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Une Gare à Cascadura
2014.Rio de Janeiro

Instructors Alain Simon, Eve Deprez & Hugo Bauwens
Collaboration with Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

This urban project was done in Cascadura, a neighborhood in northern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The initial project was to propose a new train station in the middle of the Cascadura neighborhood, a small but intense area just south of Madureira. The site suffers from severe traffic problems, caused mainly by the excessive - and unorganized, use of buses.

Once a rich, commercial district, the area was quickly surpassed by Madureira economically all the while retaining a very strong commercial indentity, except on a much more local level.

After an extensive study of the existing context, the idea of having the new train station as a focal point for this project quickly gave way to a much more comprehensive proposition.

The city of Rio de Janeiro, and especially the northern, poorer districts, suffer from extreme informal urbanization and lack of social control. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but proper public space is extremely hard to define, and maintain. One of the most significant aspects of this is the complete lack of vegetated spaces within northern Rio de Janeiro, when they are abundant on the south part of the city, giving it its distinct qualities.

This particular neighborhood though, does offer a quality park, but it is seldom used. After further analysis, the recent occupation by informal settlements directly to the west of the park proved to be the cause of this lack of occupation, as well as an unclear accessibility and urban clarity of the space.

Three locations of intervention were therefore determined.

The first one aims at reorganizing the main bus terminal of the neighborhood, alleviating traffic right before the viaduct and the commercial zone of the neighborhood, considered its focal point of activity. Bus traffic was so heavy that during peak hours, the whole district became congested. A series of one-way streets - badly organized, created an unbearable condition that completely crippled the neighborhood's activity. By redrawing the terminal, proposing new bus stops carefully located, and reorganizing some of the street ways in an almost logistical way, this first intervention would drastically improve traffic in the area, and the district's health, without affecting incoming and outgoing traffic, even on a much larger scale within the city.

The second intervention is to accentuate the commercial street by giving more space to pedestrians and a better road junction. By enlarging the sidewalks and offer a proper space for informal vendors, the commercial district is strengthened all the way to the neighborhood plaza. An old recycling center, barely used - and completely walled off to the street, is opened and becomes a covered market where several activities can take place.

Finally, the third intervention is the placement of a pedestrian bridge between the commercial street and the park. Several things are happening with the bridge. The first of course, clarifies the urban fabric of the neighborhood an accessibility to the green space within the district. The new entrance to the park - a plaza created in front of a residential building, now integrates the favela's life to the neighborhood. By taking example on successful informal settlements in other parts of the city - such as the Rocinha settlement, the proposition aims to fully integrate all residents of Cascadura in its life. Communal centers, sports, tours, restaurants and bars are placed on the ground floor of the residential building, creating a much richer context and less intimating occupation by the settlements in Cascadura.

These three interventions aim to reinforce existing conditions within Cascadura. By alleviating traffic, neighborhood life is given room to breath and develop. A better visibility and accessibility is given to the existing park, now directly communicating with Cascadura's center. And finally, fully integrating informal life to the neighborhood to allow for a less intimidating urban space.

This project was nominated for the Architecture Prize of the La Cambre Institute for its strong contextual understanding of the site and the light, effective solution it proposes.
Final jurors included external teachers Adriana Sansão Fontes and Naylor Vilas Boas, instructors of the PROURB studio at the UFRJ in Rio de Janeiro, and internal faculty members Alain Simon, Eve Deprez and Hugo Bauwens, instructors of the Public Relations studio where this project took place.