A lot of attention is being paid today to the anniversary of Haiti's massive, nation-changing earthquake (and rightly so). But this day shares significance with a disaster in another part of the world. Between January 11 and 12, 2011, 144 mm of rain fell near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The rains led to flooding which led to mudslides which led to landslides destroying an estimated 3000 houses, displacing 100,000 Brazilians and causing over 900 deaths. The precipitation in those 24 hours surpassed the monthly average and resulted in the worst natural disaster and preventable loss in Brazilian history.
The disaster could be considered more man-made than natural. Poor development decisions, such as a lack of disaster planning and a leniency toward development of treacherous, flood-prone land, is thought to have had an equal part in the region's devastation.
Following the disaster, Nike do Brasil committed $100,000 in support of a small sports center in Petrópolis, a community severely damaged by the rains, with Architecture for Humanity. The government of Brazil has committed to rebuild housing for the community, and the sports facility will ensure space is protected for public meeting and creative play. As recently demonstrated in tsunami-stricken Tohoku, sports structures support a community's balanced recovery.
We are currently identifying sites safe from heavy rains and will build to international siting and structural standards. Another severe rainy season in Brazil this year emphasizes the need for vulnerable communities to recover safely and sustainably.
How's this going to happen? Architecture for Humanity is currently recruiting designers who will, while based in Brazil, work with local partners and stakeholders to lead all design phases for the project. The Rio Floods sports center (as it is tentatively known) is scheduled to break ground later this year.
Image by Carla Dal Mas, Architecture for Humanity