Project
The Belly of a Mountain, Rio City Vision Competition 2013

project by Design Earth

The mountains Sugarloaf, Corcovado and a profile of hills around Guanabara Bay physically and symbolically mark the Carioca landscapes. “I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves,” noted Oscar Niemeyer, “the curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman.” While the figure of the city has developed in relation to its geographical contours, the rapid urbanization of Rio de Janeiro has often butted against its mountain ranges. Along with the expansive informal housing situation, the city currently faces the challenges of growth and provision of support infrastructure such as energy facilities, logistic zones, landfills as well as steel and petrochemical processing industries. Often externalized from cities, such urban programs they consume valuable real estate and generate undesired environmental costs such as urban heat, gas, smoke, waste and ash. Beyond the duality of “urban externality” and “idealized Nature”, Belly of A Mountain proposes to organize the city’s urban infrastructures within a series of excavated mountain bellies. The project embodies in a critical twist the urban desire to having the cake and eat it too – by preserving the formal green shell of the mountains all while utilizing their topography as potential internal volume to accommodate such undesired infrastructures. The mountain is simultaneously the formal icon of the city, its lungs, and the belly that takes in the city’s cemeteries, water purification plants and other industrial facilities. Airborne pollutants, municipal waste, grey water, and dead human bodies are processed in the belly-machine into clean energy, purified air, and fertilizers to the city. The emptied mountain, a series of crematorium grottos, is as well the city’s sanctuary. At sunset, Cariocas retreat into the belly of the machine. From its peaks, they to overview a silhouette of mountain ranges and chimney smoke mists all while chanting the love of their recently baptized city as World Heritage urban cultural landscape.