Futuristic favela cloud reimagines Rio’s Slums

The city of Rio de Jainero, Brazil, is — unfortunately — nearly as famous for its slums, or favelas, as it is for its distinctive arts and culture. 

A new concept by Johan Kure, Thiru Manickam, and Kemo Usto, architects at Aalborg University in Denmark, aims to aid the city’s poor by turning the slums themselves into a kind of artistic expression. Call it public art meets urban renewal.

The Favela Cloud project consists of two main parts. At ground level an open plaza serves as a recreational area, with public space for football, swimming, climbing and general outdoor fitness. 

This plaza forms the foundation of an elevated platform containing homes and businesses connected by a single path that serves as a fluid and continuous “spine” throughout the building. The intention is to achieve a symbiotic spatial organization where the different functions act together to form a kind of synthesis: the Favela Cloud.

The idea sprung, in part, from the designers’ research at Favela Santa Marta, during which they discovered that the dearth of shading in the area discouraged residents from making use of public spaces in the heat of the day. 

By literally “lifting up the slums” in a futuristic style of architecture composed of white polycarbonate, metal, and solar cells, the structure would provide much-needed shade to the park below. Those solar cells would put the city’s abundant sunshine to the work in providing power to residents who may currently be lacking in it, while the shade produced by the structure would help to reduce the heat island effect, cooling the area.

Of course, high-density slums aren’t typically the beneficiaries of cutting-edge urban planning. But the project’s designers believe that maybe urban planners can learn a thing or two from areas such as this.

“Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have a different urban pattern, contrasting with the formal city,” designer Kemo Usto told The Creator’s Project. 

“They have the potential to become a model for a more diversified, denser urban life. If we want to change how we live in the city, we can’t keep up with the old building model using modernist bricks. We have to look at the potential of this complex, emerging housing scenario, rethink, and rearticulate it.”

Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling