January 19. 2020, Rio
In San Francisco an earthquake brought down the Embarcadero freeway giving the city a chance to revitalize its waterfront making it more pleasant for pedestrians, streetcars and allowing a vibrant waterfront district to emerge. Seattle is dismantling Alaskan Way, the elevated highway along the Elliot Bay. They hope a new restaurant and entertainment district will emerge.
In earlier days urban waterfronts were strictly for commerce, rough areas, best driven over on long elevated roads above the rough streets. Rio was once that way but because of the Olympics an elevated roadway was torn down, without the help of an earthquake. The elevated highway was replaced with a light rail taking people from downtown, along the waterfront, to the aquarium also on the water. Some of the old warehouses are part of the cruise terminal with shops and cafes. Across the street from those warehouses are other warehouses that house a bus terminal for cruise ship excursions. The walls have a giant mural, “We are all one” or “Ethnic Groups” depicting Brazil’s Ethnic diversity. It was painted by Sao Paulo artist Eduardo Kobra, (#Kobra), who started as a graffiti artist and founded a graffiti collective “Hip Hop.” His works, now commissioned, adorn the walls of many cities including Minneapolis, where he painted a tribute to Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a Changing.” He also does corporate commissions including for Nestle, Coke and Johnny Walker.
Other waterfront buildings also sport murals and areas that were dominated by overhead highways now are open plazas. A highlight of the new waterfront is “The Museum of Tomorrow.” As soon as I saw it, it reminded me of “Oculus” the transportation hub at New York’s World Trade Center. There is a reason for that, the architect is the same, Spaniard Santiago Calatrava. From the outside it’s a striking building, but not without controversy. Critics say it is one of those “white elephants” left over from the Olympics. But the main criticism was that money was diverted from the National Museum to finish the Museum of Tomorrow. The national museum was becoming unsafe electrically and in September 2018 burned destroying its internationally renowned collection. National Museum deputy director Luiz Fernando Dias said it was the government neglect of the national museum that caused the fire. The charge, the government gave priority to the future over the past causing the loss of collections that could never be replaced. But it is a beautiful addition to the harbor front.
I took these pictures as we left MS Amsterdam for 5 nights, two for evenings in Rio listening to music, two at Iguassu Falls and a night of Tango in Buenos Aires.