Although Rio de Janeiro’s grand scale Porto Maravilha project is center stage, smaller scale projects are gaining fame as well. Rio de Janeiro is not just beautiful beaches and tall palm trees. The majority of its population lives outside the city center in poverty. The neighborhoods are mainly located in the North and West Zones. Exposed brick and concrete, dirt roads, and poorly maintained buildings expand as far as the eye can see. They lack proper infrastructure and some suffer from intense gang and drug violence. But these neighborhoods are not all bad! They are full of culture, passion, and creativity. Admired street art covers their walls, big music events dominate the nightlife, and they have power in numbers.
The heart of Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone, Madureira, a considerably ‘lower’ class neighborhood when compared to the South Zone, is the culture epicenter of the entire area. In 2012, the third largest urban park in all of Rio de Janeiro (103,000 square meters) was inaugurated. This park brings together neighborhood residents for leisure activities, samba, hip-hop, charme (brazilian music genre started in the favelas) and other music events, as well as skateboarding enthusiasts, street art moguls, and has become the centerpiece of the area. Its rectangular dimensions are narrow on one side, and infinitely long on the other, traversing 1.5 kilometers and various neighborhoods. It is planned to expand another 3.5 kilometer, totalling an area of 450,000 square meters! This urban park brings much need green space to the sea of concrete known as Zona Norte, and cools the surrounding area by a couple degrees celsius. This project is one of the first major park projects the city and state governments have done for the ‘forgotten’ North Zone population. This project symbolizes Rio de Janeiro’s focus on trying to integrate these neighborhoods back into city and extend urban planning and urban infrastructure to them, something they have not done in the past.