By now, you might be used to seeing abandoned theme parks set in barren, post-apocalyptic landscapes in China. But this one’s different. Not only is it set in Rio de Janeiro, it’s also right smack in the middle of Barra da Tijuca, one of city’s most valuable real estate zones. And, it’s not far from the future 2016 Olympic games. The Barra zone will accommodate 20 Olympic competitions and the Olympic Village, roughly half the athletes will compete here.
Barra da Tijuca is a fascinating study of contrasts: beautiful white sand beaches, inland lagoons and mountain backdrops on one hand; a pattern of gated communities, high rise condos and shopping malls on the other hand. Planned by Lucio Costa in 1969 with wide avenues and open spaces, Barra da Tijuca has turned its back on the utopian ideals of its founding and has allowed its urban form to be dictated by developer demands. The transformation of Rio de Janeiro for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have only put more pressure on Barra to provide what Rio de Janeiro cannot in terms of space.
Terra Encantada (“Enchanted Land”) sits in the middle of this contested space. Opened in 1998, the park closed after a 61-year old woman was killed after being thrown from a ride and an investigation uncovered multiple engineering and maintenance failures. Terra Encantada has sat empty since, apart from being used for the set of a Brazilian soap opera.
On a trip to study the legalization of street art in Rio de Janeiro, we were able to visit the abandoned amusement park. It is a real explorer’s delight, replete with a Main Street, a replica of the Pompidou Center in Paris, and gloriously decaying edifices.
It is doubtful that Terra Encantada will remain in this form for long, as real estate pressures increase in the area and the “cleaning” of Rio continues in preparation for the upcoming global sporting events. According to a source, the developer plans to build hotels, hospitals and residential buildings. Until then, this remnant of a past Barra da Tijuca will stand incongruously amidst the new construction for the Olympic Games.
Terra Encantada [Map]