By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Long known as being a city of excess, now the home life of many Cariocas has also been touched by the phenomenon as the development of the ‘Super Condominium’ takes hold in Rio.  A miniature city within a city, some with on-site schools, shops and basically everything you could need all within a gated community, they have become all the rage, fueled by the media’s scare-mongering of the middle and upper class and their portrayal of the condo-dream.

Península Condo in Barra, photo by Wikimapia.com.

When Barra started to grow in the eighties there was little else for miles around, so the idea of an all-in-one condo was developed to further attract investors – more had to be offered in spite of the then newly built Carrefour and Barrashopping retail centers. Beyond Jardim Oceânico was mostly wilderness, a few buildings dotted sparingly throughout.

A lot has changed since, and the Barra condo concept has now spread throughout town, stretching to all directions. If the new ‘Thai’ development is taken as a benchmark, in the near future they will even more closely begin to resemble themed holidays resorts.

Most of the condos come with vast leisure facilities as standard, even when located in densely populate neighborhoods such as Cores da Lapa, and Catete’s Quartier Carioca. Behind the gates of both lie shops, restaurants, cinemas, rehearsal studios, swimming pools, football courts, internet cafes and even ‘zen’ areas to relax in.

All this of course comes with a price tag, and most will have four-figure condominium fees. Bella Berger lives in the Varandas de Barra Bonita in Recreio, which is served with full leisure facilities, internet, phone and maintenance included. She pays a three-figure fee for the privilege, one of the cheapest in the super-condo market, yet she would rather not have it at all.

“I would prefer to pick and choose the services myself,” she says. “Here phone service is more expensive, broadband slower than I would like, maintenance services are paid for on a per-hour basis, and some overpriced. My phone is from a different company and ideally, I would replace the Internet provider, in the end paying twice for services”.

The gates of the Parque Laranjeiras development where tranquility is promised even just off the busy Rua Pinheiro Machado, photo by Vânia Maciel.

The other cost is a more human one. Márcia Lávia lives in the Península condo in Barra da Tijuca which is almost the size of Leblon neighborhood. Although she moved there only a year ago, Márcia is no stranger to Barra’s condo life where she raised her kids.

“There is a sense of security behind closed gates” she says, “but the down-side is it all seems very impersonal. There isn’t the old caretaker figure from when I grew up, who knew your parents and would impose a certain authority if a kid got out of line.”

Nowadays, services within the super-condos are provided by third-party companies. “I was barred by the security guard in my own building the other day,” she continues. “My eighteen year-old only recently discovered Centro and barely knows Ipanema or Leblon. It is mall leisure for kids around here and some of them never leave Barra for anything”.

On a positive note, she has all the leisure facilities she needs, a party sized balcony with barbecue, breathtaking views of Lagoa da Tijuca, a natural forest reserve as her surroundings and, above all, silence. Plus her property is set to increase in value with the Barra subway building works already begun to link into Zona Sul.

There are many resort-like super-condo developments launched every month and not all in Barra. Parque Laranjeiras is a prime example fitted with all the luxury dictated by today’s real estate market. Situated on top of a hill looking directly at Christ the Redeemer and the site of an old private boarding school, it will be an island of tranquility with a minimum price tag of just over R$500,000. Put simply, “new” condo life may not exactly be for the faint-hearted.

10 COMMENTS

  1. A very interesting and well written article. I believe that these type of developments need to be established for a couple of generations before they become “living” communities

  2. I think they will find it hard to keep a thriving commercial area inside like that. As the culture gets more and more dominated by cars, it gets harder to make smaller enterprises profitable. Just what I have seen in the US.

  3. I felt quite sad reading about these new gated communities that are coming up in Rio. Especially sad when I read about the lady’s eighteen year old son who hasn’t left the Barra area, and who barely knows neighbourhoods such as Leblon, Ipanema and Centro. While I do understand that Rio is a dangerous city, cutting oneself off from mainstream society and living a barricaded life to me is complete insanity. To me this community would be like a prison.

    I’m sure that the developers are pitching these communities to potential buyers as being in the interests and safety of one’s children. To protect them from an unsafe and hostile society. But that is Brazil. Rich rubbing up against poor. Electricity in the air. Anything happening at any given moment. That frontier feeling.

    These sort of developments do nothing but polarise the social classes even more.I believe that there is a limit to vigilance. The young adults that are borne out of these prison communities will be weak, sheltered and living in a dream world. The developers on the other hand will continue to milk this fear and cash in.

    Why doesn’t the new president not just nuke the favelas and get it over with. It will be much cheaper and think of all the prime property sites that will be available for future developments by cronies in government and their scumbag connections on the ground.

  4. Although I would strongly condemn nuking, I do understand the feeling completely. That is how I feel when I see favelas spreading and taking over the forests as if it was a kind of disease taking over Rio’s mountains.

    I also strongly agree that these condos polarize society deeply creating more lack of respect and raising stupid kids.

    TExplaining that to most cariocas is a completely different matter altogether, they think condos are great. Safe with wonderful quality of life, they do not realize their kids are growing week, this sheltered existence is common in Brazilian classes for centuries almost like a cast system perpetuated by petite-bourgeois and upper classes alike.

    Brazilian society obeys a very strict pecking order.

    The rich rub against the poor everywhere in the world, the difference lies is in how they deal with each other.

    In the case of Brazilian upper classes, they treat the poor either patronizingly or with total despise, being the latter more common. Off course I say this as a generalization not all are like that, but even the ones that are willing to see things realistically, more often than not still do so regarding themselves being in a superior position and go around pitying people and mostly do not help with means for the poor to lift their heads and start to help themselves, creating thus a vicious cycle of ineptitude.

  5. What!?! Nuke favelas? This sentiment is the purest version of why people move into these fantasy fake communities… And the children of these communitiies will sink us all.

    How much do you pay your maid? Where can she live on that salary? From whom do you buy your recreational coc**n? Does he live in your neighborhood?

    How about we lift up the poorest among us? – god knows they work the hardest.

    Sentiments like some expressed here make me want to puke.

    Where is your humanity people?

  6. Dear Jimuluiz,

    When I said ‘nuke the favelas’ I was being ironic. Obviously you missed that. What I was trying to imply was that, if the Brazilian leadership had its way, it wouldn’t feel a an ounce of emotion nor regret to do this and, in their minds’ eye, most of the country’s social problems would be solved by eliminating this poorest class.

    I do not for one second advocate this.

    My point also in my comment was that property developers and city hall make a hell of a lot of money out of building such gated communities. It’s a corrupt relationship and money flows both ways: a backhander from the developer to the city hall official(s) who rubber stamps the authority for the developer to develop, and to the developer by purchasers of his property where demand is created by an ad campaign which instills a sense of fear and paranoia into the potential purchasers, who of course, all belong to the upper middle and upper classes.

    My heart goes out to these poor people. So you have misunderstood what I’ve said.

    I also think you should also read Lilly’s comment again. She makes some valid points about class stratification in Brazil which you seem to have misunderstood.

    This is not about a war on poor people. This is about a reality where the wealthier classes perceive the poor in Brazil as danger incarnate. Hence the need to barricade themselves from the poor.

  7. What bewilders me is how city officials can actually allow this to happen as if this is a long-term solution for different social classes to co-exist. No way.

    Not to be devil’s advocate, but why doesn’t the government get to the root of the problem, the causes of rampant crime, such as poverty, drugs, weapons smuggling.

    It doesn’t take a historian to know that when most of society has it’s basic needs met, there tends to be a lower rate of crime.

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