Visiting A Favela in Second Life

A Favela, May 2020 – click any image for full size

A favela is a unique, low and middle-income, unregulated settlement or neighbourhood in Brazil that has experienced historical governmental neglect. With a history dating back to the 1800s, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s due to rural exodus, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities, but could not find regulated places to live, and the 2010 Brazilian census reported that around 6% of the country’s population lived in favela or similar housing.

Around Rio de Janeiro, the favela cling to the sides of the hills, looking from a distance like colourful buildings – a colourful façade can oft disguise the crowded nature of a favela, with their tightly packed houses with little inthe way of open space, and where people strive to find a little corner of a rooftop in place of having any form of yard or garden.

A Favela, May 2020

The largest hillside favela in Rio de Janeiro (as well as in Brazil as a whole, and the second largest shanty town in Latin America) is Rocinha; and this mini city-in-a-city might well be the inspiration for the latest design by Lotus Mastroianni and Frecoi called, appropriately enough, A Favela

Unlike their past builds, such as RioSisco Studio Pictures, ChatuChak or Kun-Tei-Ner, all of which covered a complete region, A Favela occupies a 4096 sq metre parcel, and sits as a sky build. This makes a a very compact build, but the space is effectively used to recreate the look and feel of a portion of a favela: the houses are stacked vertically, some buildings looking like there might be multiple apartments, others looking like that are single homes with one room atop the last; some have traditional water tanks, others have the famous blue roof-top tanks provided by power and water company Cedea.

A Favela, May 2020

As with their physical world counterparts, these buildings are made of a variety of materials, their roofs concrete or sheets of corrugated sheets of metal. Between them, a single road winds up the side of a rocky hill, the houses forming deep canyons, the “cliffs” of which and dotted with verandahs and windows. Towards the top of the setting, the road levels before apparently vanishing into a tunnel, above which a backdrop rises, offering a sense of the favela continuing up the mountainside while Christ the Redeemer stands with arms outstretched on a more distant peak.

Like a real favela several of the buildings have steps leading up to rooftop areas that offer places to sit, whilst walls are given life through the application of graffiti paintings or thanks to clothes and towels hung to dry from rails placed outside of windows. Further life is added to the setting through the inclusion of dogs and cats in passages on and rooftop “yards”, while pigs and chickens wander the road’s twists below, ignoring the old cars and trucks parked at the roadside (one of them so out of condition, it needs the help of large stones to hold it in place). Birds circling overhead and a sound scape give a further depth to the setting, rounding it out nicely.

A Favela, May 2020

A small, detailed setting ripe for photography and offering a small glimpse of life in parts of Rio and Brazil.

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