The architecture of favelas

Over the days and weeks of January we’ve all been seeing the news about the constant rain and floods that have been happening in Brazil, destroying hundreds of houses and leaving thousands of people homeless, and clueless about their futures.

Although not exclusively, inevitably and unfortunately the vast part of the damage happensin favelas, the dwellers of which are year after year confronted with this exact same problem. Despite the obvious indifference of the government, which hasn`t achieved a respectable success in trying to fix this issue, there are people interested in and inspired by the idea of changing the slums in order to better integrate them into the cities’ life.

Creative and innovative solutions for water and energy technology as well as infrastructure proposals – the results of several collaborations between Brazilians and international architects – can be seen at the Informal City of Century XXI exhibition, opening in London from the 20th of January. Among the 1500 slums in the city of São Paulo, Paraisópolis was the one chosen as a matrix for these studies, serving almost as a “prototype” for this utopian transformation.

Within the same venue – The German Gymnasium, just a stone’s throw from St. Pancras station – another exhibition has a less conceptual approach:  Measure of Man/Measure of Architecture presents projects – some of which had already been built – that respond to the confrontation between cities and harsh natural environments.

What is very interesting about these studies is the fact that they were based on the needs of indigenous communities.  Not only do they preserve and perhaps help create local identity, but they also offer responses to very contemporary problems, such as poverty and migration.

Beyond the exhibitions, the organisers, Austin-Smith:Lord LLP, also put together a busy programme full of conferences, talks and workshops. Go and see what the future may hold.

By Heloisa Righetto


Informal City of Century XXI and Measure of Man/Measure of Architecture, by Austin-Smith:Lord LLP
20th-25th January 2011
The German Gymnasium, 26 Pancras Road, London N1C 4TB

Read more about this programme at

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