Rio Lunges Forward to 2016

Event: Rio +2016: Architecture and Planning of the Olympics
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.23.10
Speakers: Bruno Campos — Principal, BCMF Arquitetos; Washington Fajardo — Sub-Secretary for Cultural Patrimony, Urban Planning, Architecture and Design, City of Rio de Janeiro; Celio Diniz — Principal, DDG Arquitetos;
Moderator: Warren Antonio James — Principal, Warren A. James Architects + Planners
Organizers: AIANY Global Dialogues Committee (Warren Antonio James, Warren A. James Architects + Planners); Waterfront Committee APA New York Metro Chapter (Bonnie Harken, AIA/APA, Nautilus International Development Consulting, Inc.)
Sponsors: Consulate General of Brazil, New York; TURNER International LLC; AECOM; Nautilus International Development Consulting, Inc.; Vita Coco


Olympic Aquatics Center.

RIO 2016/BCMF Arquitetos

The London 2012 Olympics might be on the minds of most today, but Rio 2016 is right around the corner. Though the debut of Rio de Janeiro as South America’s first Olympic host city may seem effortless, the city strategically positioned itself as a sports powerhouse after three previous failed bids. With the city hosting the 2007 Pan American Games and 2014 World Cup, approximately 50% of the venues to be used for the 2016 games will already exist.

For the 2007 PanAm games, new buildings were constructed as isolated elements in a landscape, without any real urban connection, panelists said. As a result, bid architect BCMF Arquitetos has proposed a massive two-tier plaza, which will act as a “suspended landscape” knitting together many of the new buildings in the 1-million-square-meter Olympic park area. The upper level will allow spectators to flow unimpeded across different grains of landscape, ranging from large to intimate; the lower level will allow the back of house functions to occur unseen.

While closely linked to the mechanics of the 40 different sports, each with its own programmatic requirements, one can’t help but wonder if this solution is brilliant, but somewhat generic. Rio’s contrasting topography — its sinuous shorelines and dramatic peaks — seem somewhat absent from these initial planning concepts. Architect Bruno Campos said that the “Olympic bid is not an architectural competition,” but rather an exercise driven by functional requirements, and promises architectural “sparks” as the planning progresses past schematic design in the next few years.

Initial architectural concepts include an aquatic center with a façade constructed from a constantly running stream of water, and a media center with as much outside green roof as indoor reporting space. Perhaps most revealing is that many of the structures are temporary and will be demounted after the short duration of the games. For instance, the Olympic Training Center will consist of four flexible halls covered by a ubiquitous open frame. Many of the structures will be constructed as “huge empty voids that can be (re-) appropriated in many ways,” Campos said.

Although the focus of the discussion was on the current state of architecture in Rio, rather than politics, the Sub-Secretary for Cultural Patrimony, Urban Planning, Architecture, and Design for the City of Rio de Janeiro Washington Fajardo noted that the city will actively refine the schematic plans to ensure that new housing, venues, and infrastructure will be located where they are most needed. Leveraging the large influx of capital often associated with the games, Fajardo said that Rio’s real Olympic legacy will be to “create a city with more justice, not just more transportation.”