Studio-X Rio & Robert Marinho Foundation Develop Historic Preservation Project


Professor Andrew Dolkart, Director of GSAPP’s Historic Preservation program, Professor George Wheeler, Director of the Conservation Lab, and Studio-X Rio Director Pedro Rivera, along with GSAPP alumna Sabine van Riel and a team of five GSAPP Historic Preservation students, have begun a collaborative workshop with the Roberto Marinho Foundation and a team of six students from universities in Rio de Janeiro. The research survey will provide preservation guidelines for three sobrados on Rua São Francisco da Prainha – the future site of Studio-X Rio. Research findings about the sobrado typology will be presented at an International Heritage Seminar in Rio scheduled for October.

Sabine Van Riel (M.S. HP '06) Reports on Studio-X Rio Historic Preservation Project


For the past three weeks, five Columbia University Graduate students in Historic Preservation and I have been uncovering the past of three sobrados (typical two to three-story vernacular buildings) on Rua São Francisco da Prainha, in downtown Rio de Janeiro. This work would not have been possible without the help of the five outstanding architecture students from leading Rio de Janeiro universities that provided us with the necessary access to archives. Together we were able to find the original plans for these three vernacular buildings, speak to local residents and past tenants of the buildings, and learn about the sort of commercial structures that existed in the neighborhood in the late 19th century.

The mysterious history of these buildings began to come together when we were granted access to the original owners' archives, the Venerable 3rd Order of Penitence, where we found the contracts for the building and, to everyone's amazement, the original specifications for all architectural elements of the building. We were also very happy to learn that a long-term tenant of the building was still alive and able to speak to us. He gave us some clues as to how the spaces in the three sobrados were used for some 30 years during which he managed a popular restaurant. Since no contracts or plans could be located for the alterations done to the buildings in order to house the restaurants, we were all very excited to speak to this tenant.

We amassed a large quantity of information regarding the buildings and neighborhood and are now working on elaborating our report. To celebrate the conclusion of our work on our last day in Rio, we enjoyed a very lively neighborhood samba evening at Pedra do Sal, regarded as one of the best places for samba in the city. It was great to meet some future Studio-X neighbors. We all enjoyed the time we spent there getting to know this very special community.