Life on the Amazon Waters
Documentary explores the unique architecture of the riverine communities in Brazil
Life on the Amazon Waters: Documentary explores the unique architecture of the riverine communities in Brazil
View trailer: Architect Danielle Khoury Gregorio has released a 30-minute documentary “Life on the Amazon Waters” to develop a deeper understanding of local construction processes and issues related to sustainability and housing, after receiving a USD 75,000 Research in Practice Grant (RPG) from the Holcim Foundation.
Last updated: August 01, 2023 Manaus, Brazil
“Sensitive to the climate and coherent with the Amazonian culture”
Danielle Khoury Gregorio won a Holcim Awards Next Generation prize for her proposal Buoyant Housing in Brazil that was inspired by indigenous vernacular architecture to empower riverside communities. From this concept, the RPG research has emerged to support the development of a more sustainable and culturally integrated social housing project for low-income riverside communities in the City of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas State in Brazil.
The Holcim Awards jury for Latin America noted the approach was a superior alternative to the prevalent social housing provisions offered in Brazil, which too often ignore social and cultural specificities of local communities. The jury applauded the quality of the project, “sensitive to the climate and coherent with the Amazonian culture”.
A final publication documenting the findings of the research is scheduled for completion before the end of 2023.
Life on the Amazon Waters
Buoyant Housing in Brazil
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Life on the Amazon Waters
Supported by Research in Practice Grant from the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, “Life on the Amazon Waters” was filmed in August 2022, in the floating community of Catalão (Iranduba) and in the stilt communities of Xiborena (Iranduba) and Careiro da Várzea.
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Life on the Amazon Waters
Architect Danielle Khoury Gregorio has released a 30-minute documentary “Life on the Amazon Waters” to develop a deeper understanding of local construction processes and issues related to sustainability and housing, after receiving a USD 75,000 Research in Practice Grant (RPG) from the Holcim Foundation.
Illustrating the value of stilt houses and floating homes of the region
Life on the Amazon Waters is a documentary that explores the unique architecture of the riverine communities in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Directed by architect Danielle Khoury Gregorio and featuring footage by photographer and video maker Marcio Isensee e Sá, the 30-minute film portrays the stilt houses and floating homes of the region, traditional constructions that present simple and ingenious solutions used by local peoples to produce housing in close dialogue with the climate and periodically flooded landscape of the Amazon River plains.
We hope that our film will inspire people to look beyond the conventional views of architecture and challenge our society’s current approaches to building and living. Danielle Khoury Gregorio
These collective construction techniques, informally transmitted orally and empirically refined over generations, represent an effective response to local functional, social, and environmental needs, being the fundamental expression of the communities’ identity and their relationships with the territory.
The production of the documentary aims to value and defend the cultural expressions of traditional peoples living in the floodplain areas of the Amazon Basin, which are essential to Brazil’s culture. Even today, stilt and floating homes are extremely marginalized, losing more and more space in Amazonian cities. Riverside houses are often discriminated against and assimilated with precariousness, poverty, and obsolescence. The hegemonic models of building and living make invisible these traditional ways of life, replacing vernacular constructions with a globalized architecture that denies popular knowledge and imposes a homogeneous model to be replicated with neither respect nor adequacy for local conditions.
Wisdom from experience and local understanding
The documentary has as its main characters residents, community leaders, and local builders, who tell their story and the story of their homes. Their accounts challenge the misconception that the construction of stilt and floating homes is haphazard or irrational. On the contrary, these dwellings are expressions of a material culture that follows precise knowledge and techniques, an essential condition for adapting to the demands of life on the waters. Besides being preserved, these constructions should also teach architects to build spaces in greater harmony with local conditions, as they present specific strategies developed in the need for adaptation to the complex and challenging environment of the Amazon River basin floodplain areas. These strategies enable the production of buildings better integrated into the territory and with a lower environmental impact, generating alternatives to urban solutions, often made with superfluous and generic values.
Supported by Research in Practice Grant from the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, Life on the Amazon Waters was filmed in August 2022, in the floating community of Catalão (Iranduba) and in the stilt communities of Xiborena (Iranduba) and Careiro da Várzea. Besides showing the poetry, strength, and unique character of riverside constructions, the film presents the riverine man and his relationship with the rivers and spaces where he lives, showing how environmental dynamics guide the socio-spatial organization of the communities. The film is a tribute to riverside culture and architecture, and an invitation to reflect on the possibilities of a more sustainable and territorially integrated architecture.
As the Director of Life on the Amazon Waters, my passion is to capture the essence of the unique constructions of riverine peoples in the Brazilian Amazon. The documentary delves into the traditional architecture of these communities, built in harmony with the surrounding environment, which make them perfect for the conditions of life on the waters. They embody a rich history and an invaluable cultural heritage that needs to be preserved and valued.
Our goal is to create a feeling of awe for the Amazon riverside buildings in our viewers, hoping to change the negative stereotypes surrounding this autochthonous architecture. We want to showcase the functionality and sustainability of the vernacular constructions, inspiring people to respect and learn from them. We hope that, through this documentary, audiences will gain a deeper appreciation of the traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations, seeing the potential of this knowledge to build a more sustainable and harmonious world. I want to convey this sense of connection and integration with the territory, which is often absent in urban environments. We hope that our film will inspire people to look beyond the conventional views of architecture and challenge our society’s current approaches to building and living.
Life on the Amazon Watersd
“We hope that, through this documentary, audiences will gain a deeper appreciation of the traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations, seeing the potential of this knowledge to build a more sustainable and harmonious world.” - Danielle Khoury Gregorio
The documentary is filmed in a style that prioritizes an intimate and personal connection with the communities. Local residents are the primary storytellers, sharing their experiences, history, and culture. This allows the inhabitants to tell their own stories in their own words. Through their narratives, we will discover the profound meaning of the house and the relationship of these people with the spaces they live in.
We also use stunning visual images and sounds to transport the audience to the heart of the Amazonian floodplain, creating a sensory experience that immerses viewers in the local culture and environment. We want the audience to become consumed in the beauty and simplicity of these communities.
Life on the Amazon Waters is not just a documentary about traditional homes, but a celebration of a way of life that is unique to the Amazon River plains. It is a film that seeks to document the beauty, creativity, and resilience of the Amazonian riverside communities’ traditional culture.
To discuss opportunities to screen the film, please contact the architect and film director, Danielle Khoury Gregorio (email@example.com) or Instagram.
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Country of origin: Brazil
Original language: Portuguese
Subtitles: English & Portuguese
Director & research: Danielle Khoury Gregorio
Co-director & photography: Marcio Isensee e Sá
Script & production: Duda Menegassi
Field production: Raquel Khoury Gregorio
Sound: Taiara Guedes
Editing: Rodrigo Savastano
Sound design & mixing: Mais 55 Audio (Fabrizio Ferri, Lowis Bianco, Lucas Muniz)
Color: Samanta do Amaral
Motion design: Julia Lima
Sponsor acknowledgement: Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
Raimunda Ferreira Viana (Lago do Catalão), Francisco Andrade Martins (Careiro da Várzea), Mauro Coelho de Lima (Lago do Catalão), Mauro Coelho do Nascimento (Lago do Catalão), José Mateus Silva e Souza (Paraná do Xiborena), Egídio Ramos da Silva (Careiro da Várzea), Neusa Sueli Ramos (Careiro da Várzea), Cláudio Alves Sales (Careiro da Várzea), Paulo Andrade (Paraná do Xiborena), Elson Gomes do Couto (Paraná do Xiborena).
Ana Claudia Cardoso (UFPA), Ana Kláudia Perdigão (UFPA), André Scania, Camila da Silva, Cristina Sá, Déborah S. Sales, Eva Duarte (Fundação Amazônia Sustentável), Francisco Edson da Silva, Geórgia Franco (Fundação Amazônia Sustentável), Helena Ayoub (FAUUSP), Jailson Silva, Jordana Mota, Liliam Rodrigues, Luana C Pinheiro (UFPA), Lucilene de Souza Menezes, Luisa Pastore (Holcim Foundation), Maria de Jesus de Melo, Roberta Kronka (FAUUSP), Victor Cerio, Vitor Sternlicht
This film was only possible thanks to the support of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction.
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