No Art Deco style monument is as strong as the heroic Christ The Redeemer Statue on Corcovado Mountain in Rio. Motorized access was added in recent years. Photo: Brazil Tourism Office
Rio Gets High Marks As Deco Destination
||Art Deco News.Com interviewed Rex M. Ball, FAIA, left, President of the Tulsa Art Deco Society, former facilitator of the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies, and a nationally known speaker, panelist, author and retired architect, who recently made his third visit to the 400-year-old South American city.
Q: How would you rate Rio de Janeiro as a destination location for Art Deco enthusiasts?
A: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is an Art Deco destination on par with cities like Cape Town, South Africa. The residential areas are not so easy to reach and identify without a guide or the city’s wonderful Art Deco Guidebook. I visited most all of the locations in the book on my three trips to Rio, and most recently in a tour by my hosts, Professor Frank Ostrower of the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies, and his wife.
Q: What was the primary purpose of your trip to Brazil? Which cities did you visit? How long were you there?
A: I went to Brazil to visit with long-time friends and to work with the Brazilian contact, the Ostrowers, of the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies. I stayed three weeks. I stayed mainly in the Rio area, but also several locations on the way to the preserved Portuguese Colonial town of Paritys.
Q: Describe the style and characteristics of Art Deco structures you observed and the similarities and differences between what you observed in Rio and Art Deco elsewhere in the world.
A: All styles of Art Deco are represented, with an interesting mix of Zigzag and Streamline. The influence of Miami Beach Deco (tropical) is strong in the early work, but in the late 1930s, International Style Design begins to appear in a kind of mix. Again, Cape Town and Rio have several buildings that have a similar appearance. Perhaps the similarity is due to both being thriving ports at the same time. No Art Deco monument is as strong as the heroic Christ The Redeemer Statue. It is as much of a worldwide landmark in its own way as the Memorial in Pretoria, South Africa.
Q: What is the status of Art Deco preservation/restoration movement in Rio and surrounding areas?
A: The economy is poor, so little new construction is underway. However, some of the earliest examples of Art Deco architecture are small scale and often are behind high fences, so the status is uncertain.
Q: What’s the ratio of public access versus private Art Deco structures? How would you rate accessibility to these structures to visitors?
A: Accessibility has many meanings, such as wheelchair accessibility, which I will comment on first. The sidewalks with Portuguese tiles do have appropriate curb cuts. The buildings, which basically can only be reached by steps, are another issue. Being a tourist-oriented city, public buildings are generally accessible by taxi and can be reached by foot during daylight hours. Interiors are always guarded, but I was never stopped, except at some sensitive locations when I was taking photos. All residences and mixed-use buildings are heavily guarded with a combination of electric operated gates, walls and often armed personnel.
Q: Can you identify tour companies and organizations that offer Art Deco tours?
A: Tour companies are well publicized on web sites. I worked with the Rio Pride Tours http://www.riopridetour.com.
Q: What are the best times of year to make Rio an Art Deco destination, in your opinion? What should travelers expect to pay for accommodations, meals, and transportation? How safe is Rio for tourists?
A: All times of the year are good because of the seaside climate. I go during December-March. Food is good, but there are only a few outstanding restaurants. American restaurants with a Brazilian theme are consistent with what you can find in the U.S. Rio is definitely one of the few remaining bargains for Americans due to the sinking dollar. A few words about safety. Do not take your jewelry, valuables or clothing that would attract attention. Travel by taxi, which is inexpensive. Avoid going to unfamiliar places by yourself, particularly at night, and check out all locations in advance. Americans must secure a Visa in advance. Plan your trip well in advance to avoid problems entering Brazil.
Originally, three Art Deco buildings in downtown Rio: Castelo, Raldia and Nilomex, called for eight floors
with setback shown. Architectural unity of the block was
marred, city Guidebook says, by later legislation
lowering heights. A three-story addition to the Raldia,
while spoiling the proportions of the whole, is esthetically the most interesting, featuring a semi-circular tower
with a belvedere, which marks the corner, and
ornamental motifs of the crowning.
Photo courtesy of Rex M. Ball.
Top Must-See Art Deco Sights In Rio
Home to 10 million, Rio de Janeiro is squeezed in between the green mountains of the coastal rainforest and tropical beaches at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. A South American metropolis in a tropical setting, Rio has a wide range of scenic, cultural and architectural highlights, including must-see Art Deco districts and neighborhoods.
Art Deco guru Rex M. Ball, who was interviewed by Art Deco News.Com, lists the number one must-see Deco destination in Rio as the Monument To Christ The Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain. It is the most well-known and recognized Art Deco landmark in Latin America, if not the world, says Ball, a retired architect, who is President of Tulsa Art Deco Society.
Visitors can drive or take a tram up to the statue. The best view is said to be on the right-hand side of the statue. In 2003, panoramic elevators and escalators were added, making it no longer necessary to climb up the 220 steps to the monument, constructed in the 1920s.
Here are select Deco destinations Ball recommends for first-time visitors:
Sugar Loaf area:
Ball recommends spending some time near the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain, where Art Deco neighborhoods can be found.
This landmark Art Deco district in the middle of Copacabana’s urban metropolis, preserves a small-town atmosphere where buildings are four stories or less. A quiet square attracts elderly chess players and children in a playground. There is a youth hostel in the area, and Bairro Peixoto is also popular with international budget travelers. A few blocks away are the main street and the beach.
The area between Copacabana Palace and Av. Princesa Isabel is known as Lido. It contains a number of landmark Art Nouveau and neo-classical buildings. Many of these buildings have huge 5-bedroom apartments with only one bathroom and no garage. Most have been converted to other uses, including language schools.
Select Tour Operators: