Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Vida Local Rio 2020

In 2020, at the invitation of the Danish Cultural Institute in Brazil, Jesper Koefoed-Melson brought to Rio de Janeiro (then the World Capital of Architecture) his savvy method for strengthening local communities: the Vida Local project.

CIDADE COMIDA (FOOD CITY) – The first phase of this project was held in Rio Comprido, a residential neighborhood in Rio’s central area. Rio Comprido, however, has been abruptly devaluated by the urbanistic “runover” that started in the 1960s and deepened in the following decades.

The project relied on the partnership with students and professors from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, led by Professor Victor Andrade. Sectors from Rio’s City Hall also participated, along with residents, local groups, and local institutions through the initiative of the Baixo Rio collective, coordinated by the activist architect Guto Santos.

This phase consisted of guided tours on Rio Comprido’s streets, landmark buildings, and the surrounding favela communities. Ensuring the resilience of Rio Comprido’s dynamics, these favelas promote street markets, festivities, and a variety of public space actions, such as the creation of community orchards and vegetable gardens in areas formerly used as irregular waste dumps.

In addition to the guided tours, this phase promoted meetings and workshops in which the partners mentioned above participated.

This project phase ended with a get-together at Rio Comprido’s main square. The event held artistic activities promoted by local groups, who aimed to integrate the participants and retribute the feast offered by the project’s management on occasion. The food was prepared by local cooks, who used non-conventional edible plants to make dishes of high nutritional value and delicious taste. Served in an environment of joy and live music, the food was able to put together children and academics, houseless people and foreigners, all at the same table. More than sating everyone’s hunger, the feast enabled participants to share a unique communitarian experience.

While participants considered the project successful, Vida Local Rio had to be suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, being redesigned at the Community Architects Symposium, at UIA2021RIO, in dialogue with the projects manager of Gehl Architects, Sophia Schuff, who discussed the theme of foodscapes.

In 2022, Vida Local Rio resumed activities in a different area of Rio de Janeiro.

Jesper Koefoed-Melson
Collaborative Urban Planner
I've been creating culture in cities for 20 years. It started as a hobby and then became my job, but it has always been my passion.
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