sábado, 14 de julho de 2007

Globalization and Great Urban Projects - Rio de Janeiro

(Escrito em julho de 2007 a convite da rede Alfa-Ibis)

City Data

Municipality: 1,205 km²
Metropolitan region (19 municipalities): 5,693.5 km²

Population (2000)
Rio de Janeiro State: 14,391,262
Metropolitan region: 10,872,768
Municipality: 5,857,904

Population growth (1991-2000)
Brazil (1991-1996): 1.36%
Rio de Janeiro State: 1.28%
Metropolitan region: 1.14%
Municipality: 0.73%

Income and expenditure per capita (1997) (R$ millions)
                                     Income        Expenditure
Other State capitals:       513                  536
Rio de Janeiro:               536                  590

Gross Domestic Product 1998 (R$ millions)
Rio de Janeiro State: 100,616
Municipality: 60,578

Economic Active Population (EAP)
Metropolitan region: 4,353,219
Municipality: 2,309,390

Unemployment rate: 9%
Workers in the productive sector: 21%
Workers in the formal sector: 52%
Workers earning income lower than two minimum salaries: 31%

Basic services coverage
Water: 95%
Serviced by the system: 69%
Outside the system: 5%
Housing (Metropolitan Region (2000)
Number of dwellings: 2,623,342 units
Estimated primary deficit (housing shortage and cohabitation): 286,951 units
Deficit by basic shortages (i.t.o. basic services and excessive density): 1,218,367 units

United Health System: 89 hospitals and 15,000 beds
Child mortality rate: 20/1,000 live births
Life expectancy: 65 years

Illiteracy rate 15 years> (2000): 4.4%
Functional illiteracy rate 15 years > with less than 4 years schooling (2000): 12.9%
Enrolment in university institutions (2000): 184,730 students
Special education: National Institute for Deaf Education; Benjamin Constant Institute (for visually impaired); Military Engineering Institute; School of Command and General Staff of the Army and Superior School of War.
Centres of Advanced Knowledge: Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (medicine and biology); Rio de Janeiro University Institute of Research (science politics and sociology); Getúlio Vargas Foundation (economy and administration); Pure and Applied Mathematics Institute; Pontifical Catholic University’s Laboratory of Informatics and the Brazilian Centre for Physics Research.

Modal split daily travel
Buses: 77%
Automobiles and taxies: 14%
Boat (from Rio to Niterói and Paquetá and Gobernador Islands): 1%
Metro (privatized): 400,000 passengers per day
Suburban trains (privatized): 240,000 passengers per day
International airport: 24 national destinations and 85 international destinations
Domestic airport: main Brazilian cities every 30 minutes
Rio de Janeiro Port: Oil terminal (14 millions tonnes pa), one tourist terminal
Sepetiba Port (Itaguai Municipality) handles vessels up to 150,000 tonnes

National newspapers: 4
National television networks: 1
Museums and cultural centres: 92
Brazilian Symphonic Orchestra; Municipal Theatre and Dance Company
Popular Festivals: Rio Carnival and New Year

Foreign tourists (1999): 1,724,000
Hotel infrastructure: 188 hotels with estimated capacity 23,000 beds


The city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro was founded in 1567 as a fortress to enforce control over Guanabara Bay. In the eighteenth century the gold of Minas Gerais, main source of the Portuguese kingdom’s wealth, displaced the colonial activity-axis to the south-east. In 1763, the small urban settlement became capital of the viceroyalty, with a population made up of small merchants, military and administrative elite on the one hand, and a large slave component on the other.

In 1808, the transference of the Portuguese Court (about 15,000 persons) threatened by Napoleon’s incursions into the Iberian Peninsula turned the colonial capital into the seat of Portuguese government and economic centre of the large agricultural region of south-eastern Brazil. The opening of the ports broke the back of colonial monopoly in general and the city subsequently underwent important transformations. With independence in 1822, Rio de Janeiro was made capital of the Brazilian Empire.

By the end of the Independence Wars, the city’s population started to grow rapidly, foreign capital flowed in, and mechanical public transport was installed, all of which played a definitive role in shaping what was eventually to become modern Rio de Janeiro.

In 1835, boat services transported provisions from the city-centre to Caju, Botafogo and São Cristóvão, and in the 1840s new shipping-lines connected the centre with the other side of the bay (Niteroi). In 1850, the government started to award concessions to foreign companies to render public services. Early concessions were for public gaslights in 1854 and sanitary services in 1862. Despite these signs of modernity, an extremely poor population remained in the city-centre, in a sense depending on their location to survive materially. By this time the city suffered a series of yellow fever epidemics.

Railway development stimulated the formation of suburbia, which was later to spill over the urban borders and configure the metropolitan space. In 1868, tramways with animal traction provided transport services to the new urbanizations in the coastal areas and hill border-areas occupied by those who could afford it. Later still, electric tram-entrepreneurs executed large infrastructural works in association with the landowners. The municipality assisted the process by expropriating land to this end where necessary. The tunnels Velho (1892) and Novo (1900), both to Copacabana still bear witness to these endeavours.

By 1900 Rio already had half-a-million inhabitants and was consolidated as capital of an agrarian republic (1889) ruled by a coffee-merchant bourgeoisie. The need for modernization depended on two prerequisites, viz. the provision of proper sanitation in the city, and with that the eradication of epidemics, and secondly the completion of the Haussmannian urban reforms which were started by mayor Pereira Passos. As a result of these actions, a contingent of poor people whose numbers were swelled by the emancipation of slaves in 1888, was removed from the city-core so that Avenida Central and Rua Mem de Sa could be opened. The new port was inaugurated in 1910.

During the 1920s the Morro do Castelo was demolished and the French urbanist Alfred Agache drafted his plan for city transformation and embellishment, combining Beaux-Arts and City Beautiful ideas with elements of urban engineering. The selfsame premise was maintained during the Vargas period of 1930-1945 when the foundations of modern Brazil were laid, involving the state regulation of labour-capital relations, industrialization and the emergence of an industrial working-class and an urban middle-class. In 1940 the Avenida Brasil, a wide access route to the city, and the Avenida Presidente Vargas, a monumental axis of 100m wide framed by high buildings on “galleries” on either side, were opened. This last project was supposed to be paid for by the sale of land cleared and re-urbanized in the process.

From 1940 to 1960, the city turned into a metropolis. The State supported industrialization and the influx of people from the rural regions resulted in the development of a vast periphery without public services. The population increased from 1.8 million to 3.3 million in the city and from 2.2 million to 4.9 million in the metropolitan agglomeration. The number of favelas[1], traffic congestion and the shortage of potable water increased hand over hand. The automobile industry literally became the economic motor of the economy and symbol of its modernization. Road construction and the systematic clearance of favelas became the core of urban management. Large social housing buildings were erected in the periphery and the Doxiadis Plan created the so-called polychromic[2] roads scheme. Tramways were replaced by buses and cars. The Aterro do Flamengo parkway, the viaduct of Praça XV and a series of large tunnels allowed for the revalorization of medium and high-class coastal areas.

The transference of the national capital to Brasilia turned Rio de Janeiro into a “state-city” (Estado da Guanabara). Its importance as a metropolis was nonetheless sustained by the port, the remaining entities of the federal administration and the industrial and services park. In the 1970s the centralizing-oriented dictatorship created the Metropolitan Regions System, encouraged centralized planning and undertook large public works such as the Rio-Niterói Bridge and the Rio de Janeiro Subway. In 1975 Rio becomes capital of the new Estado do Rio de Janeiro. In spite of a new master plan (PUB-RIO) and an integrated transportation plan (PIT-METRÔ) with many central-city provisions, it was a time of expansion of the urban boundaries towards the new coastal Mecca, Barra da Tijuca. Encouraging the expansion were the shopping mall and the automobile, the guidelines of the modernist Lucio Costa Plan for Baixada de Jacarepaguá and a new generation of tunnels and coastal viaducts.

The 1980s economic recession, the debt crisis and the democratic mobilization for the constitutional reform of 1988 allowed for increased municipal autonomy and a strong criticism of physical planning and urban politics based on road design and clearance of favelas. There were several cases of favela-upgrading and urban conservation in the central-area of the city. By 1992 the Plano Diretor Decenal adopted new tools towards more democratic and equitable urban management. Some of them were effectively applied to land regularization and favela-upgrading in the 1990s. However, the selling of building rights (Solo Criado) to finance infrastructure and urbanization in poor neighbourhoods, never saw the light.

The democratic movement of the 1990s coincided with a time of low economic growth, increasing inequality, and a general “informalization” of the economy. The ruling urban strategy of this period combined targeted impact investments (Favela-Bairro, Rio-Cidade) with a new generation of urban concessions (Linha Amarela freeway, bus stops and urban equipment), and strategic planning oriented towards the “competitive integration” of the city into the world market of new city-centres, tourist attractions and great events (Teleport, Waterfront, 2004 Olympic Games). The new millennium started with proposals for revitalization of the city port-area, with the associated Guggenheim Museum project and the Pan-American Games of 2007.


Although it has not completed a single “centrality project” – perhaps the best concept to synthesize the Large Urban Project of the globalization era – Rio de Janeiro has a long tradition of large urban works and its own history of “competitive integration” into the world market of urban goods, services and projects.

The starting point of this process was the 1980’s proposal to turn the port-area into a Teleport. However, it was only during the 1993 Rio-Barcelona Seminar on Urban Strategies that it acquired a status of urban management ideal. Since then, the city had been continuously developing plans and commissioning studies and projects oriented toward the exploiting of competitive advantage, most of the time in association with international consultants in urban planning and architectural projects. The particular processes and projects will be discussed later on.

It is a generally accepted fact, if not a commonplace, that the economic globalization created by the central economic blocks, the asymmetric opening of markets and the advances in telecommunications severely impacted on urban management since the 1980s. Two remarkable characteristics of this period are, firstly, a change in the production system profile from predominantly industrial to one that can best described as “services economy”. Secondly, the debt crisis in the peripheral economies resulted in drastic reductions in public investments, which in turn affect large impact projects, particularly infrastructure and transport facilities which were so characteristic of the 1950 - 1980-period.

The result of these changes in urban planning culture was the emergence of the so-called “competitive city” which is able to attract to its territory investments from multinational enterprises (industrial and financial), including real-state, mega-events and tourism. Traditional city-centres were thought to have intangibles critical for real state projects and related businesses, supposedly lucrative enough to pay for/finance their own infrastructure and urbanization.

This “opportunity factor” turned the revitalization of inner-city areas of major metropolises into the supreme ideal of good urban management and allowed for a particular appropriation and re-interpretation of the conservationist (architectonic, historical, cultural) and anti-functionalistic (non-segregating zoning) ideas of the 1970s and 1980s.

The main task of urban management when oriented towards and by globalization as such embraces projects aimed at the re-conversion of obsolescent industrial sites, ports, railways and other infrastructure into new business-centres, industrial-parks, historic-cultural tourism and gentrified housing areas, usually located in the central-areas but sometimes directed to vital transport and circulation nodes of the metropolises.

In low economic growth and indebted countries and cities, these projects are presented as opportunities to alleviate the effects of public and private internal investment shortfalls: unemployment, informality, inequality and poverty. In general, these projects flourish on urban planners’ concerns as to city-centres degradation on the one hand, and on economic planners’ concerns as to low economic growth, unemployment and informalization on the other, all of them allegedly inherent aspects of the global economy. Two relevant questions emerge, then: does an urban strategy based on global market projects alleviate or aggravate Latin American urban development shortfalls? What kind of large urban projects is necessary and possible to reduce the urban development gaps in our cities?

There are currently four main characteristics of large urban projects:

  • Their objective is no longer (providing/improving) infrastructure, urbanization or the construction of large buildings, but the integral restructuring or reconstruction of whole city areas, and the creation of attractive and complete urban environments – a real-state product ready to be sold and to be consumed.
  • Large urban projects constitute an area of special regulation concerning urbanistic and/or fiscal matters in a regime of special administrative decisions.
  • Part of public investment has a non-monetary nature in the form of land occupied by obsolescent public uses. Available studies do not clarify whether these non-monetary investments in fact represent [not so hidden] subsidies to the (new) final private product.
  • Management of land valorisation factors (legislation, localization, project based decisions, positive externalities, etc.) determines (extraordinary) profits sufficient to pay for infrastructure and urbanization costs.
We are confronted then with an extraordinary challenge on prevailing urbanistic knowledge, including the requirement for public managerial teams to command a complex collection of urban design techniques, land management, urban, environmental and administrative law, transport engineering, sociology, economics and project evaluation. Large urban projects could very well become a field for the development of effective and transparent techniques for public administration. But one of the main impacts of economic globalization in the peripheral countries is the “verticalization” and loss of managerial capacity in public administration as such. The processes of negotiation and decision-making of large urban projects are, as a rule, undertaken in ever higher spheres closed to public scrutiny.

Despite the enthusiasm of investors, the hopes of urban planners for a (new) “golden age” of cities founded on the revalorization of public space, and even some success cases, it is improbable that urban development based on the global market of business centres, tourism and great events, can ever have sufficient capacity to generate important and sustainable positive effects in the life of big peripheral metropolises. Besides the lack of adequate responses to the basic and urgent problem of housing and upgrading of poor settlements, not to say the latter’s transformation, large urban projects do not affect “systemic” problems such as the quality, efficacy and normative pertinence, the capacity to supply services to the population, the transparency and accountability in the management of projects and systems and the decentralization and effective participation of citizens in relevant decisions.


In 2003 the Rio de Janeiro strategic planning process completed 10 years. The process was a direct consequence of the 1993 Rio-Barcelona Urban Strategies Seminar. The Rio Strategic Plan was elaborated between 1995 and 1997, assisted by Barcelonian and Brazilian consultants in urban business matters.

Between 1992 and 2002, the Plano Diretor Decenal (Ten-Years Master Plan), approved by the City Council had been in force. This plan, which reflects in the sphere of the municipality the national movement towards the Constitutional Chart of 1988, is a legal code designed to promote a new kind of urban management based on democratic values and wealth redistribution. Although the Master Plan and the Strategic Plan are focused towards complementary aspects of urban administration – regulatory and executive – they are based on, and contain conflicting visions regarding the objectives, relevant actors and the various methods of public policies application.

The urban strategies which were in effect applied during this period, although not so much determined by the Strategic Plan were rather rooted in the premises and guidelines which brought it. These strategies can be summarized as follows:

  • Urban development oriented towards the city’s competitive integration into the global market of consultancy, projects, events, and urban services, including: Teleport construction; concession of Linha Amarela Highway (Yellow Line); 2004 Olympic Games campaign; strategic planning; international competition for the urban furniture concession; emblematic proposals for inner-city revitalization; port revitalization proposal; Guggenheim Museum project and the 2007 Pan-American Games campaign.
  • Institutional and normative flexibility: Creation of a strategic plan and a political representative council as alternative to State institutions, made up of social actors with capacity for investment and opinion generation; dissolution of the existing Conselho de Politica Urbana (Urban Policy Council); reiterative application by the Executive of discretionary selling of building rights named “Operações Interligadas” (Interlinked Operations).
  • Emblematic public investments to promote positive socio-economic and cultural effects: Favela-Bairro and Rio-Cidade-programs oriented towards the valorisation via urban upgrading of household economies and small enterprises at local level, in addition to meeting the strategic objective to promote the city’s image. The effects of these investments have as yet not been measured. They are, however, manifest in the good disposition of favela-inhabitants towards expanding and improving their dwellings and small businesses, in the increased permanency of residents and activities alike and in increased economic activity in the targeted commercial streets in general.
  • City marketing through “virtual projects”: Some projects are not presented as public actions designed to address basic needs, but much rather as ideas to attract investment. Project promotion as a rule occurs independently of its social legitimacy and generally precedes vulnerability studies, resource analysis and managerial structuring. Architectural image performs the double role of promotional object and feasibility test, as was the case with the publication of a recent fancy photomontage with the downtown-area projects. It is clear meanwhile that a set of “feasible buildings” does not necessarily elevate the proposal(s) to the level of an intelligible plan.
In the meantime though, changes had been announced in the focus of the Strategic Plan for the period 2001–2004 concerning endogenous development, networking and participation of local institutions of science and technology.


The Teleport
The Teleporto was conceived as a business district equipped with latest generation technology in telecommunications. Formally launched in 1993, it was subsequently incorporated into the restructuring plan Estácio-Cidade Nova (Sás Project). With a total area of 250,000m², (62,000m² site coverage and 450,000m² of floor space), the project accommodates inter alia the main municipal central administration buildings and a metro-station. It is located close to the financial centre of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the international and domestic airports and the sea-port.

Until 2003 the municipality had invested R$ 31 million in infrastructure and urbanization works. Two private buildings have already been built, a convention-centre for 3,000 people is running and the implementation of the Network Access Points (NAP) is being programmed. By 2003 investment already topped US$ 130 million and a further investment of US$ 260 was expected by 2007.

Praça XV de Novembro restructuring
This project can be described as an early part of the Frente Marítima (city-centre waterfront) project. Located on the waterfront of Guanabara Bay, the square is the epicentre of an historic core of 1,600 restored buildings. The restructuring included the demolition of an elevated pedestrian viaduct, the construction of a subway, the redesign of public space and the recovery of the entrances to the Paço Imperial and the Chafariz de Mestre Valentim. As a consequence, many different urban activities and pedestrian use have increased substantially, particularly on weekends.

Linha Amarela Highway (Yellow Line)
The project involves an express way of 25 km that connects the Barra da Tijuca (area of high-income population and real estate expansion) with the international airport and the metropolitan highway network. This was the first toll urban highway of its kind in Brazil, and it was constructed mainly with private funding as part of the concession regime. The major shortcomings of the project are the exclusive use of the road by private transport and a very poor conception as to the urbanization of adjacent areas, much of which is occupied by informal settlements.

Favela-Bairro Program
The objective of this program was to integrate the favelas into the adjacent social and urban fabric. It includes complementary investment to top-up resident’s individual efforts in the construction of their individual dwellings through the provision of sewerage infrastructure, social equipment, urbanistic regularization, professional training and income generating opportunities and training.

The program had been financed by municipal resources, federal credits and IDB credits, in addition to non-refundable resources from the European Union. The program covers 104 communities in total. Of these 28 are small-sized (up to 500 dwellings or ± 43,000 residents), 73 are middle-sized (500 to 2,500 dwellings and up to 250,000 residents) and 3 are large-sized, i.e. more than 2,500 dwellings (± 83,000 inhabitants). The second phase (63 favelas (300,000 inhabitants) received financial support of US$ 300,000 million from the IDB.

Two relevant shortfalls of the program seem to be the recurrent difficulty to complete the regularization process and the municipal omission as to the application of land property/tenancy tax in the benefited areas.

Rio-Cidade Program
This program consisted of the recovery of deteriorated public spaces – streets and squares – neglected firstly, by the road-building culture of the 1950s and 60s and secondly by the private capital priority for exclusive spaces – shopping centres and gated communities – during the 1980s and 1990s.

The strategy is the generation of multiplier-effects from emblematic focalised actions. A total of 17 commercial streets have been selected as priority interventions. This was done through public competition at the hand of methodological urban design and normative criteria. Many of the projects have already gone through the phases of elaboration and discussion with the affected communities, the technical section of the municipality and public services providers. An important shortfall of the program is the absence of provisions for cost recovery by means of betterment levies or similar.


The PORTO DO RIO - Recovery and Revitalization Plan for Rio de Janeiro Port Area – which had been formally launched in 2001, is now the most ambitious urban undertaking in the city, presently under the responsibility of the Municipal Institute of Urbanism Pereira Passos (IPP).

For the last four years the city, as well as its main partners, i.e. State and Federal Administrations, have been concentrating their efforts and resources on the realization of the 2007 Pan-American Games, an event which holds obvious consequences for the taking-off of the Port Area Plan. However, in spite of urban planning’s recent propensity towards an a priori assimilation of large urban events (in)to large urban projects, it is now possible to say that the 2007 Pan-American Games did not fulfil the promises so forcefully advanced by 1990s strategic planning, namely to spawn a whole agenda of urban revitalization projects. In fact, no relevant properly urban project emanated from the 2007 Pan-American Games, which can best be described as a great entertainment undertaking carried out in Rio de Janeiro’s brand-new sports facilities built against the city’s wonderful natural backdrop. This very disillusionment and its proper evaluation could lead the urban planning staff, city officials and representatives and, last but not least, the citizenry, to (re)view global economic opportunities from a much more realistic perspective vis-à-vis urban development, and put urban projects like “Porto do Rio - Recovery and Revitalization of Rio de Janeiro Port Area”, and many others, in a reshaped town planning agenda.

The recent construction of new local and city facilities in port-areas previously assigned to development and renovation, as well as some administrative initiatives held in the first half of 2007, could be signals of a turning point for Porto do Rio in the next term. The facilities are Cidade do Samba and Vila Olímpica da Gamboa (see description below). As for the new initiatives, we can muster the Administration’s actions to install an aquarium (AquaRio) on the site previously assigned to the extinct Guggenheim project and, perhaps more important, the mise en marche of a 2006 municipality Work Group to evaluate private concessions and public-private projects in the port-area to be submitted until September 30, 2007.

On the other hand, it is reasonable to assume that the strongest impulse to the port-area revitalization could come from infrastructure and transport projects financed with Federal PAC (Growth Acceleration Plan) resources, as a development of the 2006 Technical Cooperation Agreement involving the Federal Administration and the city to “fulfill road and railway systems upgrades, housing projects and Union land transference for social uses” in the port-area.

The Port
Rio de Janeiro port is among the most important ports in the country. The modern port was inaugurated in 1910 under the name “Cais Lauro Muller” (also known as Cais da Gamboa) and between 1911 and 1922 kept under French capital control, represented by the Compagnie du Port de Rio de Janeiro. In 1923 the port passed into to national hands under the Companhia Brasileira de Explotacão de Portos. By 1936 the autonomous federal company Administracão do Porto do Rio de Janeiro took control. By 1973 the latter was succeeded by the Companhia Docas da Guanabara (Guanabara Docks Company) subsequently renamed Companhia Docas do Rio de Janeiro in 1975.

Since 1993, Rio’s port activities have gradually been transferred by means of concessions to private enterprise in order to manage local port terminals in a way similar to how it is done in the case of big European ports. These changes have released from operation parts of the quay and the warehouses near the city’s financial centre. The port authorities have expressed the intention of building a shopping centre, as well as a business and cultural centre, and to reform the areas of port operations to have modern docks, better land connections and larger primary storage yards.

Physical operational characteristics

Location and access
Rio de Janeiro Port is located on Guanabara Bay’s western shore with immediate access to the federal highways that connect with Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Santos y Salvador. It has railway connections with the South Region of Rio de Janeiro State (Paraiba Valley) and beyond to Sao Paulo and Paraná States; with the North and North-East Regions of the State, and from there to Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo.

The 1.5 km wide harbour channel has a minimum depth of 12m and is delimitated by Pão de Açúcar and Santa Cruz fortress lighthouses in the Guanabara Bay mouth. The access channel is 18.5 km long, 150 m wide at its narrowest and 17m deep.

The port has 6,740m of continuous quay and a pier 392 m long, distributed as follows:
Pier Mauá (out of operation): 880m long, 7m to 10m deep and a total surface area of 35,000 m².
Gamboa Quay: extends from Pier Mauá uo to Canal do Mangue for a distance of 3,150 m. It has 20 docks 7 m to 10 m deep, 18 warehouses and 60,000 m² sheltered and 16,000m² unsheltered surfaces.
São Cristóvão Quay: 1,525 m long, 6 docks 6m to 8.5m deep, 2 warehouses 12,100 m² and 23,000 m² of uncovered storage yards.
Caju Quay (Roll-on/Roll-off Terminal): 1,001 m long, one dock 6m to 12m deep for ships drawing up to 10 m, 3 warehouses of 21,000 m² total area, 69,200 m² uncovered storage yards.
Caju Quay (Container Terminals): 1,340 m long, 5 docks 12,30m deep.
Manguinhos Terminal: unloading of liquid products to storage tanks of the Manguinhos Refinary. Accommodates ships drawing up to 10.36 m.

The port has 10 external warehouses measuring 65,367 m² in area and 8 sheltered yards of 11,027 m² with storage capacity of 13,100 tonnes.

It houses, also, the following private usage terminals:
  • Torguá (combustibles), Petrobrás S.A. at D'Água and Redonda Islands;
  • Esso (chemicals), Exxon Química Ltda. at Governador Island;
  • Shell (combustibles), Shell do Brasil S.A. Governador Island; and
  • Manguinhos (combustibles), Refinaria de Manguinhos at Guanabara Bay. 
(Master) Plan for the Recovery and Revitalization of the Port Region – PORTO DO RIO

Target area
“Port Region” is the name of Rio de Janeiro’s “Administrative Region I”. This region extends along the interior waterfront of Gunabara Bay from Praça Mauá, where the old passenger-terminal is located, along the port-installations until Caju neighbourhood, where the Niteroi Bridge starts. The plan covers the area near the centre, past Rodrigues Alves Avenue where warehouses 1 to 18 are located. The first stage of the project covers the area where warehouses 1 to 6 are located.

The study area includes the quay, the built-up area over the big land-fill (dating from the beginning of the 20th century), and by the hills rising up from the old shoreline – the popular neighbourhoods of Saúde, Gamboa and Santo Cristo. The initial letters of the particular neighbourhoods form the anagram for Rio’s oldest downtown project on urban and environmental preservation, i.e. “SAGAS”. The project was born of the people’s response to the old Teleport project in 1980.

In comparing the local situation with other revitalization initiatives of port-areas, it is important to point out that Rio de Janeiro port-area is almost completely urbanized. The area has a singular combination of wide, straight avenues occupied by big warehouses in the land-fill area, and narrow and sinuous streets along the old shoreline and right across the hill slopes. Furthermore, the area is occupied by low-income housing on narrow and deep plots, characteristic of the Portuguese urban foundation/tradition. In the heart of the site the old railway yard of Gamboa covers a large vacant site which had been the target for numerous project proposals over the last years and which finally came to accommodate the Cidade do Samba (Samba City) facility. A second obsolete railway yard of large dimensions is located on the western border of the area, across the foot of the Santo Cristo Hill.

Most of the properties on the plain are publicly owned. The plateau next to the quay is an extension of deteriorated warehouses and the high-lying neighbourhoods are the place of an intense local life, characteristic of the low-income communities. Those low-income neighbourhoods, traditionally inhabited by port-workers, consist of old housing stock that can by no means be considered as favelas.

It is also important to bear in mind that the Rio port-area, as in other world regions, has been strongly affected by the construction of highway viaducts and accompanying infrastructure since the 1960s. These developments (typically) did not show any consideration for the urban and environmental conditions of the (local) place. São Cristóvão, a neighbourhood next to the port-area which has one of the most important ensembles of historic-cultural buildings in the city, is today like an island closed-off by viaducts on all sides, and even over its streets. One of the biggest challenges/obstacles for the Port Area Revitalization Plan is precisely the barrier between the sea and the city created by the perimeter road viaduct where it runs along Rodrigues Alves Avenue, next to Gamboa quay warehouses.

Project goals, objectives, guidelines and actions

The Porto do Rio – Port Area Recuperation and Revitalization Plan provides guidelines and actions focused on breaking the downgrading inertia and adapting uses and land occupation to a new set of desirable activities; above all, it seeks to become a strategic tool to enhance and stimulate urban transformation.

The guidelines and proposed actions have the following objectives:
  • To attract new investments;
  • To value cultural heritage;
  • To stimulate new uses;
  • To break down neighbourhood isolation;
  • To recover environmental quality;
  • To reintegrate the area to Guanabara Bay;
  • To strengthen the evocation towards residential use; and
  • To foment the local economy on different levels.
To achieve the objectives the following set of actions were formulated:
  • To elaborate and develop the plan;
  • To create a project managerial team;
  • To look for instruments to stimulate the local economy;
  • To adapt the urbanistic normative; and
  • To redesign the road and transport system.
Partnerships have been concluded with the following institutions:
  • Banco de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) y Caixa Econômica Federal (CEF): agreements with both institutions have been signed. The BNDES will participate in the development of a study on the tramway construction;
  • Federal and State government;
  • Local, national and international investors;
  • Local associations;
  • NGOs in the cultural and environmental arenas; and
  • International development agencies.
Adjustment of the urbanistic and heritage protection normative

The current urbanistic normative is oriented in terms of the classic zoning principle - it protects land uses and activities linked to the port activities and is very restrictive regarding residential use. The Porto do Rio plan proposes:
  • To give priority to mixed (land) uses;
  • To stimulate residential use;
  • To consolidate along Gamboa Quay a space accommodating diverse activities in the form of “functional cores” for commercial, services, cultural, and leisure activities and to generate valorisation through concentration; and
  • To enlarge the heritage list of deteriorated buildings (2000), to include buildings of historic-architectural interest from the first decades of the 20th century.
Road, traffic and transport system

The plan proposes the increase of direct internal and external connections between the port-area and the city-centre on the one hand, and the rest of the city on the other. Proposed projects are the following:
  • An integrated, continuous and hierarchical surface road plan (1) structured by a new main interior avenue unhindered by the elevated roads. To achieve this purpose, a part of the unused railway system will be made use of; (2) the block sizes and proportions of lots occupied by big warehouses and railway yards will be redefined; and (3) the streets along the foot of the hill on the old shoreline are to be preserved and strengthened.
  • A new tramway system (VTL) able to connect all the terminal stations of the downtown transport system with historical places – Estación de Autocares, Estación de Leopoldina, Metro Estácio, Estación Central, Praça Cruz Vermelha, Arcos de Lapa (tramvías de Santa Tereza), Cinelândia, aeropuerto Santos Dumont (doméstico), Praça XV (Estación das barcas) and Praça Mauá.
  • A cycle-path along the port-area, linking up with the cycle-path system of the south littoral and the city-centre, connecting the port-area (including Pier Mauá, the site earlier allocated to the Guggenheim Museum, now in the discard), to Praça XV and the Modern Art Museum.
The plan’s goal is to increase the population in the port-area. The present population is about 22,000 residents whose numbers are expected to eventually rise to 42,000 residents, with a median-income of 10 minimum national salaries (about US$ 550). To achieve this goal it is proposed:

  • To revitalise the large unused (vacant) urban lots;
  • To utilize the small empty lots inside the urban fabric, above all those in the higher-lying areas;
  • To recover old buildings in the process of downgrading; and
  • To establish the Favela-Bairro program in the three favelas existing in the area.
Public spaces
Based on the municipality’s accumulated experience in historical and cultural recovery projects and commercial corridor revitalization, the plan proposes:
  • To re-urbanize the streets and square network;
  • To recover the environs of historical micro-centralities; and
  • To demolish walls and other constructions that affect the sightline from the bay to the top settlements, creating small squares and public urban balconies.
Local economy
The plan proposes:
  • To accelerate the building licensing process;
  • To create Zones of Fiscal Stimulus in which temporal tax exemptions are created with the purpose to attract investment; and
  • To establish credit and micro-credit lines for local entrepreneurs.
Primary sectors of investment

Praça Mauá – Warehouse Six
The tender for the renewal project Praça Mauá had been opened. The aim of the project is to construct the Rio’s new cultural centre in an area between Rodrigues Alves Avenue and Warehouse Six. To achieve this, amongst others, an underground parking-area with a thousand bays will be built, and a cycle-path together with the Federal Police Building will be transformed into a shopping-centre. The elevated road pillars of the perimeter road will receive landscaping treatment with the aim of integrating them into the new ambiance. The firm will act under the supervision of the French architect Jean Nouvel, who was selected by the Guggenheim Foundation to develop the new museum on Pier Mauá. The parking, besides increasing the general supply of parking space in the downtown area, was intended to serve the now shelved museum’s parking needs. The completion deadline was for 2004, and the concession will run for 35 years.

Morro da Conceição
On the one side of the foot of Morro da Conceição Hill, there extends in one direction the port-area, and in the other direction the financial-centre. For about five years Morro da Conceição had been subjected to a detailed historic-environmental conservation project. This project was developed by a professional team from the local municipality in collaboration with a French consultancy.

Barão de Tefé Avenue and adjacent areas
This wide transversal street is an urban corridor where the majority of high-tech companies are located together with the National Institute of Technology. The plan includes the construction of an underground parking facility, re-urbanization on ground-level and improvement of public lighting and greenery.

Saúde Hill and Saúde Church
Saúde Hill is an important historic place in the port-area on which the Saúde Church was built in 1742. Resources for its restoration have already been approved. Since the Hill is the highest point near the shoreline, it had been selected as the main reference point in the location of the future passenger’s quay. The estimated cost of the work amounts to some R$ 3 billion over a period of 12 to 15 years.

The anchor-project problem
It is a kind of common sense that great revitalization projects need an “anchor-project” that could be a starting-point for the revalorization process of the whole area. Even though a project of this kind is not explicitly part of the plan as such, in the case in hand the municipality had always been searching eagerly to find a way to make the most of Pier Mauá – a redundant 35,000 m² space strategically located next to Praça Mauá on the crossing of Rodrigues Alves Avenue (adjacent to

the port warehouses) and Rio Branco Avenue (adjacent to the city financial district). After an unsuccessful attempt to bring the Guggenheim Museum to the area – legally obstructed by the citizenry after a fierce battle because of its extremely high costs – the municipality now studies a number of alternatives, one of them the construction of an aquarium.

AquaRio springs from a December 2006 municipal calling for a concession, or else a public-private partnership proposal, to install an aquarium on the site of the former Cibrazem Building. By the end of March 2007, an R$ 65 million project proposal received preliminary approval. Recently, the project location was transferred to the Pier Mauá, formerly destined to be the Guggenheim Museum.

Inside its 25,000 m² constructed area, AcquaRio is scheduled to exhibit 12,000 examples from 400 different sea-species in two main and 40 secondary reservoirs. It will also offer environmental education and marine research spaces, a panoramic restaurant, underground parking, a commercial mall and a scuba diving-school.

Recent realizations in the Port Area
Cidade do Samba is the latest tourist attraction in the city at a cost US$ 50 million. City of Samba as such is a production centre for the Rio de Janeiro carnival art and industry and it includes an extensive musical and cultural set of activities. It was built by the municipality on an 114,000 m² site acquired from the state railway company (see image). It shows a geometrical design with the various workshops located around a central square. Sheds gates 10 m wide and 7.5m high allow for the huge carnival floats to pass. The top floors, 2,700 m² all in all, house costumes ateliers, milliner’s shops, fibreglass modelling unities, etc. Visitors can appreciate the workings of Cidade do Samba from an external catwalk around the buildings.

Vila Olímpica da Gamboa is a U$26 million public investment sports and public services facility, occupying two old railway sheds and adjacent areas in the popular neighbourhood of Gamboa. The sheds and many of the area residential buildings are under the restrictive regime of a Cultural Environment Protection Area (APAC). The Vila Olímpica is intended to serve the local community not only as a sports facility, but also as entertainment, public services and educational resource.


Present initiatives involving the municipality, the State, federal government and the private sector, can eventually and effectively lead the Porto do Rio Plan for the port area’s recuperation and revitalization to reach a new and more dynamic stage. At the same time a proper post-evaluation of the 2007 Pan-American Games can also throw (new) light on the relationship between the global entertainment/tourism/business-centres industry and urban development, so that the city can learn and effectively decide whether and how to utilize these opportunities to promote urban upgrading, understood as simultaneous physical, social and community betterment.

A (hard) lesson learnt from the Guggenheim Museum episode is that recognizing and accepting privately motivated entrepreneurship as an advantage to fuel the take-off of a large urban project does not mean that public opinion and public controls should be eclipsed behind commercial secrecy or “state reasons”.

Large urban projects offer extraordinary opportunities for the urgent building of a renewed urban planning culture involving a whole mix of interdisciplinary knowledge and techniques. But they require, above all, a truly accountable and democratic urban management practice.


Abreu, Mauricio, Evolução Urbana do Rio de Janeiro, 3a. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Pereira Passos, 1997.

Centro de Informações e Dados do Rio de Janeiro – CIDE, Anuário Estatístico 2001.

Companhia Docas do Rio de Janeiro, www.portosrio.gov.br.

Diário Oficial do Município do Rio de Janeiro.

Instituto Pereira Passos, Armazém de Dados. www.armazemdedados.rio.rj.gov.br.

Instituto Pereira Passos, www.rio.rj.gov.br/ipp.

Jorgensen, Pedro and Rabha, Nina, Rio de Janeiro – Recovery and Revitalization, the City and Its Port, in Carmona, Marisa (ed.), Globalization, Urban Form and Governance no. 10, Delft: Delft University of Technology.

Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, Porto do Rio – Plano de Recuperação e Revitalização da Região Portuária. Instituto Pereira Passos (IPP), October 2001.

[1] Neighborhoods of spontaneous formation in which the poorest urban population is settled. Shantytowns.   (N. T.)
[2] Urban  Highways Plan where each road is identified by a colour: Red Line, Yellow Line (already constructed), Lilac Line (partially constructed), Green Line etc.