Massive international sporting events, like the Olympics or the World Cup provides a great deal of opportunities for an architecture firm. This is especially the case when there is the excitement of hosting back-to-back the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, recently it seems that plans for a new cruise ship dock in Rio might have reached a peak of creative aspirations a bit prematurely.
In preparation for the big events, Rio is undergoing an enormous renovation of its waterfront. A nifty computer animated video making the rounds on the internet shows a flyover of the current waterfront, and as the camera moves forward, old less aesthetic buildings and freeways are replaced by shiny new structures and public spaces straight from the New Urbanist playbook. This “Porto Maravilha” plan is in many ways a welcome addition to the waterfront.
But not all aspects of the renovation plans made by Docas (the Rio Port Authority) are being embraced by the community. Plans for a new, “Y-shaped” cruise ship pier first surfaced late last year, and immediately ran into criticism for purely aesthetic reasons, namely that large cruise ships would possibly block views of a Santiago Calatrava designed museum immediately behind the pier, as well as the historic São Bento Monastery. This criticism in it of itself is a bit frivolous, and is rebuked in a recent newspaper column.
But a somewhat more serious charge has been levied against Docas. In May, the Rio chapter of the Brazilian Institute of Architects released a statement charging the port authority with rushing through this plan and avoiding public review:
“A project of this scope needs to be reviewed and debated by the city, so that its impact and features, beyond the commercial interests of its proponent, can be thoroughly evaluated… This group holds that the planned construction timeline, clamed to be a benefit by commercial interests, must not outweigh the interests of the city.”
Recently, Jorge Mello, the embattled president of Docas, released a statement claiming that revising the plan would be an unnecessary bureaucratic process that would delay completion until after the events begin. He also claimed that an alternate E-shaped dock plan would not be economically advantageous.
Overall, this kind of last minute planning fuelled by “futebol” fever may seem like a good idea, and the rush argument claiming that Rio needs to build these massive projects before the games begin is a double edged sword. The Porto Maravilha renderings look great, and if sporting events have the potential to propel much needed urban projects that otherwise would never get done, even better. But the Y shaped pier shows that these events can also be dangerous, creating structures that may end up being eyesores, built without the support of the community, which may not even be useful after the games are over. If this pier is built, citizens of Rio will find themselves in 2017 looking back on the construction of this pier and asking, “Why?”
Drew Reed is an online media producer and community activist specialising in sustainable transportation. He lives in Buenos Aires.
By Drew Reed, thisbigcity.com
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