Rio de Janeiro is a city of sights and sounds. As diverse as its people is the collection of impressive architecture found in Brazil’s second most populous city—from Eurocentric historical architecture to 20th century regionalist modern marvels, not to mention the city’s growing crop of contemporary cultural venues. The combination of mountainous terrain, lush rainforest, and the ocean inspires many to create lively and unique architecture.
In preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the city has enlisted a crop of internationally renowned architects including Santiago Calatrava, whose work joins Rio's existing masterpieces from architects such as Oscar Niemeyer. But apart from its "Capital A" Architecture, the city of Rio is home to thousands of residents living in the now-famous favelas—interesting subjects of inquiry for those interested in the concept of spontaneous urban growth. There’s a building for just about every architecture fan visiting Rio this year or anytime in the future.
Built in Calatrava’s signature style, the recently launched museum feels ethereal and features various cutting-edge experimental exhibitions; it is an icon of the modernization of Rio de Janeiro’s harbor.
Located in the city’s developing southwest zone, Portzamparc’s masterpiece is a large cultural complex. A miniature City of Arts, it serves as a venue to multiple performances and exhibits throughout the year, as well as the home of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra.
Set to open later in 2016, the new headquarters of the Museum of Image and Sound aims to represent Rio de Janeiro’s Carioca culture through lively and stimulating exhibits. The building’s design aims to reproduce the experience of Copacabana’s famous boardwalk.
20th Century Modernism
The iconic saucer-shaped structure not only frames views of Rio de Janeiro but also provides a column-free exhibition space for contemporary art.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian / Edgar Fonceca
Also dubbed as the New Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, the conically-shaped structure is Edgar Fonceca’s interpretation of Mayan architecture which he has combined with traditional Catholic architecture through the dominant presence of stained glass in the interior.
Known alternatively as Palacio Gustavo Capanema, this office tower is one of Brazil’s most iconic representation of the International Style. The building's design credits read like a who's who of Brazilian Modernism, designed by Costa with help from a team of young architects which included Oscar Niemeyer alongside Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Carlos Leão, Jorge Moreira, and Ernani Vasconcellos. This team was assisted by none other than Le Corbusier, while the building’s impressive roof top gardens were designed by Roberto Burle Max.
Affonzo Reidy’s design is one of the most beautiful examples of Modernism’s sculptural potential. The museum is located within Rio’s largest public space: Flamengo Park.
In 1943, Lucio Costa transformed the site of Parque Eduardo Guinle by building 6 residential towers. This is a prime example of Modernist architecture’s utopian aspirations in Brazil.
The Royal Portugese Cabinet of Reading / Rafael da Silva e Castra
Appearing like a cathedral filled with books, the 19th century building houses books which began as a private collection by three Portuguese immigrants. The library now contains largest collection of Portuguese works outside of Portugal.
Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theater / Francisco de Oliveira Passos
The Theatro Municipal is one of the most important and beautiful theaters in Brazil. The Paris Opera look-a-like is located in Rio’s city center and houses ballet performances and classical music concerts.
Parque Lage / Mario Vodrel
Once the private home of industrialist Enrique Lague, the site is now a public park with walking trails through subtropical forest. In 2015, the artists Penny Duo transformed the site by placing an inflatable orange tarp that covered the building’s entire pool area.
Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro
Before it was replaced by the New Cathedral of Rio in 1976, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo was the seat of the Archdiocese of San Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro. It features stunning Rococo-style ornamentation.
Santa Marta Favela
The Santa Marta Favela is located in the Botafogo district of Rio de Janeiro and is home to some 8000 residents. In 2011, the Praça Cantão square of the favela underwent a colorful transformation through the Favela Painting Foundation of artist duo Haas and Hahn.
Teleferico do Complexo do Alemão / Jorge Mario Juaregui
This cable car ride is composed of 7 stations and is taken by everyday commuters as it connects to the city’s railway network; the 45 minute ride provides a view of Rio de Janeiro’s various residential areas.
The MAR is a large complex which contains not only a museum but also a school and leisurely cultural spaces. The 2013 construction of the museum required the unification and re-purposing of three pre-existing buildings: the Palacete Dom João, the police building and the old central bus station of Rio as one cohesive complex.
This station used to be an old parking area for trains known as “Rabicho da Tijuca” before it was renovated to become part of the metro’s Line 1 extension. JBMC Architects were also responsible for the Cidade Nova Metro Station and Footbridge.
After the 2010 Homeless World Cup, the structure from this multi-team collaboration, which also included Nike and Bola par Frente, has been re-purposed as a community and cultural center using football and play as a tool for empowerment in the underprivileged neighborhood of Santa Cruz.
This contemporary chapel literally hangs off a cliff and is a reconceptualization of church architecture; the traditional gable form of religious Christian buildings has been inverted from sectional to plan view.
Maracanã Stadium / Schlaich Bergermann und Partner
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics are being held in this stadium, which adds to the long list of prestigious sporting events that the Maracanã stadium has hosted since its construction in 1950. A beautiful new roof structure was designed by schlaich bergermann und partner in 2013.