Yesterday we traveled to Caju Cemetery. The experience between Sao Joao Batista and Caju were quite incredible. Caju is divided into four separate zones which are directly adjacent, but have distinct points of entry.

Upon entering the first zone, we walked in between two chapels, both of which were holding the traditional viewing of the dead with families gathered around. People were arriving and sitting in and around the chapel paying their respects to the lost loved ones.

In this cemetery we found conditions similar to that of Sao Joao Batista. The typology of tombs/graves/mausoleums/walls was similar. However, in this first cemetery of Caju, the wall was not on the periphery of the cemetery, but instead in the center and seemed less associated with social or economic standing.

In the second zone at the periphery we found groupings of incredibly modest graves made of rough stone, simple marking and abutting undeveloped landscapes. Some of the graves were in disrepair with cracks and even holes which we found more surprising when we began to notice that most of the dates on the graves were marked from 2004 and on.

Entering the third zone of the Caju cemetery we found the Jewish cemetery whose space organization was clearer and more consistent. At the beginning of the main part of the cemetery there was a domain devoted to the childrens graves as well as a separate sheltered area probably devoted  to synagogue leaders. At the periphery of this cemetery there were mausoleums with specific typology: two graves with multiple names on them and a simple solitary bench for a visitor.

We also found it interesting that the tombstones were produced on-site at the cemetery, something we haven’t witnessed until now.

Visiting  Sugarloaf later in the afternoon we had the chance to view the city from a highest level and realize the development of the urban fabric within the topography. As the weather changed, the view transformed and the perception of the city shifted.


sao joao batista – located in botafogo, opened in 1851 and is the only cemetery in the south zone of rio. though incredible and interesting for many reasons – scale/location/upkeep (or lack thereof) – the most relevant to our studies is the reflection of the urban layout as replicated at the scale of the cemetery. as in the living city of rio, the poor are placed on the hills above, overlooking the city.

the make-up of the cemetery is such that the wealthy, buried in above ground tombs and mausoleums, line the main pathways of the cemetery, occupying the well-kept zones, while the the lower eschelons of society are placed in walls comprised of drawers at the periphery of the cemetery.

the walls are built into hillsides and at points fall directly below a favela that is built into the hill above at the southwest corner of the cemetery. consequently, these locations have the best views of the cemetery and the surrounding city.

there were very few visitors at the cemetery when we arrived, but we witnessed a visiting the grave in the image above and as she left she walked away from the grave facing it.

hello, rio! [caption id="attachment_882" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Sao Joao Batista"][/caption] today is our first full day and we're off to visit the Cemiterio Sao Joao Batista. we attempted to visit last night only to find out that people don't visit the cemetery for tourism. a woman who was kind enough to translate communicated to the groundskeepers that we were students studying death and architecture in the city. after a bit of laughing and strange looks we were invited to come back this morning. we will make the trek once more, hopefully with better luck! after, we will visit pedro rivera at PUC where he is teaching to attend some of his student reviews. this will be followed by a visit to studio x and a meeting with Flavio Ferreira, an architect who has designed a cemetery. more updates to follow!

After our meeting with Pedro Rivera, our studio_x contact,  this morning, we are feeling even more charged and intrigued with the potential embodied in our travels to Rio. We’ve begun to realize that the connections between socioeconomics and death rituals is much less linked than we originally imagined. Pedro informed us that aside from clandestine graves that occur in the favelas, nearly every body goes through the same ritual, is buried in the same cemetery, and is memorialized (or not memorialized) in the same way.

In order to understand how we can propose a new way of dealing with the dead that may be more sustainable and more efficient as rio moves forward we must analyze how this system has come to be so regularized and rigid through understanding the history of Rio via Catholicism, European influences, and even early slave culture. this will aid us in recognizing the potentials for our proposed networks to infiltrate this traditional system and propose a novel view of death in the city.

Pedro mentioned that there is a new typology emerging called a vertical cemetery and we think it could be fruitful to understand how this could be a potential shifting point in the traditional practices. This new typology could has the potential to provide the beginnings of a bridge between typical brazilian cemeteries and new realizations of death and memorial at an urban scale – and more specifically that link to our ideas about water and transportation infrastructures.

Our perceptions of Rio are shifting, but the frictions and complexities of tying our ideas of death in new york to a similarly diverse and dense environment with a completely different system of dealing with the dead will make the research that much more exciting