Rio’s architectural heritage

By | Category: Travel destinations

The Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro has been chosen by UNESCO to be the very first world capital of architecture.

The Museum of Tomorrow. Image – Alexandre-Macieira-Riotur

That isn’t “new” news as it was selected as long ago as 2014 but it is only now – a year away from the event – that the city is ramping up publicity about its architectural heritage.

The city, which was also the first to receive the title of world’s cultural heritage in the urban landscape category in 2012, will host the 27th World Congress of Architects in 2020.

But although a collection of architects is no doubt interesting for other architects, town planners and construction companies iy serves far more than that. It announces to tourism that there are sufficient buildings in the city of sufficient interest to warrant architectural tours as, for example, happens in Chicago.

Rio has works by renowned names such as Oscar Niemeyer, Roberto Burle Marx and Lúcio Costa. Among the venues that will host the event is Palácio Gustavo Capanema, one of the main landmarks of modernism in the city.

There are any number of standout buildings that the visitor should see when visiting Rio de Janeiro and her are just four.

The Museum of Tomorrow is a convenient starting point. Built and opened the year before Rio hosted the last Olympics, this science museum juts out into Guanabara Bay. With over five thousand solar panels attached to it, they follow the course of the sun throughout the day, soaking up the heat and harnessing the energy. It almost looks like praying mantis basking on a sun-drenched riverbank awaiting its latest meal.

Although the Museum of Modern Art has been in place for nearly 64 years, it still retains a strikingly modern stance in the Rio landscape. Designed by the leading Brazilian architect, Affonso Eduardo Reidy,the museum which hasbeenburned down once and then rebuilt, is in concrete – a material popular in its time but less so these days as an exterior cladding.

Museum of Modern Art. Image – Alexamndre Maciera, Riotour



The new building for the Museum of Image and Sound which will incorporate the Carmen Miranda Museum is going to be unlike anything you might have seen in Brazil. The museum describes itself as “a reproduction of the famous Copacabana sidewalk folded into a vertical boulevard.” To me it looks like a partially open concertina fold.

The 110 year-old municipal theatre is considered by many to be one of the prettiest buildings, all delicate and looking very European. This is unsurprising given that the design was inspired by the Paris opera house.

Next year visitors to Rio de Janeiro should find any number of tours that will specialise on the burgeoning architectural highlights of the city.

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