For a long time, Parque Royal was one of the stars of the Favela Bairro program and the main showcase project for the Rio’s prefeitura. The design was done by the local firm Archi 5. As an exception to most of favelas in Rio, Parque Royal is located on flat land, with direct access to the water. The favela is bordered by a military base, a larger favela called Mare, the Guanabara bay and the highway. As such, the more recent growth of the favela has been very limited. Originally, regardless of the size of the land, the favela was quite dense with the exception of 2 soccer fields.
The Intervention of Favela-Bairro:
The favela, having nowhere else to grow, but vertically or into the water, was expanding with houses on palafittes, bridges and slowly filling the bay with land. As a consequence, the first intervention aimed to stop the growth into the water. The idea then was to control this growth by making the bay’s border a very dynamic and public area, which residents in the favela would want to respect, maintain and use. Archi 5 proposed a bike lane and walkway along the water, thus defining a new edge for the favela.
Secondly, the design attempted to join the streets that entered the favela, as most of them were dead ends, and would become dangerous areas with no escape, fragmenting and isolating various parts of the favela.
Thirdly, as the soccer fields were dominated and controlled by the drug dealers in the area, Archi 5 (through the remarks and suggestions from the women in the community), proposed, specifically in regards to the soccer field located in the interior of the informal urban fabric, a larger park, involving smaller soccer fields, places to sit, rest and congregate, as well as a playground for kids. A community center was also built.
Adjacent to military base, a wall was built in order to protect (from growth and garbage) and restore a water canal that comes in at this point.
On site housing was proposed, in the perimeter of the favela, adjacent to soccer field, and as a relocation solution to the houses that had to be demolished in order to join the streets and provide adequate size public spaces.
Remarkably, in contrast to other favelas that I visited, Parque Royal seemed to be quite well established, the houses achieving 4 floors sometimes, and the facades quite decorated and retouched, basically acquiring the look of a less affluent neighborhood in Latin America. I am assuming this was able to happen since the favela was limited in size and growth.. as such, not being able to receive to many newcomers and letting the existing residents better their own houses and spaces.
To continue, I have to note that the maintenance in the favela has been problem. There seems to be a lack of conscience and culture with respect to public space and coexistence… As such, even though the municipality has redone various streets, etc. there are always new holes, cracks, etc. This in part might be a bad construction job from the part of the municipality, but from the other is a disregard for what is communal…one example of this is the roof drainage. Many residents in order to save money and save material prefer to have the pipes and water spout out from the top of the roof instead of bringing the pipes down to ground.
The POUSO hand out various flyers explaining the construction and solutions for drainage, as well as other practical issues (in order to insure a better maintenance of public space). Nevertheless, according to the POUSO representative, it seems that as soon as one resident “corrects their house”, another grows and makes the same mistakes regardless of the flyers.
[In a small parenthesis, I also have to note that the POUSO, (Posts for social and urban orientation)- were created and intended to be open every day of the week in order to manage the maintenance of the project, serve as a guide and pretty much mediator between the inhabitants of the favela and the government. Unfortunately, The POUSO in Parque Royal only functions once a week if anything, and from what I saw and heard, it seems that this is the case for the great majority of the favelas as well.]
One space that I did notice had better maintenance was a small garden/open plaza in the middle of the favela fabric. The conclusion that I could make from this, is that the plaza, originally conceived in order to allow the fabric to breath (light and ventilation), has benefited by a stronger appropriation by the on-looking houses and resident. That said, it is extremely important (as with any project), to consider the various degrees and grays that exist between public and private. A project cannot be conceived as a simple black or white, especially in such complex socio-economic environments…
Another interesting event regards the wall that was built adjacent to the water canal and military base. Apparently, one of the favela’s drug dealers decided to subdivide and pierce the wall in order to create new lots. These lots began as garages that the drug trafficker would rent out (I assume that he appropriated and subdivided “the wall” as the space behind it). Slowly these lots began to transform becoming residences, commercial spaces and acquiring height in some cases. One can still see the wall present in the front facades of these newer houses.
As a quick remark after witnessing the “positive” consolidation this favela achieved (particularly with regards to private spaces), in great part due to its physical containment and territorial limitations, and seeing the manner in which a second “phase” of development, seeking expansion and growth, has begun to take place, I cannot help but believe the fact that these projects need to be phased. In the case of Parque Royal, it has happened somewhat naturally, yet the favela’s evolution can teach us lessons. Potentially a first phase of the project does need to “control and contain” growth (hopefully using other means and strategies that do not involve a wall), yet at the same time, it should begin to create an armature that anticipates future changes and growth, and thus incites a second or even third phase in the project.