Miles Kozatch

Miles Kozatch

New York, NY, US


Favela Recycling Center


Rise of the Favela

In Brazil, Rio’s favelas are growing at nine times the rate of the formal urban fabric. The absence of infrastructure on the fringes of the city has led these thriving micro-urban centers to create their own building vernacular. The built fabric of Rocinha, the most populated favela in Brazil, appears to undulate, multiply and spill into the deep valley between two mountains.

The goal of this project was to provide immediate infrastructural support on a site prone to landslides along the main road through the favela. The aluminum recycling center is built into the face of the cliff, stabilizing the land and creating a public green space. The material research institute provides roof-top public space and elevator access to the Laboriaux neighborhood.


Rocinha has an estimated population of 235,000 people living in an area of just 1.5 sq. kilometers. The favela sprawls over the Southeastern area of Rio de Janeiro where the ridge of the two mountains that tower over the city forms dangerously steep slopes. The recycling center, like other publicly funded projects, is located along the main road, Estrada da Gávea. The first and only reliable transportation and sanitation route, the street is known as the backbone of the favela’s informal infrastructure. This site is a void in the favela fabric caused by a steep ridge that left crumbling structures along the road after a fatal landslide. It is currently used as an informal dumping site for two neighborhoods. The center is a sustainable model for small-scale aluminum processing capable of generating income and providing architectural components in a closed-loop system.

The Favela Vernacular

Rocinha uses an informal system of recycling aluminum that rests on the backs of over one thousand catadores, who separate the material by hand from dumping sites along the slum’s main road. Dozens of independent truck drivers then transport the recyclable waste to massive processing facilities located far outside the city. 

The Rocinha Recycling Center is designed to harness the informal aluminum collection system the catadores who live in the favela have created, and produce valuable raw materials for the favela’s profit. In an effort to democratize architectural knowledge, the Recycling Institute is equipped to process small quantities of recycled aluminum to produce construction materials such as honeycomb panels, and other architectural components. The building hovers above and is buried below the favela, stabilizing the surrounding hillside, and allowing the natural expansion of the favela’s architectural vernacular.

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Status: School Project
Location: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
My Role: MArch Thesis
Additional Credits: Project: Miles Kozatch
Thesis Advisor: Cordula Roser-Gray AIA
Favela Guide: Zezinho Carlan Gracie
Special Thanks To: Jody King (CEO, Favela Pheonix), Fabio Ghivelder (Director, Vik Muniz Studio), Raul Correa-Smith (Studio X Rio De Janeiro - Columbia GSAPP), Raull Santiago (Coletivo Papo Reto), Alto Vidigal, Rocinha DJ School, Mulher Maracujá, and the residents of Rocinha