By Candy Pilar Godoy, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Many claim that the heart of Rio can be found in the neighborhood of Lapa; a colorful district nestled in between Santa Teresa and Centro, where historical monuments and lively culture mingle with dilapidated architecture. The face of Lapa is set to change, however, as various renovation projects begin to slowly transform the area and breathe new life into old walls.
Many view Lapa as a rooted contradiction. During daylight hours the area lies stagnant, as grimy streets filled with peculiar dwellers settle amongst heavy and stale air. As the moon rises, the music starts, the crowd evolves and Lapa comes to life, infiltrated with flavor, energy and culture.
“Lapa changes from day to night…the feeling and look of the place are always moving. That’s why I love it,” boasts one resident.
The district’s duality, part of its charm, can also be seen in its architecture. Post-colonial buildings still stand, with some majestically restored while others, the unlucky ones, stand decrepit and crumbling. Strides have been made, however, to renovate neglected areas and restore Lapa’s grandeur.
Throughout the past decade, abandoned colonial houses and warehouses have been transformed into music venues and restaurants. Many renovation projects have maintained outer facades of colonial buildings and revamped the interior, mixing the old with the new.
Others are facilitating changes by adding color to the culturally vibrant city. The Let’s Colour Project, started in 2010, painted homes and hotel lobbies within the community with the help of local residents and local artists. Formerly grey and dull walls became bright shades of blue, purple, and yellow.
Yet preservation plans are not the only ones being made. Residential projects have been launched to add new infrastructure to the old district. Cores da Lapa, founded in 2005, built a new condominium with up to date facilities, including a swimming pool, garden, and game room. Viva Lapa, a similar association, also built new property to sell.
Both Cores da Lapa and Viva Lapa, as well as others bringing new infrastructure into the neighborhood, hope to develop the residential part of the community by attracting those who can’t afford the oftentimes exorbitant prices in the South Zone, but who don’t want to be too far from Central Rio.
Current architectural developments in the area are not exclusive to buildings. Lapa Legal (Legal Lapa), a program created in 2010, was initiated to help change the urban landscape of the area.
Approved by Mayor Eduardo Paes in 2010, Lapa Legal has plans for a pedestrian only area, an urban art gallery, and the redevelopment of open public space. Sidewalk reconstruction, street cleaning, and a new bonde stop are also planned. According to the department of culture, the cost of construction will be roughly R$8 million.
Lapa is no stranger to transformation, with the cities evolution sprawling over decades. The aqueduct, the famous arches, were built by slaves in the 1700’s, and used to carry water between the hills and the center.
In the early decade of the 1900’s, the cobble-stoned streets were home to brothels, gamblers, and cabarets, until a major face-lift in the 1950’s changed the scene. Carioca artists and intellectuals soon migrated in to occupy the area, along with restaurants, bars, and music clubs.
Upcoming and current renovations are sure to change the exterior of the area, but they’ll hopefully rejuvenate Lapa while leaving the essence and livelihood of the interior intact.