Rio de Janeiro’s Manguinhos district, a large urban area in the north of the city, is the site of around ten favelas, informal settlements in which some twenty-eight thousand people live in close proximity to industrial plants. The inhabitants suffer from a very high crime rate and a lack of public space and community facilities. Jorge Mario Jáuregui is a pioneer and advocate in the field of slum upgrading. In 1993 he started working with Rio’s Favela-Bairro program, which has reached out to hundreds of thousands of favela dwellers through small interventions. In 2005 the city commissioned Metrópolis Projetos Urbanos, Jáuregui’s firm, to undertake an urban-planning study of Manguinhos. The architects conducted interviews and hearings with the district’s inhabitants and representatives to understand both their immediate concerns and their long-term requirements, developing a detailed analysis of the area.
The result is a plan for the elevation of a major rail line adjacent to the district’s main road and the creation of a long public park in the space beneath. Raising the rail line will remove a physical and psychological barrier between Manguinhos and Rio at large and create a new public amenity equipped with scenic walkways, bicycle paths, and athletic fields. The park will be a central meeting place, thus enabling social connections. The architects have limited the number of people who will need to be relocated during construction and have incorporated replacement housing into the design. The project represents a new approach to slum upgrading: the entire community enjoys new infrastructure, and existing social networks remain largely untouched.