Architects: JBMC Arquitetura & Urbanismo
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photographs: Courtesy of JBMC, Celso Brando
From the architect. Integration is transformation
The Rubem Braga Elevator Complex aims to improve accessibility for the residents of Pavao community, located 80 meters above ground level, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Not long ago, as in several other Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods, that population experienced the danger of rickety stairways and makeshift passages up and down the slope, not to mention the threat of landslides.
The elevator complex consists of two towers housing panoramic elevators and metal staircases. Linking the towers are 40-meter-long steel bridges. Also, they’re coupled with a new set of outdoor concrete staircases winding up and down the hillside. A set of retaining walls was built into the rock as way to prevent landslides. Moreover, the elevator tower provides access to General Osório Metro Station, thus offering increased urban mobility to the local population.
The elevator tower complex symbolizes a link between a privileged area and one lacking the most basic public services, as it closely connects the Pavão community with the rest of the city, and conveys a sense of urban development. The complex has been seen as a brand-new sightseeing option in Rio. That tourist-oriented usage can bring in exciting economic prospects for the community, and can also foster fascinating social interactions, which highlight the project’s initial idea: urban spaces for all.
The architectural approach adopted preserves hillside stability, as well as displaces only a few of the local population. The structure of the towers consists of a prism-shaped metal framework with three equidistant concrete cylinders for vertices. The elevators are located inside this prism, which is made with transparent glass down one side and brise-soleils down the other two. The brise-soleils feature a palette ranging from blue to green, thus representing a smooth transition between sea and forest.
Enabling a view of the beautiful Rio de Janeiro city and seascape is a transparent-glass façade at the axis of Teixeira de Melo Street. Behind the remaining façades are two sets of stairs providing a means of escape in case of emergency or a power failure.
To the city’s authorities, the concept of accessibility must transcend the possibility of making disabled people’s lives easier. It extends to all kinds of people: senior citizens, expecting mothers, school children, as well as tourists and city residents alike. Therefore, the elevator makes for a gateway into the local community, bringing in well-known benefits for the local communities, such as reduced social inequality, lower crime rate, improved quality of life, not to mention unrestricted access to the different means of public transport.
Above the elevator engine room is a covered belvedere designed not only to protect the staircases from the rain but also to generate a new sightseeing spot, thus bringing together different communities by allowing all of them to enjoy the city’s unique views.