Innovation That Matters

Imaging of Rocinha, Brazil's largest favela | Photo source Senseable City Lab

MIT team maps Brazil's largest favela using handheld 3D-scanners

Computing & Tech

The favela, located in Rio de Janeiro, will be used as a case study to more broadly understand how technology affects the development of urban settlements around the globe


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Spotted: Researchers at MIT’s digital laboratory Senseable City Lab have used 3D-scanning technology to examine the architecture of Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela.

Favelas are low-income urban settlements in Brazil that have experienced historical governmental neglect. These areas have complex structures that are built by their occupants over time.

Called Favelas 4D, the project uses point cloud data from handheld LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scans in order to study the form of Rocinha. The project was led by Senseable City Lab director and architect Carlo Ratti and completed in collaboration with Rio’s City Planning Commissioner Washington Fajardo.

While many homes in Rocinha currently have access to basic sanitation, plumbing and electricity, Ratti highlighted the importance of mapping officially uncharted urban areas. “Still, most of them remain unmapped, sometimes for decades. Being off the map means these populations do not have access to basic services,” said Ratti.

MIT Senseable City Lab investigates how digital technologies are shaping the built environment. After Fajardo captured the data in Rocinha, Ratti and Duarte worked with their team to use the data to analyse the favela itself and compare it to similar settlements worldwide. Favelas 4D intends to capture previously unseen data in order to access the current condition of a place and offer insight into how a settlement might look in the future.

Written By: Katrina Lane

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