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Over the past five years I’ve worked on several different projects in Brazil, ranging from natural building on an ecofarm, to an urban project in Rio’s favelas and a Circular Economy market scan at the Dutch consulate.

2014: Internship at Atelier Metropolitano

My interest in informal urbanization and the attraction of Rio de Janeiro’s beauty brought me to Brazil for the first time in 2014, after I had finished my bachelor’s degree in Architecture.

Atelier Metropolitano is an architecture office, led by Jorge Mario Jáuregui, specialized in projects that aim to formalize the slums of Rio de Janeiro in a sensitive way: urban design as a tool for social reform. During my internship I worked on a socio-environmental plan of requalification in Complexo do Alemão, one of Rio’s biggest favelas.

Complexo do Alemão

In Alemão, a cable-car system was implemented as an alternative transportation system for the residents, to improve the connection with the city (from the Medellín example, Colombia). In the project, two of the six cable-car stations were selected to start the urban renewal of Alemão: renewing infrastructures, building community centers and (re)constructing 200 houses are the physical part of the project. To make the project work, residents were involved in the design process.

Floor plan of the football pitch, locker rooms and community center near station Palmeiras
Vizualization of the community center

The project was partially financed by the government, which is examplary for the changed governmental attitude towards ‘favelization’ around that time. Since the 1990s, Rio’s favelas were recognized as part of the city and policies aim for one integrated Rio de Janeiro, including the two different urban fabrics. The Favela-Bairro project was implemented, aiming to implement urban infrastructure and public services.

Before that, the attitude towards Rio’s slums was much different. In the beginning of the 1900s, the formation of informal urban settlements was denied, before it was recognized as a problem around 1940. Policies were made by the local government, aiming to systematically remove the favelas from the center of Rio de Janeiro and settle their inhabitants in the suburbs. A well-known example is ‘City of God’, founded in 1960 and subject of a 2002 movie with the same name (‘Cidade de Deus’).

2014: Green My Favela

Also in 2014, I volunteered in an urban farming project in favela Manguinhos with an organization called ‘Green my favela’, aiming to turn a former crackland into a productive and attractive green area that is beneficial for the residents.

It was the first of the many social projects in favelas that I would see in the five years that followed: small NGOs that do social work, university (student) projects to design and build a small intervention, women empowerment projects in favelas or sustainability-driven interventions.

2014: TIBÁ

After finishing my internship at Atelier Metropolitano in Rio, I went to TIBÁ, an ecocenter that was founded by Johan van Lengen, writer of the well-known book ‘The barefoot architect’. This beautiful place of encounter is located in the interior of Rio de Janeiro state, close to the small town Bom Jardim. TIBÁ has inspired many people in environmental consciousness, sharing ideas about permaculture, bio-architecture and intuitive technology.

For a period of five months I lived and worked at TIBÁ, carrying out construction work using natural materials such as wood, bamboo and earth.

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2015: Eco Caminhos

In 2015 I went back to Brazil for a couple of months to help Bart Bijen, who I met in the year before, with the construction of the first house on the ecocenter that he had just founded in Nova Friburgo: Eco Caminhos. The house is made as much as possible from natural materials, applying many of the techniques that I had learned at TIBÁ in 2014. The load-bearing walls are made of 50 centimeter-thick earth, using the cob-technique.

2017: Dutch consulate in Rio de Janeiro – ‘Circular economy’

Inspired by these experiences in Brazil and an internship at Superuse Studios (Rotterdam, Netherlands) in 2015, I started a second masters’s degree in Industrial Ecology. I wanted to provide myself with a solid academic knowledge base about the environmental assessment tools, renewable energy systems and a wide range of sustainability concepts that are being promoted nowadays.

Around one of these concepts, the Circular Economy (CE), expertise and policies are built up in the last couple of years. The Dutch government considers the innovations in this field as potential export products of Dutch companies.

In a six-month internship at the Dutch consulate I mapped out the opportunities for implementation of CE practices in the Brazilian economy. I found that there are no direct opportunities yet (partially due to the economic crisis in Brazil), but awareness is rising
on institutional level (industry federation FIRJAN) and innovation takes place on a small scale in some sectors (clothing industry, for example).

A summary of my work and the full report can be found on this page.

2018: Graduation project about Ilha de Paquetá

In January 2019 I graduated in Architecture on my project Panorama Paquetá: a circular strategy for the island Paquetá, located in the middle of the polluted Guanabara bay, close to Rio de Janeiro. The scope and the clear system boundaries enabled me to compose a Material Flow Analysis and to come up with a set of interventions that both improve the environmental state of the place and strengthen the local economy (tourism) and culture.

One of the interventions is a small-scale beach pool, which forms an alternative place to swim for the polluted surface water of the bay. This intervention is elaborated into an architectural design.

The strength of the project lies in the coherence of the larger circular strategy for the whole island (analytical approach) and architectural design through sensitive heritage based placemaking.