In Brazil, the Pay Phone Lives!

Apparently, the pay phone is not dead. Everywhere you go in Brazil, you will have the opportunity to speak from a pay phone sheltered by one of the best-known examples of Brazilian design: the orelhão (pronounced o-re-LYAO), or big ear. They are literally everywhere, and it’s a striking thing to see in 2012. I was in São Paulo last month and the orelhões on Avenida Paulista had been turned into a temporary exposition I later found out was called “Call Parade”. Each orelhão had been painted by a different artist:

Orelhões are iconic, and unlike pay phones in nearly every other country I’ve visited, seem likely remain a part of Brazil’s built environment for some time. When’s the last time you used or even saw a pay phone?

Belo Horizonte: Architecture in Brazil’s First Planned City

Long before Brasilia, Belo Horizonte was Brazil first planned city. The country’s third-largest, it was developed in the 1890s when the state capital of Minas Gerais was relocated from Ouro Preto. Today it is a sprawling city filled with an eclectic mix of neoclassical, modernist and contemporary architecture.

Parque Municipal, Belo Horizonte’s central park, is located at the city center.

Praça da Liberdade

Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) is the city’s main square.

Neoclassical Capital City on a Grid
Modern “Beagá” features a mixture of contemporary and neoclassical buildings, and hosts several modern Brazilian architectural icons, most notably the Pampulha Complex. Belo Horizonte was laid out as a neoclassical city, modeled on the grid system, and Aarão Reis sought inspiration in the urban design of Washington, D.C, and Paris. This is evident in BH’s wide, tree-lined avenues and the prominence of parks and squares in urban life. Belo Horizonte has an octagonal urban network cut by diagonals and is “closed” by a circular ring, the Perimeter Avenue.

Museu de Arte de Pampulha, formerly a casino.

Casa do Baile, Pampulha.

Igreja São Francisco de Assis

Igreja São Francisco de Assis. Photo by Pedro Kok.

Modernist Architecture and International Attention
The 1940s and 1950s witnessed the physical and demographic expansion of the city past the original boundaries envisioned by Reis, which was translated into the creation of new suburbs, such as Pampulha and Cidade Jardim, the residential areas of the elite. In 1941, Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, then the Mayor of Belo Horizonte Brazil, asked his young friend Oscar Niemeyer to design three buildings for a new suburb that Kubitschek wanted to build in Pampulha, a neighborhood named for the attractive lake at its center. Completed in 1943, the project was a trio of buildings set around the lake. The first was Igreja de Sao Francisco de Asis, another a dance hall and restaurant on the lake and the third a large casino. Together they set the tone for the development of that district.

With its hangar shaped design, the Igreja de Sao Francisco de Asis is easily the most impressive. As the first listed first listed modern architectural monument in Brazil, it consists of four undulating concrete parabolas with outdoor mosaics. Niemeyer was inspired by French poet and diplomat Paul Chandel, who called a church ‘God’s hangar on earth.’ The church was not without controversy and would not be consecrated until 1959.

Belo Horizonte

Modern Belo Horizonte.

Urbanization and Economic Growth
Brazil’s third-largest city is well below the international radar compared with Rio and São Paulo. But things are changing in Belo Horizonte, as the economic boom continues to attract major national and foreign investment to the city. The resulting rapid urbanization and economic boom has left its mark on the city’s urban geography, as skyscrapers sprout up around the city and traffic increases.

11 Urban Railways in Brazil

South America’s largest country is home to a new crop of projects designed to promote urban mobility in advance of the World Cup in 2014. Indeed, Brazil’s cities have are home to a new generation of subway, commuter rail, light rail and monorail projects.

1. São Paulo – Known simply as the “Metro” to commuters, the Metropolitano São Paulo consists of five lines, 63 stations and carries 3,600,000 passengers a day. The system, opened in 1974, is modern and the largest in South America in terms of ridership, it’s 61km is not considered sufficient for a city of over 16 million. New lines and stations have been built in advance of the World Cup in 2014. Additionally, the Metro connects to a commuter rail known as the the CPTM (Companhi Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM) that serves the greater São Paulo area that was completed in 1992. Together, the two systems carry 5.2 million people each day.

2. Rio de Janeiro – Founded in 1979, Metrô Rio is a partially underground railway that carries 580,000 commuters each day – or 5% of commuters. The second-largest rail network in Brazil, it covers 47km and is divided into two lines and 25 stations. A condition of being awarded the Olympics, the metro is currently undergoing a massive expansion that aims to increase ridership to 1,100,000 a day by 2016. Additionally, the 8-line commuter rail called SuperVia. which carries an additional 510,000 passengers each day, is being upgraded as well.

3. Belo Horizonte – The Metrô de Belo Horizonte consists of one above-ground line that carries 145,000 passengers. Construction began on its first of 19 stations in 1981 and commercial service in 1986. However, the vast majority of BH’s 5.5 million inhabitants, rely on buses and taxis.

4. Brasília – Commissioned in 2001, the Metrô de Brasília is the two-line and 29-station urban rail system that carries 150,000 passengers daily. Construction began in 2009 on a Light Rail Transit (LRT) extension connecting downtown to the airport in hopes it will be completed by 2014.

5. Porto Alegre – The Metrô de Porto Alegre began operation in 1985. It began as a commuter rail built to serve Porto Alegre’s northern suburbs, and still only consists of one line and 17 stations. Commonly called the “trem,” the system carries some 130,000 commuters daily and covers 33.5km of track.

6. Recife – The Metrô do Recife is a rapid transit system consisting of two lines, 29 stations and serving 210,000 people each day. Recife’s metro began operation in 1985, and will be the second largest metro in Brazil after São Paulo.

7. Teresina – The single-line Metrô de Teresina is the smallest urban rail system in Brazil and has been in operation since 1990. The 9 stations and 13.5 miles of track carry up to 20,000 people on an average day.

8. Cariri – Adjacent to Fortaleza in northeast Brazil, the Metrô do Cariri is an above-ground light rail system that carries 1,000 daily. The single-line system consists of 9 stations and 13.6km of track, and was completed in 2010.

9. Maceió (under construction)The Metropolitano de Maceió is a single-line light rail system that will connect Maceió to its northern suburbs.

10. Fortaleza (under construction) – Currently under construction, the Metrô de Fortaleza is rapid transit system and is expected to be completed in mid-2012. The two-line light rail system will consist of 43 miles of track between the cities of Fortaleza, Caucaia, Marazion and Pacatuba. When all stages are completed after 2014, the “Metrofor” is expected to transport up to 700,000 each day.

11. Salvador (under construction) – Projected to begin operation in 2012, the Metrô de Salvador consists of two lines and 19 stations.