Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture – CAU/SP

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Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture




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Redação CAU/SP


Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture

About 20,000 architects from many countries will come to the meeting of The International Union of Architects (UIA), that happens every three years. The candidacy of Rio de Janeiro, propposed by Brazil, has been presented and approved in the UIA Congress at Durban, South Africa, in 2014.

The theme of the Congress will be “All the worlds. Just one world. Architecture of the 21st  Century”. In this atmosphere, there will be no linearity, no cast models. For the first time, the Congress will not be confined to a single location, but will be performed by simultaneous activities that will occupy several spaces and take the streets of the host city. “The main space will be Marina da Glória, which will host the Arena Todos os Mundos”, says Nivaldo Vieira de Andrade Júnior, president of the National Executive Board of the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB). “At the ‘Marina da Glória’ there will be the main auditorium, for 7,500 spectators, and also the World Fair, with capacity for 1,800 people”. Nivaldo tells more: “The Museum of Modern Art, designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy, and the green park ‘Aterro do Flamengo’, whose landscape project was designed by Burle Marx, complete this central structure. But the UIA2020RIO will also use other historical sites of Rio, such as: Lúcio Costa’s ‘Capanema Palace’, the Wharehouses at ‘Porto Maravilha’, the Santiago Calatrava’s ‘Museu do Amanhã’ (‘Tomorrow’s Museum’), the ‘Praça XV’, the ‘National Historical Museum’ and the ‘Paço Imperial’, among others. ”

Besides the multitude of places ans spaces, the Congress will emphasize the width of schemes and models of discussion: in addition to lectures, debates and panels, there will be exhibitions in places that are architectural or landscape urban monuments. “Everything in the central region of Rio de Janeiro”, underlines Andrade. The 2006’s Pritzke prizewinning Paulo Mendes da Rocha – he is 90 years old and still energetic – will be the President of the Congress Honor Committee.

The architect and urbanist Sérgio Magalhães, President of the Organizing Committee of the World Congress of Architects, tells that the organizational model of the Congress follows three lines that are articulated: the design and constructive experience of the brazilian and international architects; the reality and the eyesight for the future; the focus on research, academic works, ‘thesis defenses’, commitments and goals for the coming years. “These three lines will have their own space and time in the Congress”, he says.

As the host of this meeting, Rio was granted in January 2019 with the label of ‘World Capital of Architecture’. Awarded in Paris by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), this designation has been created in 2018, in partnership with the International Union of Architects (UIA). “This was the first time this title was given to a city. It is worth mentioning that, in 2012, Unesco had already recognized Rio de Janeiro as a world cultural heritage, in the urban landscape category”, reports Magalhães.

Committees in Action

According to the architect and urbanist Anderson Fioretti, one of the most important organizing members of the UIA2020RIO, the Committees exist to play many roles that are necessary to carry out such an event. “The Executive Committee is the national organizer, responsible for coordination with partner organisations, including the local Architecture and Urbanism Councils (the CAUs: Conselhos de Arquitetura e Urbanismo)”, he explains. Its role is to evaluate, follow up and correct the trends. “The Scientific Committee focuses on the contents of the Congress, such as the workshops, lectures and exhibitions that are expected to take place”, he continues.

Fioretti also explains that some practical steps are being taken to encourage and simplify the participation of congressmen from all over the world. “We made partnerships with specialized companies, to ease the purchase of air tickets and the proceedings for lodging”, reports. “And we are signing partnerships with a focus on leisure and culture, for activities of music, dance, cinema, etc.,” he says. Concerning to the safety issue, Fioretti says he is relaxed: “In the last years, Rio de Janeiro has received many events of global scale and there was a positive balance.”

A Little Bit of History

When it was created in 1948, in the middle of post-war France, the UIA relied on delegations from only 27 countries. At that time, those pioneers defined that one of the objectives of the new collegiate would be to unite and represent the architects of all the world, regardless of religion, ethnicity, nationality or architectural choice. They would be united by a greater bond, and the commitment to offer society the best models for solutions in housing, leisure, learning, mobility – the use of space as a tool for gathering the citizens.

Today, not less than 124 countries have federated entities within the UIA, representing around 3 million architects. It is the only one world organization of Architecture wich is recognized by United Nations agencies – in addition to Unesco: the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).


2020 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – “All Worlds. One World. 21st Century Architecture ”

2017 – Seoul, Korea – “Soul of the City”

2014 – Durban, South Africa – “Architecture Otherwhere”

2011 – Tokyo, Japan – “Design 2050 – Beyond Disasters, Through Solidarity, Towards Sustainability”

2008 – Torino, Italy – “Transmitting Architecture”

2005 – Istanbul, Turkey – “Grand Bazaar of Architectures”

2002 – Berlin, Germany – “Resource Architecture”

1999 – Beijing, China – “21st Century Architecture”

1996 – Barcelona, Spain – “Present and Futures. Architecture in the Cities ”

1993 – Chicago, United States – “Architecture at the Crossroads – Designing for a Sustainable Future”

1990 – Montreal, Canada – “Culture and Technologies”

1987 – Brighton, United Kingdom – “Shelter and Cities: Building Tomorrow’s World”

1985 – Cairo, Egypt – “Present and Future Missions of The Architect”

1981 – Warsaw, Poland – “Architecture, Man, Environment”

1978 – Mexico City, Mexico – “Architecture and National Development”

1975 – Madrid, Spain – “Creativity and Technology”

1972 – Varna, Bulgaria – “Architecture and Leisure”

1969 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – “Architecture as a Social Factor”

1967 – Prague, Czech Republic – “Architecture and the Human Environment”

1965 – Paris, France – “The Training of Architects”

1963 – Havana, Cuba – “Architecture in Underdeveloped Countries”

1961 – London, England – “New Techniques and New Building Materials”

1958 – Moscow, Russia (then it was Soviet Union) – “Construction and Reconstruction”

1955 – The Hague, The Netherlands – “Architecture and Developments in Building”

1953 – Lisbon, Portugal – “Architecture at the Crossroads”

1951 – Rabat, Morocco – “How Architecture is Dealing with its New Tasks”

1948 – Lausanne, Switzerland – “Architecture Faces its New Tasks”

Brazilian candidacy

Rio de Janeiro has competed for the right to host the 27th World Architecture Congress with Paris and Melbourne (Australia). “It was a candidacy built by brazilian architects, under the leadership of the Institute of Architects of Brazil”, explains the architect and urbanist Elisabete França. She coordinates the Scientific Committee of UIA2020RIO.

Sérgio Magalhães, who chaired the IAB-DN at the time, remarks: “We began to build this meeting in 2014 in Durban, where we were guided by the proposal to transfer the axis of the debates on Architecture and Urbanism to the countries of South America, Central America and the portuguese speaking countries”.

Latin-american participation

The last UIA congress held in a Latin American country was in Mexico, in 1978. Since then, the major cities of the american continent have gone through large scale urbanization processes – which have often resulted in precarious living conditions and have required solutions on a growing scale.

Elisabete notes that, due to the natural attributes of the city of Rio de Janeiro, it is also necessary to discuss issues about climate change and environmental preservation. “Congressmen will be in front of one of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the planet, while they will face the urban problems of the 21st century, that range from the absence of universal basic sanitation to coping with the urban violence, going through the preservation of natural resources and the built heritage. Rio de Janeiro concentrates a set of urban problems that are not unusual to most contemporary cities, and therefore, it is the ideal scenario to host the debates about the potentialities and challenges of the profession”, observes the architect and town planner.

A new focus for the debates

In addition to redirecting the focus of the debates on Architecture and Urbanism, taking them from an axis predominantly focused on Europe and the United States, the organizers hope that the event will help to show the way in which the vast majority of the dwellers of the precarious neighborhoods are served, deprived of urban and housing solutions.

In an interview with the reporter Mariana Barros (from the “Esquina” Blog, specialized in the real estate market, Architecture and Urbanism), the UIA President Thomas Vonier remarked in March of last year: “Architects must show how lives can be dignified through urban design and smarter use of the available resources. We can also show the goal to be achieved designing more beneficial places to human health.”  In the same interview, Vonier points out: “Many countries face pressures on civil servants and budgets to complete works in buildings in the fastest way and with the lowest possible cost. Badly informed politicians and elected officials think that paying for architects and for a good urban design increases costs, but in fact these professionals may help to ensure balanced budgets.”

Elisabete adds: “In today’s society, sharing ideas and experiences is essential to improve professional practice and knowledge. At the Congress, brazilian architects will be able to meet foreigner colleagues and to discuss about the different ways of work organizing, the expertises and the attitudes facing the competitive and demanding labor market in each country.”

In other words, the interaction of architects with civil society and local authorities will be in stake: and not only the role of the architect in urban space planning and design.

Showcase for the world

The meeting’s organizers emphasize the “transcendence” of this Congress, which will be preceded by a whole preparatory process.

Elisabete remarks that Brazilian Architecture has always been closely watched by other countries, especially with regard to the modern production, that has been built in the 1940s and 1950s. “From the 1960s onwards, for several reasons, we lost the space we occupied, and this lasted for many decades,” she says. “I believe that now we are against the ideal chance to show to the world, one more time, our latest creations, in particular those ones from the 2000s, wich are the result of the work developed by a young, talented and inventive generation,” she claims.

Andrade considers that, besides being a noble opportunity to give global exposure to Brazilian Architecture, the Congress will manifest the social role performed by architects and town planners to improve people’s quality of life. “Brazilian society and its political representatives do not understand our role about uplifting the quality of the spaces that are daily used by all the groups in our society,” finds the president of the IAB-DN. “The professional category will be highlighted by the UIA2020RIO and the ‘World Capital of Architecture’ title will certainly enhance this feeling,” he believes.

Pioneering Empowerment

The UIA Vice President for the Americas, 2nd Vice President of the Central Organizing Committee of the UIA.2020.RIO and Ombudsman of the brazilian ‘Architecture and Urbanism Council’ (CAU/BR) is the architect and urbanist Roberto Simon. He asserts that this meeting is a rich opportunity to participate actively in the discussion of the “systemic changes that happen in the contemporary world, in which wars are worldwide: impacts are global, their extent have no limits and motion is continuous.”

According to Simon, “the cannibal nature of today’s world encourages new opinions and demands new design attitudes. It is a distinct revolution, which brings the same challenges for architects all around the world: to recognize diversity, to think about differences and to build a collective world. And at the same time, the world is in continuous motion. This expands our opportunity and, above all, expands our duty to be in the center of these discussions.”

He notes that, due to its size, Brazil takes on a community leadership in Latin America. “Among the five countries of continental dimensions in the world, Brazil is the only western one that is under development process and, therefore, it has a dual responsibility in the pursuit of inclusion of the neighboring countries,” Simon recalls. “It is necessary to think about all possible enterprises: mixture of uses, social mixtures, scale mixtures. To discuss trends in today’s cities, to debate Architecture practices facing new kinds of segregation or self-enclosure. To speak about visible and invisible enclaves, city sustainability and the resilience of groups, sites, resources, activities, lifestyles and architectural practices,” he explains.

Simon further states that we are facing the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” and we must be alert to the major and fast changes that are in progress, which include the increasing use of disruptive technologies.

Honor Committee and thematic axes

The UIA2020RIO Honor Committee – a group of prominent people, whose presence will help to promote and publicize the meeting – will be chaired by the architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. In addition, the select group has names such as the urban planner Jaime Lerner (former president of UIA – 2002/2005 years), the singer Gilberto Gil (former Minister of Culture) and the publisher Marisa Moreira Salles (judge of the 2016 Venice Biennale and creator of the ArqFuturo website).

The thematic axes that will lead the debates and the lectures of the meeting are divided into four groups. They are:

Diversity and Mixture: Aimed at recognizing and building what is collective in several international experiences.

Changes and Emergencies: Focus on the discussions of a “new architecture” taking into account the climate change and the technological innovations.

Fragility and Inequalities: From a social point of view, this axis will speak of the diversity of “urban worlds”, focusing on the city outskirts, the popular participation and their connections with Architecture.

Transitorities and Flows: Axis focused on discussions on international mobility, migrations and the ephemeral architecture for environmental disasters.


Events Calendar

Mobilization and Opening Debates

May-Oct 2019 – Preparatory debates in brazilian states

Aug-Nov 2019 – Contest / Students Awards

Formulator Debates and Complementary Events

March 2020 – Diversity and Mixture Cycle

April 2020 – Changes and Emergencies Cycle

May 2020 – Fragility and Inequalities Cycle

June 2020 – Transitorities and Flows Cycle

The Congress and The Cities Forum

July 2020 – 27th World Congress of Architects

July 2020 – WCA-Unesco UIA Cities Forum

Aug-Sep 2020 – General Report of the 27th CMA UIA2020RIO

Conclusions and Goals for 2025 and 2030

Mobilization program and opening debates

Between May and October 2019 preparatory debates will take place in brazilian states. Discussions will be held in the Departments and Sections of the IAB and in the CAUs of the states, as well as in the class entities of Architecture and Urbanism and at the universities that join the proposal. “The format will be decided by the organizing institutions, who can choose seminars, lectures, panels, exhibitions, etc. The essential is that the events must be premised on the thematic axes of the 27th World Congress of Architects”, explains Sérgio Magalhães.

The purpose of these events is to raise significant issues for the local region, gathering architects and students, as well as the local society. “These meetings may have a free format at the discretion of the organizer. They will be coordinated by the architect Nadia Someck, federal counselor of the CAU/BR” adds Magalhães. “The conclusions of the meetings will be grouped by the South-Southeast, Northeast and North-Central West regions. Then they shall be systematized by rapporteurs of the Congress Scientific Committee,” he reports.

CAU/SP created a Temporary Committee dedicated specially to support and follow the activities of the 27th World Congress. For its proposal, the CAU/SP evaluates the promotion of debates in each city of its regional headquarters, addressing the thematic axes. “The coordination of these works in the CAU/SP is done by the architect and urbanist Violêta Kubrusly, and her assistant coordinator is the architect and urbanist Maria Rita Amoroso,” he informs.

This Committee in SP is also composed of Bruna Beatriz Nascimento Fregonezi, Miriam Roux Azevedo Addor, André Luis Queiroz Blanco, Gilberto Silva Domingues de Oliveira Belleza, and the Ombudsman of CAU/SP: Affonso Risi.


Formulator Debates and Complementary Events

In the months preceding the 27th World Congress of Architects UIA2020RIO, each of the thematic axes will be highlighted from March to June 2020. The idea is to explore and publicize one of the axes every month.

“The programming that the CAUs and other entities and universities will hold in 2019 will provide these events in the previous months,” explains Magalhães. “From these local meetings, proposals will be drawn up, and they will be taken to the debate in July, in the Congress itself, being one of the pillars of the conclusions of the 27th WCA UIA2020RIO”, he explains.


The Cities Forum

The first edition of The Cities Forum of the World Capital of Architecture (FCCMA) will take place in the week of the 27th World Congress of Architects. The first FCCMA will have as members: the mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, delegates of Unesco and UIA, representatives of the organizers of the 27th World Architecture Congress, the mayors of the host cities of the last five congresses (Seoul, Durban, Tokyo, Torino and Istanbul), the mayor of the next host city (Kopenhagen) and brazilian political authorities which act effectively on architectural and town planning issues.

The Forum’s goal will be to discuss major urban issues, from the perspective of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the New UN Urban Agenda, formulating a set of guidelines for action and speculation, directed to mayors, to the academy and aimed at the development of programs and partnerships.


Tradução: Claudio Zardo Búrigo
Texto original: Silvia Lakatos – Revista Móbile #16 (Janeiro, Fevereiro e Março de 2019) 





Escrito por:

Redação CAU/SP




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