Rubem Braga Elevator Complex: connecting the favelas with the city of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
An urban intervention becomes a major gateway linking the favelas and the lower city via two elevators, stairs and a pedestrian bridge. The complex was built on the premise of fostering inclusivity for the urban poor and democratising access to urban public spaces. As a result, improvements in community safety, and reduction of crime and landslide risk have been reported.
About Rio de Janeiro
Located in the south-east region of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is the country’s second largest metropolis in terms of economy and population, with almost 6.5 million city inhabitants and an estimated 12.2 million within its metropolitan region (UNESCO, 2016). Cradled between mountains and the Guanabara Bay, the city uniquely fuses nature and culture. The urban fabric is a sharp contrast of skyscrapers, manors, parks and open green areas, and informal settlements – favelas. This diversity is reflected in an archipelago of very different socio-economic urban cores with their own communities, that present a strong inequality in social and urban conditions. 22% of the city’s population (about 1.4 million) lives in the favelas, the highest figure in Brazil. The World Heritage site of Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2012 under criteria (v) and (vi). The property encompasses 7,248.78 ha with a buffer zone of 8,621.38 ha.
This cultural landscape consists of an exceptional urban setting encompassing the key natural elements that have shaped and inspired the development of the city: from the highest points of the Tijuca National Park’s mountains down to the sea. It comprises the Botanical Gardens, established in 1808, Corcovado Mountain with its celebrated statue of Christ, and the hills around Guanabara Bay, including the extensive designed landscapes along Copacabana Bay, which have contributed to the outdoor living culture of this spectacular city. Rio de Janeiro is also recognised for the artistic inspiration it has provided to musicians, landscapers and urbanists.
The city’s densest buildings sit on the narrow strips of alluvial land between the mountains and the sea, laid out in irregular clusters of tall white blocks which contrast vividly with the green vegetation of the mountains and the blue of the sea. None of these buildings are included in the World Heritage property, but a significant number of them are included in the buffer zone.
Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea. All photos © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent
Rubem Braga Elevator Complex: connecting the favelas with the city
Unlike urban growth patterns of other Latin American cities, in Rio de Janeiro, many of the favelas have remained as urban enclaves within the city’s core. In recent years, there has been broader recognition of the favelas as engines of culture and creativity and places of economic and social innovation. Wider endorsement of the favelas as a trademark of the city has been demonstrated by their integration in the city’s branding process. This recognition was not only made by local community associations and NGOs, but also by the wider public and city authorities.
Since 2010, residents of the low-income communities of Cantagalo and Pavao, located within the buffer zone of the World Heritage property, have enjoyed better access to and from their homes and to public transport in the city by using an 80 m elevator complex. The Rubem Braga Elevator Complex, named after the Brazilian writer, has served as a major gateway linking different areas of the city via two 30-person elevators, stairs and a pedestrian bridge.
The Ruben Braga Elevator consists of two towers, one 64 meters high, the other 23 meters, connected by a 48-meter walkway. It connects the favelas to the Praça General Osorio Metro stop and includes a 23-story high lookout of Ipanema and Copacabana conceived as a tourist destination.
The complex was built on the premise of fostering inclusivity for the urban poor and democratising access to urban public spaces. As a result, project reports defend that community safety has improved, while crime and landslide risk have reduced.
Source: Culture Urban Future, UNESCO, 2016, p. 115. Coimbra University, report for Study Area 8
Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea. © Ruy Salaverry
Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape
The initiative could contribute towards the implementation of
the HUL Recommendation by providing a connection between the different areas that form the landscape of the city in a way that respects the heritage values of the site. The project does also make use of urban infrastructures and planning of public space as a way to contribute to better social cohesion.
Contribution towards Sustainable Development
If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.
- Target 10.2: the initiative aims to promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, by connecting disadvantaged areas of the city.
Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Target 11.2: the initiative aims to increase access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.
- Target 11.a: the initiative aims to create positive links between urban and peri-urban areas by taking into consideration the role of the city within the wider metropolis and the connection of the different areas.
Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.
To learn more
- Read the article High-Flying Rubem Braga Elevator Complex Improves Pedestrian Accessibility in Rio de Janeiro by Bridgette Meinhold, published in 2011 on InHabitat (in English).
- Read the description of the architectural project Rubem Braga Elevator Complex / JBMC Arquitetura e Urbanismo on ArchDaily (in English).
- Browse through the technical drawings, photographs and descriptions included in JBMC Arquitetura & Urbanismo’s website (in English, Portuguese and Spanish).
- Read Prêmio APCA 2011 – Categoria “Obra de arquitetura no Brasil”. Premiado: João Batista Martinez Corrêa / Mirante da Paz – Complexo Elevador Rubem Braga, Rio de Janeiro, Renato Anelli. Drops, São Paulo, year 12, n. 051.07, Vitruvius, December 2011 (in Portuguese).
- Read the project description in the BAQ Archive of Panamerican Architecture (in Spanish).
© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez.
Cover image: © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent
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