The last episode of Al Jazeera’s Rebel Architecture series tells the story of Ricardo, an informal builder in Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela. “A foreign architect would not get into this hole and dig. He would hire someone or would hire machines. But here in the favela, we are hands on,” he says in the episode. Ricardo has built over one hundred houses in Rocinha despite not having any formal training. Yet as Brazil prepares for the World Cup and the Olympic Games, life in Rocinha is changing. This 25-minute episode follows Ricardo as well as Luis Carlos Toledo, the architect behind the government’s regeneration of Rocinha, as the two seek to incorporate their solutions into the future of the country's favelas.
Watch the full episode above and read on after the break for a full episode synopsis and a preview of upcoming episodes…
From Al Jazeera: “The Pedreiro and the Master Planner,” Directed by May Abdalla
Ricardo is a Brazilian “pedreiro” – a real rebel architect. He’s built over one hundred houses with no formal training and the most basic tools, all in his local community of Rocinha – Brazil’s largest favela, situated right in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. Working on a variety of projects across the favela, including his own house, Ricardo explains how these simple buildings meet the social and budgetary needs of their clients. But as the city gears up for the World Cup and Olympic Games, life in Rocinha is changing; and even Ricardo cannot escape the violence spilling over from the government’s favela “pacification” programme.
Whilst Ricardo struggles to provide a better life for his own family, Brazil’s new profile on the world stage has also led to an influx of urban planners, NGOs and well-meaning architects, all hoping to “improve” the physical conditions of the favela – and bringing with them the very real threat of gentrification. Luis Carlos Toledo, the architect behind the master plan for the government’s regeneration of Rocinha, was considered a radical for working on favela urbanisation long before it became fashionable and says living conditions can and must be improved – but even he starts to question the benefits of an attention-grabbing cable-car system, whilst thousands of residents are still without access to education or healthcare. The battle for the future of Brazil’s favelas, is on.
Rebel Architecture is a new series featuring architects who use design as a form of resistance and activism. By designing for the majority rather than the elite, the architects in “Rebel Architecture” are tackling the world’s urban, environmental and social problems. Through six, half-hour documentaries the series has highlighted architects working in Vietnam, Nigeria, Spain, Pakistan, the Occupied West Bank and Brazil. In case you missed the first five episodes, check them out below.