Wednesday, June 25, 2008


We returned to Belo Horizonte with the Canadians in tow to spend a week workshopping on modes of addressing runoff and structural damage resulting from water penetration. On our first night back at PUC, after an evening lecture from Fernando on issues of permeability and storm management, we met our student hosts. My host, Marcelo, was really wonderful. His family lives a bit outside the city in a neighborhood called Nossa Fazenda (“Our Farm”), and over the course of my stay we had a lot of great conversations during the commute in his bright yellow VW Gol (which can run on either gasoline or a sugar cane derived fuel.)

Halfway through the week we were taken on a tour of Acaba Mundo, the favela which would be the site for our final proposals. The tour was lead by members of the community and city workers who are active there. The houses are densely packed and crawl up a steep incline, nestled between two streams which originate from springs in the hillside. A portion of the residences had recently been taken down as they were erected on sediment that is prone to mudslides during the rainy season. It was a tremendous opportunity to be invited there, and we constantly drew on that afternoon during the design process.

After a presentation of our collaborative work at the end of the week, we headed to the capital city of Brasilia. The city plan was designed in the 1950s by Lucio Costa, and it was mostly completed in just a few years. It is dominated by a symmetrical axis which runs from a giant broadcasting tower at one end to a lake at the other. Niemeyer’s iconic forms are everywhere, and the walk from one end to the other is marked by a procession of increasingly abstract structural expression.