Updated on May 13, 2014
Visions of city, sea and sky are majestically framed by the many bare windows of Ruins Park (Centro Cultural Parque das Ruínas) in Rio de Janeiro. Unique among the city's many vantage points, this Park of Ruins atop a hill in the Santa Teresa district, next to Museu da Chácara do Céu, used to be an opulent residence built by homeopathy trailblazer and politician Joaquim Murtinho (1848-1911) and inherited by his niece, Laurinda Santos Lobo, who shone as the hostess of one of the most coveted salons, or social gatherings, of her time.
Looted and abandoned about 15 years after the death of the heiress, the property was acquired by the Rio de Janeiro Culture Secretariat and turned into a cultural center in 1997. The ruins received a modernist intervention designed by architect Ernani Freire, with structures in iron and glass which don't damage the remaining walls and allow visitors to explore the former mansion's three floors safely.
The park is one of 10 cultural centers administered by the city of Rio de Janeiro, which include Castelinho do Flamengo, Circo Voador and Centro Cultural Municipal Laurinda Santos Lobo (which is also in Santa Teresa). Though named after the former owner of the Parque das Ruínas property, the latter was never her home.
An auditorium, a gallery, and an outdoor stage with two dressing rooms; nicely kept gardens; events, some held outdoors, and a café which is the perfect spot for a cup of coffee or a lush breakfast are some of the attractions at the cultural center. There's greater allure to be found there, both visible - the 360-degree panorama of Rio de Janeiro from the mirante, or lookout point - and invisible: the stories of the people who once lived and partied within these stripped brick walls, quiet reminders of impermanence.
Next page: Stories of Parque das Ruínas