By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Cidade do Samba (Samba City) located near the Port Zone in Rio, brings together the samba schools from the Grupo Especial (Special Group) division and is home to the schools’ Carnival preparations and float building. Normally there are daily events for visitors to enjoy a preview of Carnival, but due to construction work the site is temporarily closed to the public.
The massive warehouses that occupy the 93,000 meters of land where Cidade do Samba is located were once the trading grounds for slaves arriving in Brazil from Africa. It is here where many say the first steps and sounds of samba were born.
Today, the Samba City is consolidated as a core of production of genuine Brazilian art and culture with fourteen warehouses, one for each Grupo Especial samba school and two warehouses for the LIESA (Samba School League). The order in which the samba schools occupy each building is determined every year by the rank from the Carnival competition.
“Cidade do Samba was always a top pick destination for my cultural tours in Rio,” Neyla Bontempo, a private tour guide, told The Rio Times. “As soon as daily visits are permitted again, I’ll be sure to continue to bring my guests here to enjoy the spirit of Carnival.”
As several of the major samba schools are located some distance outside Rio, it has posed a challenge when transporting the elaborate floats to the Sambódromo. In 2003, mayor Cesar Maia wanted to establish a central location to assist the samba schools in the logistics of their artistic vision with the ultimate completion of Samba City in 2006.
After a fire in 2011 that incurred costs of R$10 million in damages, the city of Rio and the Liga das Escolas de Samba (Samba School League) held a competition amongst local architects in hopes to rebuild. Winning architect Vitor Wanderley and his team had a vision that went beyond just the Samba City.
“We envisioned the project to include a little more than Cidade do Samba: with a Multimedia Museum that will show temporary exhibitions for the public…” says Wanderley.
Samba City forms a triangle through the neighborhoods of Saúde, Santo Cristo and Gamboa with the outskirts of the geometric figure being the warehouses of each samba school. Each warehouse is structurally unique and has three floors, one for building the floats and props and another for sewing costumes.
“The shape of the land did not allow us to plan and divide each one just like the other,” says Wanderley. The center houses the Botequim da Cidade do Samba, which serves food and cold drinks and has four kiosks to buy souvenirs.
General admission to Samba City is R$5, or R$2 with proof of residency or for students. It is located at Rua Rivadávia Correa nº 60, Gamboa in front of Armazem 11, five minutes from Pier Maua and Novo Rio Bus Station and easy to access for those who come from the South Zone (via the Aterro Flamengo bus line), Barra da Tijuca via the Yellow Line highway (Linha Amarela) and the International Airport via the Red Line highway (Linha Vermelha).