Out of sight: Sustainable dance school and emergency social housing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Luan Fontes
University of Porto (UP), Faculty of Architecture (FAUP), Porto

Project idea

During the development of the project, it is taken as objective the idea of returning it to local residents, paying attention to their needs and considering the bucolic environment, the easy arrival by sea, the steep terrain around it and the lack of public devices, in order to ensure basic services to citizens, not only of Frades Island, but of Maré as a whole, and taking in consideration the historic-social process of the local.
This way, during the conception, it was conscious the constant removal process of the called “irregular houses” that occurred from the XIX century on, thanks to the failed attempt of “hygienization” of Rio de Janeiro, in which various families in situations of political, economic and social vulnerability lost not just their houses, but their jobs and affectional ties built with the local as well. Between the most affected areas, there is the land where today it is located the technological center of the city. A zone where in the past sheltered numerous archipelagos that where grounded for construction, which ended helping fomenting the marginalization and peripheration of those families.
Using the support movements to local people in social vulnerability, as well as the resident´s association of Frades Island as principal study objects, it is proposed the insertion of 42 containers of 20 feet in cold formed steel and cared with thermal isolation, totalizing a built space of 620m2 to attend two local necessities: a dance school that used to function in adjacent spaces to the church and three social housing of an emergency nature, which would serve as a temporary shelter for residents, always taking into account the need for a quick and accessible construction, with materials that are easily accessible and inserted in the place. In addition to a snack bar that would be stocked with their own vegetable gardens, valuing both the quality of life of those who live in the region and those who visit it.

Project description

Thinking about the island from the limits that define it, be they physical-tangible or social, presupposes a critical reading about the role they play. These barriers, often invisible, rehearsed an island in a solo career that developed in the limited space of a military area and a university. Spaces that once belonged to residents.
The location chosen for the implantation of the emergency housing, together with the dance school, was the Frades Island, in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro. Located on the southeastern coast of the state, 11km farfrom the city center; the project land is characterized by the combination of a landscape formed by plains and its intense preservation of trees that configure the bucolic climate, having as main view the Presidente Costa e Silva Bridge that connects the city of Rio de Janeiro to Niterói.
Considered a historic point, today the region still shelters an important remaining population from the archipelagos that were foundations for the construction of the island as it is known today. The great diversity of fauna and flora present in the place, make it an attraction for ecotourism, as well as student and academic-scientific expeditions that seek contact with the abundant nature of the region.
The option for the place and, specifically, Frades Island is based on the abundance of biodiversity, easy access by the population, the need for public facilities and the bit potential for the development of activities related to ecotourism and local culture, in order to reinforce the population's affective ties to their ancestral land.
Located close to Morro do Frade, in a low density region of the municipality, the projects consider the possible removal or even re-signification of emergency residences and, therefore, the expansion of the Dance School, in addition to the potential requalification of the surroundings, considering the growth of the local population.
The party aims to respect the limits of the existing topography, without in any way mischaracterizing it, and aiming to trace the axis of the street parallel to the church within the limits of the unified lots, taking advantage, above all, of the space in which, during the 20th century, was the stage of small tenements belonging to religious users. The same axis mentioned has at its end an alley that gives access to the sea.
Once the user is on the ''ground level '' of the project, located 15 meters from the city's zero level, it is possible to wander through the public part of the three buildings and enjoy the natural landscape of Frades Island and the distant view of city, acting for a moment as an observer of this jungle: on one hand the city of Niterói, on the other, Rio de Janeiro. The projects themselves were arranged to distribute and organize the Dance School X Residence X Church relationship, these public-private areas separated into blocks and connected through the public space, making the entire flat space habitable, “enjoyable”.

Technical information

Initially, in order to achieve the objective of keeping the construction light, practical, safe and environmentally friendly, it was chosen to use steel as a constructive system. Thus, in order to reduce the construction and removal time of buildings, it is seen in the container structures a way to solve the most urgent problems of the residents.
To give you an idea, a building of usual structure, weighs from 500 kg to 800 kg, with a built-up area of ​​620m2, totaling 496 tons. Using the container structure occupying the same percentage of square meters, totalizing 72 tons. So, it results in an 85% lighter building. These same 72 tonnes can have a maximum load of up to 864 tonnes, already in a masonry building, their weight would not exceed 94 tonnes, corresponding to less than 1/8 of the maximum weight that the containers could support.
In addition to the issues already mentioned, one of the major design obstacles overcome by using a metallic structure in a container was the relative humidity of the air and the unsuitable soil for large buildings. Since the building is located in a typical coastal region of mangroves and exposed to a lot of oxidation, all applied metal is galvanized. Furthermore, when using the container structure as party and implementing a molded concrete foundation on site, it is not needed the use of foundation or deep pillars.
The precise choice of building implementation provides that the wings do not interfere with the local vegetation allowing it to function as a kind of sponge in the soil and, therefore, that the rainwater circulates without changing the natural permeability in the site.

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