Emiliano Rio de JaneiroMatt Dougherty • Photography by Fernando Guerra • May 1, 2018
Of all the beach metropolises in the world, none seem to be as visually iconic as the Copacabana district of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. To preserve its views, the local government prevents buildings near the shore from exceeding a certain height, something Brazilian architect Arthur Casas kept top of mind when designing the 12-floor, 90-key Emiliano Rio de Janeiro alongside Oppenheim Architecture (the Miami firm developed the plans for the project before Studio Arthur Casas took over during construction). Drawing on Rio’s surroundings, including the sea and mountains, the latest Emiliano location contrasts the brand’s sister city outpost in São Paulo, also the handiwork of Casas, which opened in his hometown nearly two decades ago.
With this lush backdrop, the idea was hatched to bring nature inside while paying tribute to the region’s rich design history, most notably with the façade, which features cobogo bricks typical of 1950s and ’60s Brazilian architecture laid over the entire front of the building. The weatherproof panels can open guestrooms to beachfront views or be left closed to maintain privacy. “I wanted to create another reference point to Atlântica Avenue,” the seafront promenade of the beach, Casas explains, “something that could dialogue with the Carioca architecture and the peculiar and exuberant nature of the city.”
In the lobby, terrazzo floors, modern Brazilian furniture, and walls covered in travertine marble and Brazilian freijo wood greet guests upon arrival. The driving force behind the warm, yet modern design scheme, however, is a graphic mural done in shades of green at reception gifted to the hotel by Emiliano’s late owner Carlos Alberto Filgueiras. Painted on fabric by revered Brazilian artist and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx—who is known for his celebrated pavement designs of the Copacabana Beach promenade—Casas “loved the [piece], and from it, I selected the colors we used in all the environments,” he points out. The ground floor is also home to Emiliano restaurant, where an expansive vertical green wall wraps a seating alcove, replicating the local Atlantic Forest. For more natural touches, the bar counter is a tree trunk cut in half that sits “free from the wall and is supported by an iron structure embedded in the masonry,” he says, while a light molding speaks to the shape of the mountains inland from the beach and informed by Marx.
In other spaces, the living room is reserved for quiet moments or small meetings. “It is the only area that has generous height,” he notes, with LED lighting peeking through wooden curved square plates that cover the walls. Beyond, overlapping plywood boards, coated with a freijo wood sheet, create a dynamic, amorphous elevator bank wall inspired by Brazilian artists and designers.
To top it off, an infinity pool crowns the rooftop, revealing Copacabana vistas; one floor down, guests will find the Santapele Spa, saunas, and a fitness center overlooking the sea. Guestrooms speak to the hotel’s Brazilian modernist décor, with green tones that pull from both Marx’s panel and the natural beauty of the nearby Guanabara Bay, crafting a unified story that mixes midcentury with contemporary designs from all over the world, which is all part of Casas’ design philosophy. “I appreciate the blend of periods,” he says.