When Brazilian hotelier Gustavo Filgueiras, CEO of São Paulo’s luxurious Emiliano hotel, and his family-owned company secured the opportunity to build on one of the last vacant lots along Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana, they knew the property came with a responsibility to uphold the illustrious design pedigree of the beachfront (or orla in colloquial Portuguese). Artist and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx’s celebrated Promenade (1970)—a UNESCO World Heritage site and pride of the city—stretches along the shore at its seaside entrance. Designed by São Paulo architect Arthur Casas and the U.S.-based Chad Oppenheim, the Filgueiras’s second Emiliano hotel gives the Avenida Atlântica a stylish 21st-century flourish while simultaneously paying tribute to the neighborhood’s mid-20th-century heyday.
Walking along the Burle Marx masterpiece, one is immediately drawn to the Emiliano’s striking facade: a honeycombed resin screen inspired by the cobogó, a perforated, ceramic tile typical of many modernist Brazilian buildings of the 20th century. This dynamic elevation is made of white retractable panels that can be opened wide to reveal guest room balconies or closed for privacy, without denying occupants a sea breeze or stunning view.
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The effect distinguishes the building from the neighboring 1950s structures while sparking a dialogue with the black-and-white curvilinear pattern of Marx’s stone paving. Indeed, the Emiliano appears to be a more harmonious addition to the area than the Diller Scofidio + Renfro Museum of Image and Sound under construction a few blocks up the beach, whose more aggressive interpretation of the famous promenade seems more difficult for locals to warm up to.
For the interiors, Casas sought to marry Rio’s notorious devotion to informality with the young hotel group’s growing reputation for sophistication. “I wanted something lighter, sunnier, more sensual,” he explains. “A Carioca atmosphere that employs more organic elements, where the traveler arrives and feels immediately that they are in a Brazilian hotel.” Here, too, Burle Marx sets the tone. An abstract panel by the artist—with swirls of green, yellow, and beige—provides a vibrant backdrop to the reception desk.
The experience is welcoming and social. Upon entering, one is drawn into the hotel’s public bar, its unpolished Italian travertine surfaces recalling the white sands of the beach outside. To the right, the inviting restaurant features two dining areas: an anteroom lined with sculpted floor-to-ceiling freijo-wood panels and a rear skylit “garden” room, wrapped by a double-height living wall that recreates the tropical experience of Rio’s lushly forested mountains. Adjacent to the restaurant and opposite the hotel entrance, a staircase provides direct access to a second-floor business center and function rooms.
Beyond the bar, the reception desk leads to a private guest lounge. Similar to the restaurant, this intimate area comprises a front room with distinctive backlit three-dimensional wooden panels that impart a soft, muted ambience fitting for this inner sanctuary’s location, away from the beachfront bustle. It also opens to a skylit indoor terrace lined with a living wall.
A unifying element throughout these spaces and the hotel’s 90 bedrooms is the imaginative choice of furniture. Modernist masterpieces by Rio native Sérgio Rodrigues and his Brazil-based Italian contemporary Lina Bo Bardi infuse the hotel with the spirit of the city’s golden years that Filgueiras and his family were eager to evoke. These are complemented by contemporary pieces by Italian designer Paola Lenti and by Casas himself.
The guest rooms are infused with rustic beige tones and textured fabric paneling, which provide an organic sensuality. Rearfacing rooms each have a fixed external canvas sun blind that allows for plenty of daylight and fresh air but shields guests from neighboring buildings around this tight urban site.
The views, as always, are at their most spectacular at the top. Here you will find the spa—clad in unpolished black granite, a refuge from the equatorial heat outside—and, one flight up, a rooftop bar and L-shaped pool. Designed to comply with codes that prohibit casting a shadow on the beach, the pool has a vertigo-defying glass wall that aligns with the hotel’s roofline. From this vantage point, guests can swim or float and drink in a panorama that sweeps from Sugarloaf Mountain right along the bay to the historic Copacabana Fort.
“The spectacle here is the orla itself,” says Casas modestly. But with this beautifully executed project, expect to find many strollers along the promenade stopping to take in Copacabana’s newest marvel.
Studio Arthur Casas — Arthur Casas, principal;
Oppenheim Architecture — Chad Oppenheim, principal
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Team at Studio Arthur Casas: Cristiane Trolesi, Nara Telles, Felipe Bueno, Adriana Yin, Nara Rosetto, Victoria Chaves, Renata Adoni, Raul Cano, Lucas Takaoka and Adriana Andugar
AS Brasil (structural);
AQ Projetos (m/e)
Renata Tilli (landscape)
Casa do Futuro