Architects propose solutions for Rio

Architects make proposals to improve Cariocas’ lives through urban interventions – O Globo

Did you know that going on an outing between São Cristóvão and Santa Cruz can say more about the history of the Empire than any other area? All these ideas are in the heads of the architects that O Globo invited to propose projects capable of creating scenarios and solutions that would make Cariocas’ lives more functional, intelligent and even more enchanting, if that’s possible.

From the drawing boards, suggestions appeared that could promote true revolutions, from the Zona Sul to the Zona Norte. Among them are proposals to pump new energy into the Port Region – which is currently undergoing a crisis, but is considered one of the most important urban interventions in recent history, ever since the Pereira Passos reform in the early 20th century. Or an ambitious and inspired plan to reclaim the nobility of the Caminho Imperial, with the urban transformation of a 60 kilometer stretch, from the former residence of the Royal Family, where the National Museum in Quinta da Boa Vista stands today (?), to the Fazenda Real de Santa Cruz, transformed into an Army post.

And there was no lack of daring. For our dreamers, it’s also worth persisting with what didn’t work. This is the case, for example, for the project to replace the Tim Maia Bike Lane, which collapsed in 2016, with another that would guarantee the kind of safety required by the landscape.

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The Dream of Making Martin Luther King Greener

Architect Washington Fajardo has a dream: to see the revitalization of one of the main roads of the Zona Norte – Avenida Pastor Martin Luther King Jr, previously Avenida Automóvel Club. There are 13 kilometers that pass through 11 neighborhoods, from Del Castilho to Pavuna. It’s a journey with bumpy roads, surrounded by slums, and abandoned. In his opinion, the route is very important for the city, it has a good number of stores and subway stations, but there are several idle and underutilized areas that surround it.

“It’s chaotic, disorganized, with no urban amenities, no places to meet people, relax, stroll, or play sports.” An absurd urban waste. We could install a Green Line there, as originally conceived in the Doxiadis Plan (made by Greek urbanist Constantino Doxiadis and commissioned by Carlos Lacerda in the 1960s), with an emphasis on urban afforestation, says Fajardo.

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A Royal Road that Connects the Past and Future

To think about the future, the city must not neglect the past. For this reason, architect Rodrigo Bertamé, a member of Rio’s Council of Architecture and Urbanism, proposes the recovery of the Caminho Imperial. Marked with granite blocks, it was the route taken by the Imperial Family, from their residence in São Cristóvão (presently the National Museum, at Quinta da Boa Vista) to the Fazenda Real de Santa Cruz (now an Army post).

“This road currently passes through many city streets and has very little signage. There are only three colonial landmarks remaining. I suggest a revitalization, having as a premise a mobility system that shows an appreciation for bike paths and public transport, and an urban treaty that encourages and values buildings”, said Bertamé.

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More Life for the Renewed Port Region

The aim of a major revitalization project, with the removal of the Elevado da Perimetral, the design of a new waterfront and the inauguration of museums and an aquarium, the Port Zone changed its appearance and became popular with tourists and locals. In the evaluation of Luiz Fernando Janot, however, life is missing at the port. Therefore, it’s necessary to create a program to encourage the occupation of houses and other residential buildings in the region, so that there’s movement, even on weekends.

“I would create an urban plan, reviewing what was done, because there was an economic plan, which overlapped other aspects. That’s why it’s like this now, empty. We have to rethink this, doing a project with housing and commercial occupations in mind, giving support to office buildings”, he says.

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To Not Miss the Chance in a Panoramic City

Rio looks good in a picture at any angle, especially from the top of its hills. Author of the project Rio Cidade do Leblon, Luiz Eduardo Indio da Costa knows this well and imagined taking even more advantage of this panorama: he designed a circuit of aerial cable cars linking several mountains in Rio. The idea was placed on his drawing board after one of the many walks that the architect usually takes through the streets to think about the city. We need to take advantage of the topography, he believes.

“A potential urban intervention would be to execute my Rio Panorâmico project, which provides aerial cable cars through the chain of mountains that separate Copacabana from Botafogo. The proposal would extend the Sugarloaf cable car to the hills of Babilônia and Cantagalo, with a descent in Lagoa. The other, less viable circuit, would be over the forest through Alto da Boa Vista, dividing Itanhangá.”

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A Habitational Policy to Contain Favelas

With 763 favelas, Rio has the national title of the city with the largest population living in slums. According to the latest IBGE Census, from 2010, there are 1.3 million people living in these areas. Just in Rio das Pedras (slum), in Jacarepaguá, there are 80,000 people, according to city hall. The residents’ association there, however, estimates 140,000 inhabitants. It’s these figures that lead architect Giuseppe Badolato – who designed developments such as the one in the Cidade Alta, in Cordovil, and the one in City of God, in Jacarepaguá – to propose a “radical urbanization” of the favelas:

“Rio needs a short, medium and long-term housing policy that will halt the process of proliferation of new favelas. In existing ones, it’s necessary to open up avenues and access points, to avoid them being a hiding place for bandits.

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To Get on Track with a New Look and Comfort

Among the more than 100 stations on the railway line in the State of Rio, two in the city are small architectural jewels: the one on Marechal Hermes, from 1913, and the one at Olímpica do Engenho de Dentro, from 1937, which was remodeled for the 2016 Olympics. Both are protected by the municipality.

Architect Pedro da Luz, president of Brazil’s Institute of Architects, laments that such beauty is an exception to the rest of the railway network:

“I would implement an urban requalification of the railway, with the revitalization of the stations. We have beautiful stations, like Marechal Hermes and Engenho de Dentro, but we need to reform the whole system. Change the look. There are barbed-wire stations that look like concentration camps. There’s also a lack of comfort for passengers, because in many (stations) the benches are old.

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Insecurity and Abandon with Views of the Sea

On the seafront, between Leblon and São Conrado, facing an incomparable landscape, the Tim Maia Bicycle Lane does not have the kind of image that matches the landscape since a partial collapse that left two dead, three months after its inauguration in 2016. Partly restricted since then, what should be a ‘postcard’ became synonymous with abandonment. Director of the Association of Designers and Architects, architect Paula Neder suggests demolishing the structure, which “was poorly designed and poorly executed”:

“It’s a bold choice, but the bike path leaves everyone insecure. I believe in a new project, the result of an open competition, which, in addition to offering security, shows appreciation for what is one of the most beautiful views in the world, without preventing those who travel on Avenida Niemeyer from also appreciating it.”

A Right to the City

In a city full of ups and downs, urbanistic proposals are not lacking when experts think about the subject. Oscar Niemeyer’s great-grandson, architect Paulo Niemeyer confesses that it’s not easy to choose an intervention in a city lacking infrastructure, opportunities, and a “right to (make use of) the city.” Rio de Janeiro, like countless other cities, he says, has a lot to get done and in several areas.

“A place with enormous potential, if we consider the political, financial and cultural viability, would be Barra da Tijuca, where there is a lack of human scale, a lack of public spaces that are more democratic and accessible to all citizens. I understand that this reclamation, with the deserved improvement that contemporary society demands to update modernist utopia, would be an opportunity to become a model to replicate throughout the city.”

Source (PT)


Rio’s 10 secrets not in guidebooks


In these times of low spirits – in Rio, even Carnival is under threat – it’s necessary to look for alternatives, to leave behind routine and, instead of only complaining, to find solutions. That was how, thinking of solutions, I remembered the secrets of Rio. Every city has its secret points, places that are almost never on the tourist routes. Landscapes and buildings, old or new, that sometimes not even Cariocas know. Or they’ve heard of them, but have never been there.

I made a list of ten of these secrets, some very well kept, others not so much: there are those that we always pass through without realizing they are there. Others we know by name, but that’s it. They are places with charm, mystery or history. Or with all of these things combined. And landscapes too, which aren’t lacking in Rio. The secrets of Rio are so great that they were worth making a guide about – “Secret Rio” by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Marcio Roiter and Thomas Jonglez – but I made my own list. And, I repeat, such a list may include places that are right there under our noses, but which we know little or nothing of.

São José Church
Downtown (av. Presidente Antonio Carlos, s/nº)


This church has a secret. Those who enter its central aisle, especially on weekdays, to appreciate the rococo style interior (c. 1842), realize at once a strange ritual. In the hallway to the right, people are waiting, forming a line. One by one, people go up to the altar – while the others keep waiting – and disappear behind it. A few minutes go by. The person who disappeared reappears on the other side, on the left, and only then does the next one in the line go up to the altar, also to disappear.

What is the secret behind Saint Joseph’s altar? It’s an image of the saint, before whom people will pray. Not just any image: it shows a very old Joseph, dying, surrounded, on his deathbed, by Mary and Jesus. Life-size. It’s impressive. I heard that churches for Saint Joseph, all over the world, have an esoteric symbology, a relationship with the Templars. There are temples dedicated to the saint that carry on the walls the symbols of the zodiac, they assured me. I don’t know if there’s anything magical there. But popular wisdom says that whoever enters the Igreja de São José for the first time must go behind the altar and make a request – and their wish will be answered. It doesn’t cost to try.

Belas Artes Portal
Jardim Botânico (rua Jardim Botânico, 1.008)


Those who enter the Botanical Garden through the main gate and go to the end the alleyway lines with imperial palms will pass through a lake and end up in a bamboo grove. There, surrounded by greenery, you will find a two-storey building, consisting of an archway on the ground floor and an upper part with columns.

It looks like the facade of a neoclassical palace, but it’s just a portal, the front part of a building that was, like so many, demolished sometime in the past. This is the portal of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, designed by the French architect Grandjean de Montigny (1776-1850). Granjean de Montigny, as well as the painter Debret, came to Rio in 1816, as part of the so-called French Mission, a team of professionals that the court of Dom João, newly installed in Rio, sent for in Europe in order to start the teaching of arts and architecture in Brazil.

Ten years later, in 1826, the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts was inaugurated in a building built from the Montigny project. Brazil’s wrath of demolishments reached it in 1938, so that in its place the Ministry of Finance could be built (which ended up somewhere else). It was a miracle that the architect and urbanist Lúcio Costa (1902-1998), who was then the director of the National School of Fine Arts, had the idea of ​​saving at least the portal of the palace, transporting it, stone by stone, for later reconstruction amid the plants of the Botanical Garden.

Royal Portuguese Reading Room
Downtown (rua Luís de Camões, 30)


See my post

Ladeira da Misericórdia
Downtown (Largo da Misericórdia)


See my post

Nossa Senhora da Cabeça Chapel
Jardim Botânico (rua Faro, 80)


This is actually a secret. There are people who live a lifetime in the Botanical Garden and don’t know that it exists. The Nossa Senhora da Cabeça Chapel is hidden at the top part of this little cross street in the neighborhood and you must ask for permission to enter.

The chapel, built in 1603, sits inside the grounds of a school (and convent) of the Carmelite sisters, the Mello Mattos Maternal House, and is one of the oldest buildings in Rio.

According to the book mentioned at the top, the little church was the private chapel of the Engenho de El Rey, a sugar cane mill that belonged to the governor Martim Correia (1575-1632). It was his family who had brought the image of Nossa Senhora da Cabeça, which gave name to the chapel, from Portugal.

The name of the saint originates from Cerro del Cabezo, in Spain, where an image of the Virgin Mary was hidden during the Muslim occupation. In principle, the nuns allow visitation on weekdays, between 9am and 4pm. But there are exceptions. There have been those who got there and weren’t allowed to enter or photograph the chapel from outside. But if it weren’t like this, it wouldn’t be a secret…

European Institute of Design
Urca (av. João Luis Alves, 13)


See my post (second half)

Bossa Nova Mall
Downtown (av. Almirante Silvio de Noronha, 365)


The Bossa Nova Mall is the obvious and evident thing of which Nelson Rodrigues spoke: like that story about Otto Lara Resende always passing by Sugarloaf, but never noticing it – because it was too obvious. Facing Sugarloaf, on the other side of Botafogo bay, there is now another obvious and evident thing: the Bossa Nova Mall, which for the moment few people, even among Cariocas, know.

Right beside Santos Dumont airport, this space – I would not call it a mall – comprised of hotels, restaurants, food trucks and several stores, occupies what was formerly the headquarters of Varig.

With the end of the airline, the building was closed for years, until it was entirely reformed (retrofit, with the structure maintained). Now it’s open to everyone. The easy way up to the terrace, where the Hotel Prodigy’s restaurant operates, is worth a visit. The view is indescribable. The Bossa Nova Mall is the kind of place that leads us to the question: how come no one has thought of this before?

Joá (rua Paschoal Segreto)


Rio has this unique characteristic: to be a city with millions of inhabitants where, in a few minutes, it’s possible to be in the middle of a forest. Or a secret beach – like Joatinga’s. Among the most hidden beaches in Rio, Joatinga is the most, let’s say, affordable.

Just go down a stepladder. Once down there, you have that feeling of vacationing in some remote place. It’s in Joá, in the west zone (between São Conrado and Barra da Tijuca), in a closed condominium. But anyone can enter.

Once inside the condominium, just look for Rua Sargento José da Silva and on it go down the stairs that leads to the beach. Joatinga is small, it’s about 300 meters long, but, as it’s embedded in the rock wall, it gives one an exclusive, even secret, beach feeling, – that’s its charm. There’s only one problem: at certain times of the year, the wall casts a shadow on the sand and, soon, the sun no longer reaches it. What’s more, during a very high tide, the sea swallows the entire strip of sand and the beach disappears. But these vicissitudes only make Joatinga a rarer place.

Catacumba Lookout
Lagoa (Avenida Epitácio Pessoa, 3,000)


In the 1990s, photographer and psychoanalyst Hugo Denizart (1946 – 2014) took a series of photographs of Catacumba Park, in Lagoa. The photos showed fragments of the recent past, where the Catacomba favela, removed in 1970, had existed. Denizart photographed steps, pieces of cement, remnants of tiles. Testimonies, in his words, of the human life that had existed there.

To this day, climbing the trail that leads to the Sacopã lookout point, you can find these fragments. Some stone steps are still the same ones that had been placed there by the community. Catacumba Park is an ecological reserve, with a beautiful forest (the hillside has been reforested since 1988). It’s also a place for expositions and adventure tourism. But the Sacopã lookout point is still a less sought after place than it should be, although it’s part of the Transcarioca Trail.

The walk is very quiet and can be done in half an hour at most. And the reward up there is total: one of the most beautiful views of Rio, which includes not only the Lagoa but also Pedra da Gávea, Morro Dois Irmãos, Ipanema beach, Corcovado, everything – and from a less traveled angle.

And returning on the way up to the viewpoint: it is curious to imagine that those stones, that tell so many stories, were also trodden more than 50 years ago by a teenager who was always going up the hill, in search of a party or musical partners. A boy who crossed the Lagoa by a little boat to go to Catacumba. His name was Tom Jobim.

Also see my post and this one on its history

Madureira Park
Madureira (Parque Madureira street, s / nº)

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This virtually everyone knows – but usually only by name. Tourists, as well as locals from the Zona Sul, are somewhat lazy to go to the north of the city, which includes Madureira.

Madureira is one of the most traditional and most Carioca neighborhoods in Rio. If it had no other quality, it would already be sensational for its two bonafide samba schools: Portela and Império Serrano (both were champions in the last Carnival, in their respective groups, to the happiness of crowds).

But Madureira has much more. And, five years ago, the neighborhood got a space for leisure and culture called Parque Madureira.

Madureira Park was built on an immense terrain above which electric transmission lines passed. It was public space, but it was invaded, and families had to be removed. With a 2015 expansion, today it’s the third largest park in the city (at 450K sq. meters long), only losing out to Aterro do Flamengo and Quinta da Boa Vista.

In addition to kiosks, picnic lawns, sports courts, bike paths, waterfalls and ponds, the park has one of the most modern skate tracks in Brazil, where parts of the world championship are held. It also houses the Nave de Conhecimento, a public cyber cafe, and a very well-equipped theater, the Fernando Torres Arena. – Source (PT)

Rio casinos may make a comeback


Seventy years after being banned in Brazil, casinos are making their bets and returning to the negotiating table in Latin America’s largest country. Yesterday [May 09], one of the world’s gaming industry icons, American Sheldon Adelson, president of Las Vegas Sands, the largest casino company in the United States, met with Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella. However, the multibillion-dollar entrepreneur, who will be in Brasilia with his team, is not the only one. Also in the city recently was James Murem, who heads the MGM Resorts group, famous for his ventures in Las Vegas.

The list of companies interested in taking advantage of casino activity in the country has been growing every month. Even one of Las Vegas’ best-known figures, former mayor Jan Laverty Jones, was in Brasilia, as she is now one of the top executives at the company that owns Caesars Palace. In recent months, the group owner of the Red Rock network, with spaces in California and Michigan, was also in Brazil.

But it’s not just Americans. Europeans from Portugal’s Estoril Sol and even those from Austrian state-run casinos in Vienna were in Brasilia presenting the casino and entertainment industry as a tool to boost the tourism industry in Brazil.

Investment in Resorts

The legalization of casinos, however, is a subject surrounded by controversy in Brazil. Many groups criticize the proposed legalization, arguing that gambling could lead to money laundering, the creation of criminal organizations and addiction. On the other hand, the government itself has already convinced itself that the legalization of casinos will help in the development of the economy. According to MP Elman Nascimento, the Chamber’s special committee president analyzing the subject, US$24 billion in investments is expected.

“Brazil is one of the only democratic countries where casinos aren’t allowed. These groups are interested in investing in the country, creating an integrated casino resort. There is a high willingness to invest. But it’s necessary to ensure that these investments take place in the country. In addition to the groups from the US and Europe, there are also companies from Argentina and Uruguay with an eye on the country”, Nascimento said.

In the meetings, businessman Sheldon Adelson said he intends to start an $8 billion project in Brazil. The American billionaire’s idea is to create a complex along the lines of the one in Macau, which now generates more than ten thousand direct jobs and brings together convention and shopping centers. According to a source, the tycoon has said in his meetings that to start the venture, the city needs to have a 4 to 5 star hotel infrastructure to absorb customers.

Yesterday, Mayor Marcelo Crivella met the businessman for a meeting at the City Palace in Botafogo. Before the meeting, Crivella said that the reason for the meeting was “to bring investments” to Rio, without mentioning the word casino.

“He’s one of the big investors in real estate. Let’s talk about tourism. He’s surely has one of the biggest American fortunes and a lot of interest in Rio. So he can help us with Porto Maravilha. I’m going to show him the infrastructure that was created, and who knows, maybe we can install hotels, food courts, cinemas. He is one of the great entrepreneurs in Las Vegas,” said Crivella.

Hotel Nacional in Focus

Adelson’s advisor declined to comment. According to another source, groups from abroad are already talking to hotels in Rio de Janeiro and looking for land. One of the talks at an early stage calls for the possibility of a casino in the former Hotel Nacional, in São Conrado (pictured at the top), owned by HN Construtora, and recently reopened under the management of the Spanish group Meliá.

“A pre-arrangement was made for the construction of a casino in the hotel, for a $50 million project”, said one of the sources who declined to be identified.

Hotel Nacional did not return a request for comments.

There are now two proposals to legalize casinos in Brazil: one in the House and another in the Senate. In the House, the substitutive report from the Commission on the Regulatory Framework for Games was already voted on and is on the table of the president of the House, Rodrigo Maia. In the Senate, the bill is wih the Constitution and Justice Commission. According to sources, the two projects will converge as one, as a way to speed up voting in Congress. The idea is that the text goes to plenary after the vote on Social Security reform.

It’s already certain that, by uniting the two proposals, the project will federalize the criminalization of all types of games, such as bingo and the animal game lottery. According to the House’s proposal, states with up to 15 million inhabitants may have a casino; places with between 15 and 25 million, two; and states with above 25 million, three. The Senate proposal mentions up to three establishments per state.

“It requires a uniform legislation, fraudulent exploitation of the game, without authorization, becomes a federal crime.” This brings security for the investor. For the project, the casino machines will be linked to the Federal Revenue system, which will have online monitoring”, said Nascimento. – Source (PT)


Between 1934 and 1946, there were 71 legal casinos in Brazil. Eventual owner of Cassino da Urca, Joaquim Rolla, won the casino in a card game [1]

Brazil has been described as the sleeping giant in several publications and in relation to its huge potential to turn into one of the world’s biggest regulated markets. Gambling has already been a big thing in the country. According to the Brazilian Legal Gaming Institute (Instituto de Jogo Legal – IJL), the approximate amount of US$6.4 billion is generated annually from illegal gambling services. What is more, the Jogo do Bicho market could be worth around $3.8 billion. In terms of stakes placed, the local market could be valued at around $17.6 billion, the IJL has noted in a report on Brazil’s gambling market.

As many other gaming options, brick-and-mortar casinos are also prohibited in Brazil. It has been estimated that around 200,000 country residents travel to neighboring Uruguay to gamble at local casinos.

Bearing all the above figures in mind and the fact that gambling is strictly prohibited in Brazil and only conducted illegally, the IJL has suggested that the country annually loses $2 billion in what could be contributed to coffers in gambling taxes.

With population of 208 million people, Brazil could be the world’s largest regulated gambling jurisdiction. – Source



Cassino da Urca

Opening in 1933, Rio’s Urca Cassino (today a design institute) was the place to be, until a presidential decree banned gambling in Brazil in 1946. At the height of its success, from 1939 – 41, it was considered to be the world’s best and most happening night club. It was while performing there that Carmen Miranda was noticed by an American show biz magnate, starting her international career.

Others to pass through the Cassino included the likes of Bing Crosby, Josephine Baker, Orson Welles, and Walt Disney.

Brazil’s largest robbery of rare books


The former Central Library of the University of Brazil – currently the Pedro Calmon Library of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), which houses rarities from Imperial times – was robbed last year, and now, after surveying what disappeared from the shelves, what has been discovered is astonishing: the greatest theft of rare books ever recorded in the country.

Three-hundred and three rare works have disappeared, among them the 16 volumes of the first edition of Sermões by Father Antônio Vieira (1610) and almost the entirety of the Coleção Brasiliana, composed of books by European travelers that recorded flora, fauna and customs of the 17th to 19th century in the country.

Precious works such as Expédition dans les parties centrales de l’Amérique du Sud (1850-1859), by the French naturalist Francis de Castelnau, with hundreds of hand-painted lithographs, and a book by the German ethnographer Thomas Koch-Grümberg, a pioneer of anthropological photography, with 141 photos of Indians from the region of the Japurá River in the Amazon, portrayed between 1903 and 1905. The main targets were works with engravings, which are usually cut with a razor and sold separately.

The suspicion is that the theft had been taking place over months during a renovation of the building in 2016. The shelves were enclosed with black plastic bags – and it was within them that thieves worked.

At first, the crime seemed small. Two criminals – Laéssio Rodrigues de Oliveira, 44, a former Library Sciences student involved in book robberies since 1998, and Valnique Bueno, his partner – were arrested by the São Paulo police in November for stealing works from the Faculties of Architecture and Law of the University of São Paulo (USP).

Since there were five rarities from UFRJ with them, the alarm was given at the Praia Vermelha campus in Rio. Today, six months later, the size of the crime is understood, a lot greater than ten or so copies. On the market, one can have idea of ​​going rates: just the 27 books mentioned as the “most rare” among the stolen ones are worth between US$119 – $157,000, according to an appraiser.

“The thief knew what to steal, he didn’t take them at random,” says police officer Marcelo Gondim, from São Paulo’s Tourism Police, who arrested Laéssio and his partner in November. “Security cameras show the pair stealing from USP. At UFRJ there are no images, but we arrested them for receiving [stolen goods]. The link to the theft in Rio is that the same books found with Laéssio and bookplates from UFRJ were thrown in a trash can at his house. “In March, three books by Pedro Calmon were recovered by the IRS – they went to Europe and had Laéssio as the sender. Currently, the Federal Police are investigating the crime.

An Old Acquaintance

Still without knowing the damage at the Rio institution, those who work in the area celebrated the imprisonment of Laéssio. He is an old acquaintance – he was convicted at least three times for theft of rare books and indicted for the same reason “countless times,” as indicated by a court decision. The largest collections in the country have already been his victims, such as the Mário de Andrade Library, the National Museum, National Library, Itamaraty Palace and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, among others.

Most books have never been found – the rate of recovery is 40%, according to Raphael Greenhalgh from the University of Brasilia (UnB), who wrote a doctoral thesis on the greatest thefts in the country, none as numerous as the one at Pedro Calmon. When the books return, it’s common for them to be adulterated. In a crime for which Laéssio was convicted, the theft in the National Museum, 14 rare works had the illustrations cut out.

With the new crime, librarians once again looked at Laéssio – and what they discovered caused an uprising. The life of the criminal will turn into film, financed with public money. Confissões de um Ladrão de Livros (Confessions of a Book Thief) is the title of the project, presented to the National Film Agency (Ancine) by Boutique Filmes. The agency authorized sponsorship of $242,000 through the Audiovisual Law. So far the producer has received $188,000 from Globo Filmes and the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES).

The fact that a notorious thief of public assets received government support to have his life portrayed on film led the victims to come together in protest. The Technical Chamber of Collection Security of the National Archives, attached to the Ministry of Justice, is preparing a document to repudiate the production. “It sounds like a mockery. Nothing against a film about crimes, but upon authorizing sponsorship, Ancine gives their stamp of approval for damages to public patrimony,” says Marcelo Lima, from the Technical Chamber.

“Imagine a young gay man from the projects on the outskirts of São Paulo obsessed with Carmen Miranda who becomes, according to the Federal Police, the biggest thief of rare books in Brazil. Imagine the tricks that allowed him to pillage the main libraries in the country, hunting for commissioned books worth their weight in gold to millionaire collectors…”

The synopsis of the film is also cause for discontent. Some of the excerpts: “The best thing of all is that Laéssio is real, flesh and blood, and his escalation in crime can be attested to by news stories …” and “throughout his journey, Laessio composed an incalculable portfolio.”

For the victims, they are signs that the film may glamorize the thief. “The only thing missing is to put a clown nose on public servants. It’d be the ‘icing on the cake’,” says Maria José da Silva Fernandes, director of the collection center of the National Library. “He’s not a Robin Hood of books. He removes them from a public institution and sells them to private individuals,” says the former director of the Mário de Andrade Library Luiz Armando Bagolin. “I have often tried to use incentive laws to maintain the collection, and nothing [happens]. Now a thief of Brazilian culture can?”, asks Jose Tavares Filho, the librarian responsible for the collection at Pedro Calmon.

Boutique Filmes says the synopsis was made before production actually began. And the result will not be the glamorization of Laéssio’s life.

After the theft, UFRJ reinforced the locks in the library and is installing new cameras. As for Laéssio, more news came out earlier this month: he was already going to answer for the USP and UFRJ cases, but he was again arrested in Rio, convicted by the Federal Court for theft at the National Museum in 2004. The penalty is ten years in jail, for aggravated robbery for a “serious disregard of national memory.”

Those who take care of this memory have celebrated a little, but remain skeptical: the general feeling among librarians is that, as one of them wrote, “stealing books doesn’t mean jail time in Brazil.” – Source (PT)

Lowly men in high positions – 1947

Revista da Semana (Oct. 18th, 1947)

Note: In 1952, the minimum salary in Brazil was CR$1,200/mo, so we can imagine that 5 years prior, it was even less. This means most people featured in this story were earning just under the minimum salary.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 7.23.51 PMSuicide rock. High up on Sugarloaf, just below the tram station there’s a stone platform. Five-hundred meters below is the Urca neighborhood. The tramway employees nicknamed it the “suicide rock”. Dozens of people have jumped from there. The last one was a Polish man that leaped off the ledge. Before the suicide, he took off his wool shirt and his shoes…

Above: the tram employee Paulo with fifteen years on the job, receives just 1,100 cruzeiros per month. The owners of the tram company deduct the fare from the salaries of their employees. That’s why they pay their employees miserable salaries.


The profession transforms a man when he doesn’t arrive psychologically prepared for his trade. Some professions even require a unique temperment, others change the professionals little by little, shaping them to their job, so that they’ll never be able to change it, nor work in another environment. Who has already seen, for example, a dam worker leave his job and come to work in the bustle of the city?

Those that we interviewed at the Macacos Dam and the Caixa d’Água at the Morro da Viúva are veterans with over 30 years of experience. And their salaries, until two years ago, weren’t more than 600 cruzeiros a month. The rise of functionalism in the Linhares government favored them with a raise of 500 cruzeiros. You must agree that even a salary of 1,100 cruzeiros for municipal employees with over 30 years of employment isn’t at all pleasing. But they’ll never leave their profession, because it lets them live idyllically, beside the waters of the dam, usually high up in the forested mountains, increasingly more distant and yet happier with the separation that keeps them far from the city.

The men who work in high and distant places, far from the sounds of the metropolis, like the clock mechanic at Central Station, the guards at Corcovado and Sugarloaf, they don’t seem anything like the factory workers, nor the broker who, every minute, for ten hours a day, is running after good deals, they don’t even resemble the tired cashier who squeezes into the crowded trolley, at 6 pm. Although they occupy “high positions”, they are not ambitious. Old man Barbosa, from the Macacos Dam, with his dozen children and half a dozen grandchildren, told the reporter, in regards to his small salary:

– Young man, how much is it worth, the calm and the smell of this thick forest? It’s better to earn a thousand reis up here than two thousand down there, having to live oppresively, in a slum…

i0022575-17px000000py000000The Portuguese José Manoel, from Trás-os-Montes, guards the largest sacred image in the world. – “This here, above, at night, is like the countryside,” he tells us. That’s why he fell in love with the job and has rejected job offers that would pay double in the city on many occasions. Mr. José rarely goes into the city. – “What for? – he says, if every night and day the city is at his feet. And here above, Rio is much more beautiful!…”


A typical case of such detachment to the city, far below in the distance, is that of the Trasmontano José Manoel, who guards the most sacred image in the world, that is, the Christ the Redeemer statue at Corcovado. Despite having come to Brazil as a seven-year old and having lived here over sixty years, Mr. Zé Manoel has that heavy Luso accent and it’s in that strong and sonorous voice that he tells us:

– Mister, this up here is the countryside! After taking the last train down (on these cold days, the last one leaves early), it’s more deserted and quieter here than my little farm in the country. I’ve fallen in love with both the place and the job, and because of them I’ve already twice rejected double the salary to work in the city. And you should know, mister, my paycheck doesn’t even reach a thousand cruzeiros.

– How did you come to be here?, we asked.

– When I got here from Trás-os-Montes (in Portugal), I started farming and, for more than 40 years, I worked like a dog. I could never save money. In those times, you couldn’t get much for beans and potatoes. One day, I abandoned everything and came to Rio. First I lived in Irajá and, in 1936, I got a job as a guard up here, where I am til today. I’m not interested in the city anymore.

– How long has it been since you’ve gone to the city?

He scratches his white beard and responds:

– I think it’s coming up on a year…Every 15 days I go down to Cosme Velho to have my beard cut and then I come right back, because the noise down there bothers me.

While we talked we were headed up the stairs that lead to Christ. Mr. Zé Manoel, despite your age, you’re in shape and those 50 or 60 steps didn’t change the pace of your breathing.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 7.25.18 PMUp above – One of the sons of the guard got permission to put up a stand where he sells knicknacks to tourists – “And does he sell much?” – “Well, it depends. When an American naval ship come to the port, he sells his whole stock.”


Mr. José explained to us that in his everyday is unchanging, almost unaltered, calm, and quiet. Foreign visitors arrive every day, unless, of course, it’s a rainy day. And the visitors all look alike, he tells us, beginning to philosophize. All of their eyes widen in amazement, before the view below and shout the same interjections. The guard, who is not multilingual, already learned some of them by heart.

– My God! It’s amazing!…
– Ciel! Qu’il est beau, le bon Dieu!
– Es muy lindo!

Exclamations like these he’s already heard a thousand times. Mr. José is able to draw in a few minutes the entire topography of the city, which can see from up top, even better than many engineers would. For twelve years, Rio is for him is like a children’s puzzle…


i0022573-17px000000py000000-1The guard at Christ the Redeemer shows the place where the composer Assis Valente jumped a while back, and who managed to miraculously escape (death). The guard considers himself the most knowledgeable person on suicidal candidates.

To Break the Monotony, Suicides

– The only surprises and unforseen events are these, says the guard. Every two years, some guy will jump off the cliff. I’ve already seen six suicides since I’ve been here…if one doesn’t count the miraculous case of Assis Valente who, after jumping from a height of more than 30 meters, got stuck in a tree below.

The guard calmly continues to talk about the other cases he’s seen. The composer Assis Valente case was the most interesting. Two meters below us is a protruding rock, and below that, the abyss. Mr. José tells us that after the composer jumped, he fell onto the rock, almost as if undecided. And the guard pleaded for the guy to not go ahead with his plan, but nothing worked. Valente sat on the edge of the rock and slowly let himself go, as if he didn’t feel his feet hanging into the abyss.

– After being saved – continues our interviewee – he thanked me on the radio for the effort I took to try to stop him.

And he continues to tell us of the other cases, saying that no woman has ever jumped. One woman tried but was saved in time, while she was still writing a note to the police. The old Portuguese man guarantees us, with pride:

– Just by the guy’s face, I know if he’s thinking of jumping.
– How’s that, Mr. José?
– I don’t know how to really explain it. The guy will always come alone, and nervously walks back and forth, stop a little bit before the image, with eyes fixed, as if praying. Generally, they take off their coat to jump. I don’t know why…When I see a guy in this state and he takes off his jacket or starts to write a note, I grab him quickly. I’m sure the man wants to die…

i0022574-17px000000py000000Above: The Italian Nicolau Coriollo who for 40 years has been selling refreshments, sweets and fruits to tourists, at the top of Corcovado. He tried to establish himself down below – in the city – but couldn’t manage and had to return to being close to Christ the Redeemer.

The Oldest Vendor at Corcovado

Another interesting guy at Corcovado is the Italian Nicolau Coriollo, who for 40 years has sold refreshments, sweets and fruits to tourists. When he started his small business, the train that’d take tourists to the top was operated by steam. He even had a bar at one point. After business went down and he changed profession. He went to work down below. Thus he tells us his experience:

– It didn’t work out. I worked down below but I couldn’t get used to it. I started to get anxious, to have heart problems, and spend money at the doctor’s office. They told me that for my health there was only one remedy, to change the kind of air I was breathing. That’s what I did, I went back to working here at Corcovado, and today I’m feeling brand new.

– Do you intend to finish out your days up here?

He points to some cement beams that were put in near us and comments:

– It doesn’t look like it. When the new bar is ready, the landlord won’t consent to there being any competition, selling fruits and sweets. He’ll demand my exit and there won’t be any other way, other than to leave.

And the old Nicolau then added, full of faith:

– Request in your magazine, please, that the owner of the new bar doesn’t throw me out.

Your request has been answered, Nicolau.

Large Outside and Small Inside

i0022573-17px000000py000000Specialist Oto, responsible for the perfect operation of the 90 electric clocks at Central do Brasil. His profession is also full of risky moments. Like, for example, when he has to change the neon gas tubes (…) that mark the hour. In these moments one needs to be made of steel.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 11.37.27 AM– Above: The biggest clock in South America, that of Central Station, uses just one kilowatt of power per hour, and with a simple push of the finger one can move its pointer which weighs hundreds of kilos.

While we go up with Mr. Oto in the special elevator that takes us to the Central’s clock tower, the technician of the electronic watch at Estrada tells us:

– The mechanism that you’re going to see is so simple and so small that it ‘demoralizes’ the ‘monster’. This is due to the electric mechanism that dispenses the clock’s complicated set of gears, like with Big Ben in London.

The clock-fixer is right. While the diameter of the Central’s clock tower is the largest in South America (with a ten meter radius) and almost two meters larger than Big Ben, a simple touch of the finger on the mechanism’s cogwheel would make the enormous minute hand move, which weighs 270 kilos and measures 7m 20 cm. A perfect system of counter-weights and pulleys surpresses, or better yet, enormously spreads out these hundreds of kilos.

Translating that into electric energy, we get exactly this: to make the hands move for 60 minutes, the minute and hour hands, which weigh a total of 450 kilos, each clock face consumes just a kilowatt of force, operating with a motor with 1/10 horsepower. There are – which many people ignore – four distinct clocks, with independent mechanisms, in the Central tower, one for each face of the tower. There’s no way they can operate out of sync with one another, because they’re all subject to the electric syncronism that comes from a power station, built specifically for the regulamentation of the 90 clocks in the Central building. Even if Light’s lights go out (Light is the city’s power utility co.) or if it fluctuates, an automatic generator goes into action, providing suplementary energy to the clocks. The conservation of all 90 clocks is managed by two men: Rubens, the assistant, and Oto, the specialist, previously employed at the Estrada de Ferro at Central do Brasil, and who, for three months, took specialized courses at a North American device provider. The work is usually risky, principally when one has to change one of the hands’ or hour markers’ neon gas tubes. This job one needs to do way up high at the top of the large hand, completely unattached, at a height of almost 150 meters from the ground. Estrada doesn’t guarantee him any life insurance for the dangerous job. If he should unfortunately fall from up on high, the Estrada would pay his widow the miserable worker’s pension: basically one-fourth of the salary of the dead worker. And this is the life of the man who works fixing the four clocks of the Central tower. He risks his life several times per week without Estada even knowing the specific details, because until now, Oto’s job is classified as “draftsman’s assistant”, a function he has carried out for the last 6 years, when he started at the autarchy.

Facist spirit or “evil-minded?”

A public branch whose bylaws for internal discipline are no longer addicted to the “estado novo” is a rare thing. There’s an unexplanable fear on the part of the photographer or the reporter. A simple photo, as in the case of the Macacos Reservoir, is prohibited by an absurd and unjustifiable determination. The humble workers responsible for the conservation of that reservoir would have, we don’t doubt, the good will of explaining to the public, through our intermediary, all the interesting things about the profession, that make them live for years and years segregated from the city, making them a type of professional hermit. And they’d have a lot of quaint things to say. But with the incredible regulations that don’t allow for public visits (which is understandable), don’t exclude professional journalists, whose mission of telling the people of Rio what is going on in their city, from becoming stupidly curtailed, if not cut off altogether. “Mr.” Barbosa, a Macacos Reservoir guard, has 12 years of experience with this. In 1941, journalists from “O Globo” managed to get a “pôse” (?) from him and some information for that evening’s newspaper. Information that wasn’t important at all. It was enough for the director of the then-Inspectorate of Water to call him to order and inquire “why he would speak so much”. Today, six years later, when, officially, since the DIP (propaganda dept) doesn’t exist anymore, we see the same bureaocracy towards the press yet again. Barbosa, the reservoir guard and his collegue Osmar volunteered to place us in contact with the 7th Water District, so that we may obtain authorization (merely to photograph the dam, imagine that!). Mrs. Alice Maquinivem was the one that answered us. Informed of our objective, she presented us with a series of obstacles:

– You can’t, no sir. First it’s necessary that you obtain a note from Dr. Marcelo Brandão, director of the Water Dept on Riachuelo street. In possession of the authorization, you must then go to 19 de Fevereiro street, number 39, and obtain a visa from engineer Clemente Rodrigues. All of this within business hours.

– But Mrs. Maquinivem, it’s just a lil’ photo…

– It doesn’t matter because the rules don’t make exceptions.

And that’s how we were barred from photographing the dam and from conversing with Mr. Barbosa. If not for this baning we could hear a lot of interesting things from the guard. Like, for example, the […] of his life.

Barbosa, the guard, has been working for the Water Dept  for more than 30 years and only recently started earning 1,100 cruzeiros. To help him, the city gives him a free house to live in, not far from the reservoir, which basically puts him and all the other guards in service 24/7. The location of the reservoir is very beautiful. On the hillside of the Vista Chinesa and the Mesa do Imperador, the Macacos River is held back by two enormous dams that, when full, can hold 42 million liters of water.

The location of the guard’s house was to serve as a medic station. Quiet, surrounded by a small forest, it makes one forget that below, less than 3 minutes by car, is the noisy Jardim Botânico street. That’s why, anyone who starts the job, never leaves it, even if the salary isn’t seductive. The dam guards, in general, live well.

After narrating what happened to us at the Macacos Dam, we were called by telephone. Mr. Silvano Coelho, from the Water Dept, was extremely overwhelmed with the difficuluties that the 7th District, according to Mrs. Maquinivem’s call, had offered us. She said that Dr. Marcelo Brandão would immediately order the guard to open the reservoir’s gates to us. Anyways, we thank Mr. Silvano. Next time we will take advantage and see the facilities that have been offered to us, not only to photograph them but to interview Mr. Barbosa.

i0022574-17px000000py000000 copy 2Agent Ananias Rocha, from the Sugarloaf station, examining a sun clock. He does the job in exchange for a small salary.

Life is Bitter at Sugarloaf Mountain

The Sugarloaf tram earns – according to workers’ calculations – about 100,000 cruzeiros every month.

They say that last year the liquid profit for the shareholders was 500,000 cruzeiros. At all three stations, Praia Vermelha, Urca and Sugarloaf, there are a total of 30 employees, including machinists, conductors, mechanics, oilers, agents and gardeners. All these men earn salaries that almost make them go hungry. The largest earner at all the stations gets 1,400 cruzeiros per month. Men, like the polisher Paulo Ferreira, with a 15 year history of good service in the company, receive 1,100 cruzeiros per month. In 1932, the company that operated the tram went bankrupt. It fell into the hands of new owners but the bankruptcy ‘ghost’ would reappear every time the workers demanded a higher salary. From 1939, at the start of the war, until now, profits have increased more and more, but still today, the company directors […] difficulties. The employees are suing their bosses, via a syndicate intermediary, because that’s the only way – the employees told us – they’re going to manage to get anything.

– What allows us to escape hunger is the small […] of the extaordinary acts we do. Two employees that are here since the start, conductor Lafayette Neves and iron worker Edgar Batista – don’t even make 1,200 cruzeiros per month. I’ve been here 15 years and make a lot less than that.

Agent Ananias Rocha believes his bosses exploit the employees’ attachment to their job working at the tram.

– That’s the only reason why the good mechanics we have here don’t have the courage to look for better-paying work down below.

– Our lives over these last years, as things have become more expensive, has been bitter – comments the oiler.

Our theory about the attractiveness of “high job posts” has been confirmed. Even with small salaries the humble employees of these places don’t have the heart to leave their jobs.

The views, which they never tire of, are worth the best salary they could get if they lived down below, trying to make it among men that don’t or couldn’t know how to get positions that are actually elevated.

I0022571-17PX=001663PY=001558I0022572-17PX=000000PY=000000  I0022573-17PX=000000PY=000000 I0022574-17PX=000000PY=000000 I0022575-17PX=000000PY=000000

The Sugarloaf cable car



(on top of the cable car is a maintenance man, doing repairs in motion)

Although the world’s first two cable car systems, one in Spain and the other in Switzerland, had just been opened, the idea of doing an aerial crossing in Rio emerged in 1908 during the centenary celebration of the opening of the ports to friendly nations. The concept came from the engineer Augusto Ferreira Ramos, who was the general coordinator of the event, to be held at Praia Vermelha. Another engineer, Antonio Manoel Galvao, joined up with him and took the idea to the mayor of the then-Federal District, Serzedelo Correia, who authorized the construction and operation of the cable cars in 1909. In principle, there would be three sections: one between Praia Vermelha and Morro da Urca, another from Morro da Urca to Sugar Loaf (this passage exists today), and the third, from Morro da Urca to Morro da Babilônia (but this section was never built, though it has been recently suggested as a future project). It was then that the Caminho Aéreo Pão de Açúcar Company was founded.

49449(construction on Morro da Urca, 1910)

In 1910 construction began on the Praia Vermelha – Morro da Urca section. The cables were taken through the forested areas and via scaling the mountain. In fact, in the very beginning, more than 400 workers climbed the Urca and Sugarloaf mountains, each carrying parts needed to build the cable car stations at the top (some sites say it was actually only 100 workers-climbers). Once the cables were set in place, a small bondinho was used to bring supplies up and down the mountain.

By October 27, 1912, the first stretch was inaugurated. The cable car at the time was called Camarote Carril and was made ​​entirely of wood, with capacity to carry only 24 people per trip (vs. 65 people/trip, today). The price per trip back then was equal to R$9 in today’s money (vs. R$62 now).

The opening of the crossing quieted the many naysayers and unbelievers who doubted that the project would ever work. The whole project was ridiculed from the start and it was even suggested that Augusto Ramos create a cable car whose destination was the Hospício Nacional, a well-known asylum at the time (where UFRJ is today).

The Morro da Urca – Sugarloaf section opened the following year, in January 1913.

pao-de-acucar-augusto-ferreira-ramos(in the middle, the man behind it all, Augusto Ferreira Ramos)

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.26.42 PM(see the mini bondinho bringing supplies up the mountain?)

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 11.46.43 AM

PaodeAcucar15 PaodeAcucar09 PaodeAcucar13

– Sources (123 & 4, see some more photos here)