Research beyond borders

Design and the Rio 2016 Olympics

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Rio Landscape Credits: © Alex Ferro/Rio 2016

Rio Landscape
Credits: © Alex Ferro/Rio 2016

As we all prepare to be enthralled by the latest events at the Paralympic games, our latest Guest Blog by Frederico Duarte from Birkbeck College, London, talks about the challenges faced in “Design of the City & the Rio 2016 Olympics”. This Blog is part of a on-going series, where researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts that relate their analysis to everything Olympics.

Frederico is a Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) PhD student on a Grant led by Principal Investigator Dr Luciana Martins on the AHRC Funded project on ‘Our poor, beautiful and culturally rich country’ the contemporary challenge of Brazilian design’. Here he uses his studentship to best effect, and ultimately demonstrates implications for the future development of design theory and practice in Brazil.

“When in 2009 Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games the news was met with great cheer. Seven years on, the optimistic landscape has changed. Brazil’s economy is in recession, its politics in turmoil. Olympic ideals aside, Brazilians have protested against lavish public spending on big events while investment in health, education and essential infrastructure is cut short.

However, the design of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games is something Brazilians should be proud of. On my PhD research, which I am conducting under an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the Victoria & Albert Museum and Birkbeck, University of London, I am investigating the challenge of Brazilian design. This means looking beyond grand projects to focus on often small design achievements that Brazilians and the rest of the world should pay attention to.

Rio 2016 Symbol                                   Rio Symbol – Credits: © Ismar Ingber/Rio2016

 

Rio 2016’s visual identity, which complements one of the world’s most recognised icons, the Olympic Rings, is a case in point. Developed by the local consultancy Tátil Design, known for its pioneering approach to sustainability, Rio 2016 symbol’s organic shapes aptly embrace the city’s unique natural landscape with a vivid use of colour. Its three-dimensional version is given to each medal-winning athlete instead of a flower bouquet.

      The Rio 2016 brand launch video was directed by Andrucha Waddington, one of the three authors of the August 5th Opening Ceremony © Rio 2016

The two Rio 2016 mascots were designed by Birdo (Luciana Eguti and Paulo Muppet) to playfully represent the flora and fauna of the country with the world’s richest biodiversity, highlighting Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic commitment to sustainability.

Caption: Introducing Vinicius and Tom, the Rio 2016 Mascots © Rio 2016

The renowned São Paulo-based industrial design office Chelles & Hayashi created the ingenious Olympic Torch which when lit opens up to reveal Brazil’s national colours – blue, yellow and green.

Twelve thousand Olympic torches  were produced and relayed throughout Brazil.

The Olympic Torch © Rio 2016

The Olympic Torch © Rio 2016

Over 5000 Rio 2016 medals were designed by Nelson Carneiro and produced at the Brazilian mint. Their design is innovative on a formal, sustainable and accessible level: all medals are thicker in the centre and thinner on the edges; the gold medals are 100% mercury-free and the silver and bronze medals are made with 30% recycled metal. The Paralympic medals contain metal spheres that ring differently according to their rank, allowing visually-impaired athletes to know they were given the right medal according to their place on the Olympic podium.

Making of the Olympic and Paralympic Medals © Rio 2016

 

The Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was conceived and coordinated by film directors Fernando Meirelles, Andrucha Waddington and Daniela Thomas, who is also a renowned set designer. The show, which costed a tenth of the London 2012 ceremony, emphasised the Olympic spirit of diversity and tolerance and Brazil’s inventiveness in the face of scarcity. Despite a few eyebrows raised over the portrayal of national stereotypes, the ceremony was also a true showcase of Brazilian modern design: from Santos Dumont’s 14-bis airplane to the landscaping of Roberto Burle Marx, the tile panels of Athos Bulcão to the curves of Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture – drawn on stage by supermodel Gisele Bündchen. And that is certainly a cause for celebration.

The closing ceremony on August 21st included a special homage to Carmen Miranda and Roberto Burle-Marx yet it was the poetic tribute to the millions of craftsmen and craftswomen, the potters and lacemakers of Brazil, that will stay as one of the most endearing memories of the Olympic celebration.

Bobbin lacemaker in a tribute to craft during the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony © Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Bobbin lacemaker in a tribute to craft during the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony © Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

I’m now halfway through my three-month research trip in Brazil, where I am conducting interviews with design professionals, students and academics to better understand the complexity and specificity of Brazilian contemporary design. If you know of someone I should talk to, do get in touch.

 

 

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