As the Olympics approach, stains on Rio’s architecture, infrastructure

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As the Olympics approach, stains on Rio’s architecture, infrastructure
Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) in Rio de Janeiro’s port zone / © Sergio Moraes/Reuters
As the Olympics approach, stains on Rio’s architecture, infrastructure
Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) in Rio de Janeiro’s port zone / © Sergio Moraes/Reuters

The construction frenzy tied to the Olympics should lead to much-needed infrastructure improvements, and the Rio Olympics did spur the development of a number of museums and cultural institutions. But that development – often conducted behind closed doors, with little public accountability – has come at a cost.

Two blocks after leaving my hotel, my Uber passed one of these new museums: the MIS (Museu da Imagem e do Som, or “Museum of Image and Sound”).

An elegant and complex structure designed by American architects Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, the building – which broke ground in 2014 but won’t be ready in time for the Olympics – projects a series of ramps on the main facade. The visitors will have a hard time deciding if they should look to the collection inside or to the bright Copacabana beach outside. I commend the architects for offering the choice instead of blocking the view (as others proposed). Nevertheless, a recent Ph.D. dissertation by scholar Lidia Quieto revealed how opaque the competition process – organized by the powerful Roberto Marinho Foundation, the cultural arm of the Brazilian media conglomerate Rede Globo – really was.

Does it have to be like that? Could an architectural competition be held with transparency and public spirit in mind?

Apparently, not in Rio. […]

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