Brazil’s famous seaside city has been under construction for the last few years as it prepared to host the world’s biggest international sporting event. But long before any new buildings were constructed, Rio was already home to several incredible architectural achievements.
Much of Brazil’s modern identity has been defined by its architecture. The contemporary styles are more than creative interpretations of spaces; they have seeped into Brazil’s history of colonialism and are reflective of their new, forward-thinking culture. When roaming the city of Rio, make sure to check out these amazing buildings.
1. Niterói Arts Centre (1996), Oscar Niemeyer
This contemporary art museum was ahead of its time both in its collection, as well as its design. The architect, Oscar Niemeyer, played a critical role in bringing Brazil’s architecture to a new modern age and helped define a unique Brazilian identity. While he designed buildings across the country, including the entire landscape of the capital city Brasilia, his best work in Rio is still considered to be the saucer-shaped Niterói Arts Centre, which he conceptualized at age 89. This was also not the last of the prolific architect’s creations — he continued to work even past his 100th birthday!
2. Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (1955), Alfonso Eduardo Reidy
While Rio’s Museum of Modern Art boasts hundreds of pieces of priceless art, the building itself is a masterpiece. Located in the Centro (downtown) area, Reidy layered the building with dramatic concrete columns and beams that carry the weight of the terrace and roof, leaving the interior spaces free of columns and support beams. Aluminum shutters open and close to control the natural light entering the building and protect it from the harsh sun during the winter. As an added bonus for any visitor, the museum peeks over Guanabara Bay and Sugarloaf, providing a picturesque view that highlights Rio’s hilly landscape.
3. Palacio Gustavo Capanema (1932-36), Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa
Brazil’s two most renowned architects teamed up to design this modern governmental building, also known as the Ministry of Education and Health Building. Emblematic of 1930 Brazilian modernist architecture, this building was the first of its style to be used as a public building in the Americas. Despite its size — it stands 15 stories high — the structure is raised nearly 10 feet above the ground to allow for uninterrupted pedestrian access below.
4. Leblon Office Building (2011-2016), Leblon-Richard Meier and Partners
Moving to Rio’s contemporary architecture scene, the new Leblon building is located in the office’s namesake neighborhood and was constructed with sustainability in mind. It will boast open office spaces with several terraces that seek to link the internal spaces with the urban atmosphere of the city. Blinds will create a shell around the outside, providing an optimum balance of light and shade. The building is projected to receive LEED-silver certification when it opens this year.
5. Olympic Golf Course (2016), Rua Arquitetos
Energy efficiency seems to be a theme running throughout Brazil’s contemporary architecture, as evidenced by the golf clubhouse at the venue of this year’s Summer Games. Tree-like structures fan out over the clubhouse, collecting rainwater in their waterproof fabric funnels, which then pump it out to the surrounding artificial greens. These steel and fabric trees also provide shade from Rio’s sweltering sun. Similar vertical wooden slats offer additional salvation from the sun to keep the interior spaces cool.
EF Education First has a mission to open the world through immersive cultural learning experiences that help people thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. As the Official Language Training Services Supplier to Rio 2016, EF geared up for the event by teaching English to thousands of local citizens to contribute to the country’s overall global competitiveness.
Want to learn more about Rio’s incredible history of art and architecture? Check out how to experience Rio with EF Educational Tours here.
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