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Favelas: The Latest Architecture and News

Serious Question: Should We Call Them Slums?

Slum. Shanty Town. Favela. Ghetto. Barrio Marginal. Bidonville. The list goes on. 

We have the foresight to understand and predict that demand for shelter in urban environments will continue to expand, perhaps indefinitely, but certainly until the highly-cited prediction that by 2050, more than two-thirds of the global population will live in cities. With this reality, is it time to reassess the way in which we talk about different forms of urbanization?

All The Architecture To See in Rio de Janeiro During the 2016 Olympics

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.

Santa Marta. ImageImage © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/armandolobos/5920954662/'>Flickr user alobos Life</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a> Cidade das Artes. Image © Nelson Kon Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian. ImageImage © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/vincentraal/9136698555/in/photolist-eVo64M-eVo3gR-eVnYar'>Flickr user vincentraal</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>CC BY-SA 2.0</a> Museum of Tomorrow. Image © Bernard Lessa Rio Municipal Theater. ImageImage © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/gameoflight/13084341645/in/photolist-kWfhuy-kWdM16-kWdEVk-kWfo5b'>Flickr user gameoflight</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/'>CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a> Niterói Contemporary Art Museum. ImageImage © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/gameoflight/13034234305'>Flickr user gameoflight</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/'>CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a> Maracanã Stadium. Image © Schlaich Bergermann und partner Parque Lage. ImageImage © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/93906643@N08/8552874061/in/dateposted/'>Flickr user Jonas Santin</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/>CC BY-NC 2.0</a> Museu de Arte Moderna. ImageImage © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MAM_-_Museu_de_Arte_Moderna_do_Rio_de_Janeiro_02.jpg'>Wikimedia user Halley Pacheco de Oliveira</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a> + 20

Shelter Global Announces 2015 Dencity Competition Winners

International architecture non-profit Shelter Global has announced the winners of its 2015 Dencity Competition. Out of 300 entries from 50 different countries, three winners and six special mentions were selected.

The competition’s goal was “to foster new ideas on how to handle the growing density of unplanned cities and to spread awareness of the massive problem,” and jury members sought out project designs that empower communities and allow for self-sufficiency. Read about the three winners, after the break.

Case Study: The Unspoken Rules of Favela Construction

"Building a house takes time and money,“ said Marcio, a local resident of Complexo do Alemão, one of Rio de Janeiro’s numerous favelas, as he showed me around his house. This is why a house is often built over several generations: a floor may be laid, columns erected (rebar protruding), and a thin tin roof placed, but this is just to mark where the next builder should finish the job. "Constructing a roof with tiles is not a sign of wealth here — rather, it means that there’s not enough money to continue constructing the house,” explains Manoe Ruhe, a Dutch urban planner who has lived in the favela for the last six months.

An architect who has always been fascinated by the way people live, I had come to do a residency at Barraco # 55, a cultural center in Complexo do Alemão, in order to learn how its citizens went about building their communities. I had many questions: are there rules of construction? What are the common characteristics of each house? Do they follow the same typology? How are the interiors of the homes? What construction techniques and what materials are used?

Why Iwan Baan's TED Talk Was Right

Iwan Baan's recent TED talk on ingenious informal settlement 'architecture' became instantly popular, clearly striking a chord with people across the globe. The lecture has been called everything from heartwarming to condescending, but for Parsons graduate students Meagan Durlak and James Frankis it was reaffirming. Durlak and Frankis have spent time working in Sao Paolo's favelas and understand that finding a balance between the good and the bad is key to the revitalization of these settlements. This article, originally published in Metropolis Magazine as "Response to Iwan Baan's TED Talk," journals some of their experiences working in South American slums, and why we need to stop treating those slums as a blight.

Meagan Durlak and I were excited to see the TED talk by architectural photographer Iwan Baan on the ingenuity found within informal settlements. In his presentation he walks us through a range of communities across the world, capturing many such settlements, including houses above a lagoon and a repurposed office block.

Baan’s view of informal settlements resonates with our own work; it’s an under-told story that we very much applaud. He shows an overview of people’s lives and their unique methods for adapting to difficult conditions. Perhaps as interesting as his film are the reactions to it from TED viewers. Many found the innovation in informal settlements to be inspiring and heartwarming; others claimed that this talk is just a life affirming story for the rich 1% of the world, perpetuating inaction for areas which need immediate aid. The two sides of the argument reminded us of our own work and the battles we have gone through in trying to wrap our heads around the systems of informal settlements, as well as the difficulties we have had in explaining their hidden properties to others.