le Corbusier: “I learn my trade from men, in their homes.”181 Perhaps urban planners can take a cue from favela-dwellers, owner-builders and entrepreneurs, and inject a bit of organic informality into city plans – in the form of unplanned space open to informal, unrestricted construction – and, in turn, create smarter “cities of the future” that respond to the calls for sustainable, highdensity development, but reject the bird’s-eye view in favor of the street-level, human experience.

180. del Rio, Levi and Duarte, “Perceived Livability,” 103.

181. Le Corbusier, The Radiant City (New York: The Orion Press, 1933), 6


CONCLUSIONS & PROJECTIONS When they give shanytowns a chance, the entire city will sing. - Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim, 1963182 182. “Quando derem vez ao morro, toda a cidade vai cantar.” Lyrics from “O Morro Não Tem Vez,” 1963, as quoted in Vivafavela (São Paulo: Editora Olhares e Viva Rio, 2008), back cover inset.

Decades before Favela-Bairro and “Favela Hype,” Moraes and Jobim used samba lyrics to voice their opinion of the favela as an integral part of both the urban landscape and the cultural imaginary of Rio de Janeiro. The composers believed that when “they” – the government, the asfalto residents, all non-favelados – gave the favelas a chance, when “they” accepted and welcomed the favelas’ presence, the city would ring in harmony. The city, no longer composed of dissonant factions, but rather made up of complementary typologies, would make beautiful music – a unified whole that recognized every discrete element as an essential component in the city’s unique identity. Favelas must be considered a viable architectural and urban typology. Without romanticizing slum settlements, this thesis has striven to read the favela and learn from its intricacies. Instead of considering the slum as a canvas on which to project ideas and agendas, like some of the “hype” proposals and designs discussed in Chapter III, this thesis has attempted to understand, on the neighborhood level, the complex collage that is the favela urban fabric. In this thesis, the question of the vernacular as architecture was addressed, followed by a history of favelização that provided a background for the favelados’ legacy of selfconstruction. A survey of government-driven and designerinitiated projects was assessed on the basis of motives and subsequent impacts on the community, followed by a discussion of this thesis as its own type of project or intervention. In the final chapters, this thesis looked at the flexible boundaries and spatial complexities that are intrinsic to favelas, followed by case studies of self-construction, in order to present the favela as a typology worthy of study. The title of Harvard Design Magazine’s 2008 Spring/


Summer issue was “Can Designers Improve Life in NonFormal Cities?” I think the profession is still grappling with this question. With the rates and projections for urban growth, especially in the developing world, what is the place of the architect in cities of the future? Will there be a new relationship between the architect and the city…? As more and more slum dwellers construct their own homes, architects must accept the fact that typologies like that of the favela exist independent of professional assistance. The self-built typology, in many cases, is extremely successful and even sustainable. Architects can either join in the production of the vernacular, learn from it, or maybe even do both. Architecture firms and design institutions like MVRDV, Frédéric Druot, and Bauhaus Dessau are using the favela typology as a model off of which to base their own designs. Figure 5 shows the Dutch firm MVRDV’s proposal for a housing complex in Liuzhou, China. While the firm’s website makes no official mention of the favela typology as inspiration, the topographical contouring, flat lajes, and collage-like qualities exhibit an uncanny semblance to Rio’s hillside favelas. Figure 6 is the French architect Frédéric Druot’s proposal for a reconstruction project in Rocinha.183 Druot maintains the formal qualities of the favela vernacular – earthen colors, flats roofs, conflation of inside and outside space – and contorts the typology in a way that preserves Rocinha’s identity while producing a new, structurally sound, urban space. Lastly, Figure 7 shows the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s Célula Urbana project for Favela-Bairro, which studied the dwelling unit as an “urban cell” and came up with non-invasive techniques for linking home modulation to infrastructural upgrades.184 In addition to favela-friendly design, the current state of the favela opens up possibilities for much-needed “acupunctural insertions” of infrastructure – funiculars, elevators and metrocables, for instance – that can be designed by architects. Instead of upgrading favela communities to the standards set by formal cities and based on broad generalizations, designers and planners should learn from each favela’s specific spatial logic, absorbing the urban fabric of the formal city into the texture of favelas, and producing a gradient typology that spans formality and informality. By disassembling


Figure 5

Figure 7

183. Frédéric Druot, “Frédéric Druot: Etude de définition pour la transformation de la Favela, Rocinha Favela, Rio de Janeiro, 2010,” Lotus International no. 143 (2010), 68-69. 184. Omar Akbar, “Bauhaus Dessau Foundation: Célula Urbana, Jacarezinho Favela, Rio de Janeiro, 2000-04,” Lotus International no. 143 (2010), 70-71.



the ideological constructs associated with the favela typology, this thesis has proposed a theoretical project for reconsidering architecture in the self-built city.

Rocinha today

Figure 6

Rocinha with Druot’s proposal




asfalto – the Portuguese word used to indicate the formal, planned city collage – the term used in this thesis to refer to the overlap and assemblage of layers that is characteristic of the complex spatiality in hillside favelas favelização – the phenomenon of the proliferation of favelas in Rio de Janeiro formal qualities – elements in the physical form of a built structure that contribute to its unique character hype – favela hype is the obsession with informal settlements, and refers to the profusion of architectural and artistic projects that have materialized in favelas in recent years o morro – the Portuguese word used to refer to the favela, the informal city the oblique – the concept of the inclined plane as a catalyst for movement and tactile stimulation, theorized by Claude Parent and Paul Virilio in the 1960s owner-builder – the favela dweller who constructs his own built environment porosity – the permeability in all types of boundaries, the ability of one half of a dichotomy to bleed into its counterpart and vice versa puxadinhos – the Portuguese word meaning “little pull” that refers to an irregular addition onto a home spatial complexity – the quality of there being more than meets the eye in the urban fabric, layers of homes upon homes that skew the viewer’s depth perception and make it unclear where spatial boundaries are drawn among dwelling units temporal unraveling – for a pedestrian, the trajectory unfolds in space, over time, as he walks through a densely wound path typology – the classification of a general type, model or form urban fabric – the spatial conditions, networks, and forms that make up a specific urban environment



This interview was conducted at a residence in Rocinha on the author’s second visit to Rio de Janeiro, on the 20th of January, 2013. The interviewee was Vinícius Carvalho, a Rocinha resident and graduate of PUC (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro) School of Architecture.

Há quanto tempo você (ou sua família) viveu nesta casa? / How long have you (or your family) lived in this house? My family has always lived in Rocinha, but we have been in this house for twenty years now. We are in the process of building an additional floor, as well as another house, which we will eventually rent. Quantas vezes as pessoas adicionar quartos de suas casas? / How many times do people add rooms to their homes? My family moved to this house twenty years ago, and kept up construction for five years. So the house has been like this for fifteen years. Adding rooms and performing construction is a continuous process. That’s why it is hard to estimate the cost of a house because we do only a little work at a time. Quantas pessoas estão envolvidas na construção das casas? / How many people are involved in the construction of homes? Usually only one or two people: the pedreiro and a guy who helps him. Quem está no commando de compra e venda do terreno? / Who is in charge of buying and selling land? In Rocinha, there is no kind of permit. People can build wherever they want.


De quem residentes obter a aprovação para construir novas casas? / From whom do residents obtain permission to construct new homes? In Rocinha there is almost have no more open land. You can sell your roof space, your laje, to someone else and so on. Na sua opinião, como contentes são os moradores com suas condições de vida? Com a arquitetura? E por qué? / In your opinion, how content are home dwellers with their living conditions? With the architecture? And why? I think the people are proud just to have a home. Most don’t care about architecture in the professional sense. Regarding government imposed architecture, people didn’t like the housing idea, but now they wouldn’t go back. People here are afraid of change. Their homes are something they have developed over years, so any change to what they are used to is unwelcome. Quais são os diferentes tipos de prédios no bairro (casas, escolas, lojas, escritórios, etc.)? Há mapas que mostram os diferentes tipos de edifícios? / What are the different types of buildings in the neighborhood (homes, schools, stores, offices, etc.)? Are there maps that show the different types of building?

Two initiatives from the Municipal Secretary of Urbanism in Rio – Projeto Aprovado de Loteamento, or “Approved Project of Allotments” (PAL) and Projeto Aprovado de Alinhamento or “Approved Project of Alignments/Boundaries” (PAA) – take photos of Rio, including the favelas, from above. PAL and PAA have databases of maps and plans. Como você se sente sobre a palavra ‘favela’? Ouvi dizer que algumas pessoas acham a palavra ofensiva. O que você acha? / How do you feel about the word ‘favela’? I have heard that some people find the word offensive. What do you think? It is a word muito forte, “very strong.” Most residents prefer to call it the comunidade.



The following stories were gathered on multiple trips to Rio’s hillside favelas in the summer of 2012 and January 2013. The information on painted exteriors comes from Moises Lino e Silva’s essay “Redbrick in Rio.”

Rocinha Mudança: Adriana* had lived high up the hill in Rocinha, in an area that was prone to landslides in heavy rainfall, during which entire homes would sometimes fall down the slope. Through Rocinha Mudança, “Rocinha Moves,” a program funded by PAC, Adriana and her son were given an apartment in government housing within the favela. At the time of my visit, she had been living in the government housing unit for three years and did not have to pay for rent or services. Housing and utilities fees were fully covered by the government. She was content with the structural security of the apartment, but was frustrated with the restrictions on home customization, something she did not have to worry about in her previous, self-built home. *Name has been changed

Igor Barbosa: A lifetime Rocinha resident, Igor relocated with his mother to another home within the favela when he was a teenager. At the time, the community was not yet pacified. He said his mother knew of an abandoned house near the bottom of the hill, and she subsequently asked the “mafia” for permission to move in. Igor believed she had lucked out, because real estate closer to the bottom of the hill is typically priced much higher than homes farther up.


Austrian Entrepreneur: One foreigner named Andreas Wielend bought a house in Vidigal in 2009. Wielend built additional rooms, revamped the interior, painted the exterior, and transformed the property into Alto Vidigal Guesthouse, a hostel and nightclub. The property has a breathtaking view of the ocean and the crescent-shaped coastlines of Leblon and Ipanema, and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, attracting hundreds of partygoers every weekend. Wielend had bought the house for R$20,000 and is now receiving offers of up to R$600,000 to sell. He says he will not settle for less than R$1,500,000 because he knows real estate in Vidigal is becoming more and more valuable. PJ Das, a Princeton graduate, had lived in the hostel during the summer of 2011, and took me there in the summer of 2012. For more information on Wielend, real estate and gentrification, see The Huffington Post.185

185. Jenny Barchfield, “Rio Favela Development: Brazilian Slums Turn From No-Go To Must-Buy,� The Huffington Post, 13 January 2013,


Rocinha Retiree: In the summer of 2012, I visited Rocinha for the first time. I ate in an open air “restaurant” that turned out to be the cozinha, kitchen, of someone’s home. The first floor façade was left completely open in order to welcome diners, and there was enough room inside for only two tables. The home-cooked food was delicious, and after the meal, the proprietor offered a rooftop view of the favela – complimentary with the meal (other favela residents charge tourists R$3-$5 to experience their rooftop views). The homeowner was an older man who used to work in the service industry on the asfalto. He was extremely proud of the view from his roof, and also took pride in the small home improvements he had been able to fund over the years – which included shiny white and blue tile floors, a side porch, and freshly plastered walls.

“Upward” mobility, Rocinha


Cidade de Deus Actors, the Haagensen Brothers: Two of the main characters from the Academy Award-nominated film City of God grew up in Vidigal. When they made their money from the movie, they did not choose to move out of the favela. Instead, one brother bought a motorcycle, and both pooled their funds to build an additional story onto their home for their mother. Their home is near the base of the hill and appears well kept and has a nicely tiled exterior, but does not come across as particularly extravagant or lavish.

Painted Exteriors, from “Redbrick in Rio”: “I asked my friend: “Why is it that people don’t paint the outside of their houses?” He didn’t think long before saying: “Because they don’t care about that.” A few seconds later, though, after giving more thought to the question, he said that it was not worth spending money on the exterior if it is the interior that matters. The answer is important to me as an anthropologist, but I felt it sounded a bit too obvious. As we kept going down, he brought up the topic again and said that it was expensive to take building material all the way up the favela just to decorate the exterior of a house, when that doesn’t make any difference to your life.”186 According to Lino e Silva, painting is low on favelados’ priorities list, ranking below amenities like large-screen televisions, stereo systems, and home improvements like tile interiors.187 He goes on to conclude that painting the exterior of homes is more of a concern for outsiders viewing the favela from the asfalto than it is for favela residents: “Colored walls can be a sign of increased social status, but not necessarily to the people undergoing the color changes.”188 This “outsider” preoccupation with exterior appearance is interesting to note when considering foreign artist installations like those discussed in this thesis (Haas&Hahn and JR Art). 186. Moises Lino e Silva, “Redbrick in Rio,” New Geographies 2, (2010), 136, ew/1020955609?accountid=13314. 187. Lino e Silva, “Redbrick in Rio,” 136. 188. Lino e Silva, “Redbrick in Rio,” 135.




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Body text was composed in Liberation Sans, Source Sans Pro and Open Sans, and headings were composed in WC ROUGHTRAD Bta. Printed by Allegra, in Lawrenceville, NJ. Spring 2013

The Favela Typology  

Architecture in the Self-Built City.

The Favela Typology  

Architecture in the Self-Built City.