Research beyond borders

Leave a comment

Design and the Rio 2016 Olympics

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.



Leave a comment

Brazil/UK Creative Lab – opportunity to attend


Social Change through Creativity and Culture is a new project that brings together academics, artists and creative practitioners from Brazil and the UK to initiate and collaborate on creative projects that directly address social challenges in specific Brazilian social contexts.

The project will immerse individuals in an innovative lab experience, intended to catalyse cross-disciplinary collaborations and dialogue, during an intensive 10-day period. Over the course of the lab, participants will be tasked with developing a practical idea to take forward together through further collaborative research over the following months.

For guidance and how to apply please see the AHRC website. Application deadline is 17th September 2015

Leave a comment

Networking Funding – UK/Brazil

Newton-Fund-chosen-logoLaunched under the Newton fund, there is an open funding call to build sustainable collaborations between the UK and Brazil. Funds can be used for travel, subsistence and other networking or collaborative activities, such as workshops, summer schools and exchanges (in either direction: from and to the UK). This is an exciting development in UK relations with Brazil as it is with CONFAP – the umbrella organisation for 26 state funding agencies and therefore broader than current engagement with FAPESP.

Applications to this call must meet UK Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) aims; this means applications must specifically address poverty alleviation or development issues. The call has several highlighted areas but the call is open across all research disciplines for any proposal that makes the case that it meets ODA requirements. (As with lots of international things, remember science = all research disciplines). The most obvious area of interest for arts and humanities researchers is in the highlighted area of ‘urban transformations’ but we anticipate those working on conflict also have the potential to make a case.

Projects are funded for up to £50K on the UK side with expected match funding from the Brazilian researchers (this will be funded by the Brazilian funding agencies) and are for 12 months duration. Deadline for applications is 17th October 2014.

Information on this funding opportunity (and all future calls) is available on the RCUK website . The Newton fund has £375 Million of funding over 5 years and involves the following countries – China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Egypt and Kazakhstan. Further information on activities under Newton Fund can be found on the BIS website.

Leave a comment

Research Grant Funding Opportunity with Brazil

In this post Sam Lambshead, the AHRC Portfolio Manager responsible for Research Grants, profiles the existing AHRC opportunity to apply for research grant funding with researchers from the Sao Paulo region of Brazil.

“I am pleased to say that on 26 September 2012, RCUK renewed the Memorandum of Understanding with the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo or more simply, FAPESP).  RCUK signed the original agreement back in 2009,  and AHRC have had research grant funding available since 2010.

Under the agreement, international teams headed by at least one Brazilian (São Paulo Based) and one UK researcher can apply for up to £2m of funding for collaborative research projects, with £1m of funding coming each from AHRC & FAPESP for the UK and Brazilian components of the project respectively.  This is a responsive mode scheme and operates to open deadlines.

FAPESP was founded in 1962 and is a publically funded foundation, providing research grants and funding for education within the state of São Paulo, Brazil and applications to the AHRC/FAPESP scheme can fall anywhere within AHRC remit. While the remit of FAPESP is not limited to any particular subject areas, it is only able to fund researchers within the São Paulo Area.

There has been a very limited response from the AHRC community to this scheme with only two applications received to date, one being unsuccessful and the other currently being processed. It’s difficult to know why this is – perhaps down to language differences, lack of awareness about the scheme or more cynically, perhaps A&H researchers need a deadline to pull an application together! However, I imagine it’s simply down to the lack of awareness and I hope the publicity provided by the renewal of this agreement changes that.

The application and peer review process is very similar to the ‘regular’ grants submitted via Je-S with the exception that we would use one review from a FAPESP nominated reviewer and any final outcome would have to be approved by our colleagues in FAPESP. More details are available on the AHRC website.”

If you are looking for something smaller scale – FAPESP has a visiting researcher programme and  remember that the AHRC Research Networking Scheme has extra funding available for International collaboration.