Let me speak freely, if I may, about a conversation I have been watching. Approaching from above, there is nothing like the landscape from Rio de Janeiro. The earth is so expressive. The city has no choice but to respond to it.
And this city does respond to its land. The infrastructure stays in the valleys, like water pouring through open passages. The dynamics of the land are so extreme that people seem to accept it as they build, working with it. Except for tunnels under the big mounds, everyone goes where they more easily belong and stay away from much of the higher natural land. This effect seems to be what’s responsible for Rio creating, or really allowing for, the biggest urban forest in the world. Tijuca Forest makes up 7% of the city, an amount very great compared to other urban forces.
The landscape of the city resisted civilization for a long time. The portuguese settlers were not fond of Rio de Janeiro, which they stumbled upon on January of 1502, earning it its name. It was too hilly and too difficult of land to conquer. Not only that, the natives that took ownership of that land were also very difficult to conquer, making their primary goal to spread the religion very tough. So they let it be. Eventually a French refugee group took shelter in Rio with the natives and intermarried, and were later conquered in battle by major settlers.
The say of the land still remains in the hills, but takes exception to the shores, where the infrastructure pushes the land right to its limit with buildings all the way to the edge.
The human interest in the shore looks to be what saves the edge from being fully conquered, with a thin strip of land remaining around the city. The beaches were even improved upon after the 1930s, with additional sand to manicure the line of the shore, and a lot of public design to address the public there.
The other exception is the people who are willing to take further challenge from the earth, who might find that easier than taking a place in the open passages. Those are the people who live in the less invested areas of the favelas, taking place on the sides of the hills, and housing people with very little economic means. The infrastructure of those communities is not entirely well-aligned, and not all that sound, but there it remains. The instance of low economic means happens so greatly for the citizens of Rio that favelas house over 20% of its population, for those who can manage to build a home there. The name favela came about with the interesting habit of a flower, Cnidoscolus quercifolius, which grows on a hill. So in many ways, those communities take after a beauty that endures a difficult environment. That difficulty can appear very harsh, but it does create an environment where people amaze you.