Museum of Contemporary Art MAC, Niterói - Photo by Carlos Alcocer Sola Flickr CC.
Museum of Contemporary Art MAC, Niterói – Photo by Carlos Alcocer Sola.

Rio 2016 – From Santiago Calatrava’s Museum of Tomorrow to Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist masterpieces but also a multicoloured landscape and street-art project in Santa Marta favela and the iconic promenade of Copacabana. Welcome to Rio, where the jungle encounters concrete before diving into the sea creating explosion of colours, architecture and music.

Copacabana promenade - Photo by ArchiPanic.
Copacabana promenade – Photo by ArchiPanic.

PRACTICAL INFO – Rio de Janeiro is massive. Make sure to find a strategic accomodation close to the underground or a major landmark. Taxis are a cheap and practical solution as well, make sure the taximeter is on and check the final price with the driver in advance.

Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião by Edgar Fonceca - Photo by Matthew Goulding Flickr CC.
Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião by Edgar Fonceca – Photo by Matthew Goulding.

Remember that not all areas are safe, so keep an eye around all the time. Do not show off and do not venture alone where you do not feel confident. As cariocas – Rio de Janeiro inhabitants – are very informal, unless you are going to a very fancy place or to an institutional event, there’s not need to dress up smart. A t-shirt with shorts and flip-flops will do the job!

MAM - Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro.
MAM – Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro.

English is not broadly spoken. But locals are happy to help. If you do not speak Portuguese, Spanish could help. Remember that Brazilians are proud to be Americans. Therefore, do not refer to America as a synonym of the United States, but as a continent embracing all its different cultures!

The Urban Tropical Skyline

Sunset on Rio de Janeiro skyline from the Sugar Loaf cable car - Photo by LuxTonnerre Flockr CC.
Sunset on Rio de Janeiro skyline from the Sugar Loaf cable car – Photo by LuxTonnerre.

Rio de Janeiro has two types of high-rises, some are built by men other ones by Nature. Together they create a breathtaking skyline. The urban-tropical texture of the metropolis is probably the most stunning attraction of the city. Wether you head to the Christ The Redeemer statue or to the Pan de Azucar (pictured), make sure to stand up silent in awe for at least 5 minute.

Brazil national identity was strengthen by contemporary architecture. “Architecturally speaking, our tradition is modernity. Unlike other countries, which developed their national style over the centuries, what we call ‘Brazilian architecture’ is not a legacy of the past, but is actually modernsaid critic André Aranha Corrêa do Lago to ArchiPanic.

Niterói’s MAC by Oscar Niemeyer

Museum of Contemporary Art MAC, Niterói - Photo by Marinelson Almeida Flickr CC.
Photo by Marinelson Almeida.

An alien ‘lures’ on Rio de Janeiro bay. Completed in 1998, the Contemporary Art Museum – MAC – by maestro Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) sits on a cliffside above Guanabara bay in the city of Niterói. The modernist bowl-shaped building stands on a pedestal and blossoms like a flower from the rocks. MAC is accessible by a snaking red walkway that slopes upwards to the entrance.

Museum of Contemporary Art MAC, Niterói - Photo by Jimmy Baikovicius Flicr CC
Photo by Jimmy Baikovicius.

According to Niemeyer, the “field was narrow, surrounded by the sea and the solution came naturally”. The “natural,” intuitive solution was an elegant, curvy structure that rises from a water basin, creating an ambient sense of lightness and allowing for full panoramic view”. A reflecting pool beneath the main building features an angled band of windows around its middle.

Sambadrome by Oscar Niemeyer

Photo by Rioluz Ascom.

Niemeyer designed also the recently renovated Sambadrome that hosts the iconic Rio Carnival at the end of February. The venue consists of a 700 m stretch of Marquês de Sapucaí avenue converted into a permanent parade ground with grandstands built on either side for spectators. At the end, a gravity-defying concrete arch overlooks parades, festivals, concerts and even Olympics games.

Copacabana promenade by Roberto Burle Marx

Copacabana promenade - Photo by tmlvngs Flickr CC.
Copacabana promenade – Photo by tmlvngs.

Copacabana is the true mecca of beach volley gurus. For the promenade, modernist landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx designed the iconic promenade that welcomes visitors, cariocas and Olympic champions since 1970.

Museum of Modern Art by Affonzo Eduardo Reidy

Affonso Eduardo Reidy: MAM Museu de Arte Moderna / Museum of Modern Art – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1953. © Leonardo Finotti.
© Leonardo Finotti.

Affonzo Eduardo Reidy designed the Museum of Modern Art (1955) that stands on a landfilled site in Flamengo Park. The concrete building has a dramatic cadence of external pillar elements, connected by longitudinal beams, providing a galley level free of internal columns or structural walls.

Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião by Edgar Fonceca

The Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião by Edgar Fonceca in the Centro district is inspired by Mayan pyramids, but with a modernist twist. Indeed, the 75m high building is a concrete hollow structure featuring four colourful stained-glass windows radiating from a cross-shaped window at its apex.

Palácio Gustavo Capanema by Lucio Costa

Gustavo Capanema Palace.
Gustavo Capanema Palace.

Palácio Gustavo Capanema by Lucio Costa was the first modernist building in the Americas and was even overseen by Le Corbusier. Like much of the country’s period, it blends brand-new modernist principles from Europe with Brazilian touches such ch as coloured tiling on the walls and outside pilotis for cooling breezes to come through.

Gustavo Capanema Palace - Entrance with mosaics designs by Roberto Burle Marx.
Gustavo Capanema Palace – Entrance with mosaics designs by Roberto Burle Marx.

The Capanema Palace is also representative of the bureaucratic political system. Therefore it is the favourite venue for political protests as well as artistic performances.

Conjunto Residencial Mayor Mendes de Moraes

Rio Pedregulho - Photo by @re_bartolomeu Instagram
Rio Pedregulho – Photo by @re_bartolomeu Instagram.

Located on top of the São Cristóvão suburb, the Conjunto Residencial Mayor Mendes de Moraes, also known as Pedregulho, is a 260-metre-long serpentine building by architect Affonzo Eduardo Reidy. Completed in 1947, the project hosts about 350 housing units. The site also includes a vault-shaped gymnasium, an empty swimming pool, a school, shops and a health centre, as well as gardens with murals by Roberto Burle Marx.

Pedregulho - Phot by João Lima Flickr CC.
Pedregulho – Phot by João Lima.

The The serpentine form was probably inspired by Le Corbusier’s 1929 unbuilt master-plan for Rio de Janeiro that featured a highway on top of curved housing buildings.

Cidade das Artes by Christian de Portzamparc

Cidade de Arte by Christian de Portzamparc.

Designed by Pritzker prize-winning Christian de Portzamparc, the Cidade das Artes museum “echoes the stunning natural landscapes and seascapes of the city”. The building is a little city contained in one big structure raised and established on a vast terrace ten meters above ground. From here you can see the both mountain and the sea while ‘floating’ upon, a public park and a tropical and aquatic garden designed by Fernando Chacel.

Social-art project @ Favela Santa Marta

Santa Marta Favela - Photo by alobos Life Flickr CC.
Santa Marta Favela – Photo by alobos Life.

In 2005, Dutch artists Dre Urhahn and Jeroen Koolhaas of Hahn&Haas started and art project aimed to implement social change with street art while offering ob opportunities to locals as well as making their community a nicer place to live.  In the Santa Marta favela they created a colourful explosion of pastels rays spreading over 34 houses by Praça Cantão.

Santa Marta Favela - Photo by theverb.org Flickr CC.
Santa Marta Favela – Photo by theverb.org.

The project was promoted by the Favela Painting Foundation by Haas&Hahn which turns public urban spaces and deprived places into inspiring artworks of monumental size. Because “a strong social acupuncture that could unlock local potential, boost pride, self-esteem and send a positive message to the outside world!” – Watch the video.

Museu do Amanhã by Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava: Museum of Tomorrow - Photo by Bernard Lessa.
Photo by Bernard Lessa.

Museu do Amanhã, Museum of Tomorrow, by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, features a pure-white cantilevering roof that stretches along a peer on Guanabara bay and faces a new plaza on Puerto Maravilha burgeoning neighbourhood. A white whale about to jump into the sea?

Capela Joel by Bernardes Arquitectura

Photo by Tuca Reinés – Courtesy of Bernardes Arquitectos.

Bernardes Arquitectura has created a cantilevered chapel stretching above treetops and towards the sea. A triangular deck is structured by metal beams supported by the access level and the pillar that rises at the lowest level of the ground. This structure is supported by laminated wood frames that grow in height as the triangular plant advances. The result? An unexpected minimalist hidden gem!

Oscar Nyemeyer’s Hotel Nacional

Photo by Denilson Machado,

After being closed for over 20 years, Oscar Nyemeyer’s Hotel Nacional reopened to the public as a luxury resort renovated. The main building consists in a 33-storey cylindrical the tower boasting panoramic views out to sea. It features a 3,000-square-meter lobby, and 2,500-square-metre gardens designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. A huge sculpture of a mermaid by Brazilian artist Alfredo Ceschiatti is also located on the site

Maracanã Stadium

Maracanã Stadium - Photo by Pedro Lopez Flickr CC.
Maracanã Stadium – Photo by Pedro Lopez.

Last -but definitively not least – is the Estadio Jornalista Mário Filho, a.k.a. the Maracanã Stadium. Built on the occasion of 1950 FIFA World World Cup, it has been renovated several times and it now can guest about 80.000 people. It hosts matches of Rio de Janeiro top clubs: Rio Vasco, Botafogo, Flamengo and Fluminense, but also major events and concerts. During the last Olympic Games, Maracanã was the venue for the football matches and hosted the grand opening of the Games.

Le Corbusier's 1929 unbuilt master-plan for Rio de Janeiro featured a highway on top of curved housing buildings.
Le Corbusier’s 1929 unbuilt master-plan for Rio de Janeiro featured a highway on top of curved housing buildings.