Vida Local Rio is an initiative of the Danish Cultural Institute, developed in a collaboration with Danish specialist Jesper Koefoed-Melson, supported by the Danish Arts Foundation, coordinated and produced by Instituto Agente Muda, and carried out in a partnership with the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), as well as with local residents and institutions.
It all started in March 2020, hibernated during the pandemic, and resurrected in 2022 at a new location: the Praça da Bandeira (Square of the Flag), a low-/mid-income neighborhood located in Rio’s central region.
Instituto Agente Muda (I AM) was contracted to build a network of residents, local businesses, institutions, the Municipality, artists, and universities. In September 2022, this network was enabled and engaged via a series of meetings, academic workshops, walks and talks, and an online workshop by Jesper Koefoed-Melson – followed by a community celebration with food, music, dance, and donation of seedlings to green the neighborhood, held at the local basketball club’s venue.
Vida Local Rio became the framework for 30 UFRJ architecture students’ final projects, supervised by four professors, and in December came the big culmination: A temporary urban intervention on the street with a festive cultural celebration.
In a rented container the temporary “Democratic Center for Sustainable Urban Design” was set up as a logistics base and exposition space, where you could appreciate the architecture students’ wooden model of the whole area, along with a compact version of the Commons & Communities exposition.
The UFRJ students and professors developed and executed the intervention “Praia da Bandeira” (Beach of the Flag), scaffold structure with stage, tents, lounge chairs, a swing and more. Here their research projects where presented: Concrete ideas for improving the neighborhood and simulations of more people-friendly configurations for the area. The project culminated with a community dinner, live music, DJs, drinks and joyful being together.
I AM´s role demanded not only a lot of planning and “hands on” work, but also the ability to improvise. For example, when transporting 100 small trees in a compact car, building specialized wooden furniture, and inventing artistic solutions to mitigate social tensions:
A graffiti portrait of a local resident had been erased, right at the time and place of the Vida Local Rio intervention. This mysterious coincidence made a group of residents think that the project organizers had erased it, which caused anger. The portrait had the text “Teli eternal” written below it, as an homage to Teli, a beloved member of the local community, who became a victim of Covid 19.
As an artistic solution to the confusion, I AM members painted the saying “ATELIETERNO” four times on that same wall, each one suggesting a different meaning: “ATELIE ETERNO” (eternal atelier); “ATELIÊ TERNO” (tender atelier); “ATÉ LI ETERNO” (I even read “eternal”); “À TELI ETERNO” (To the Eternal Teli). The Democratic Center of Sustainable Urban Design was then baptized “ATELIETERNO”, to the residents´ great satisfaction.
Perhaps the most outstanding achievement of Vida Local Rio was to show that experiencing the collective process in an active manner is, despite the adversities, a satisfying way of living in the city.
* Text by Guto Santos