16 September 2013

The Vacant Lot's Not Vacant Anymore

Ours is the last house on a narrow, hilly street. To one side of us stands the house that recently became famous (or infamous) in the neighborhood and in this blog (see my April 22, 2013 blogpost, and its update on May 13th). Things have quieted down considerably on that side. They now leave us in peace, so I will do the same with them and say no more here. On the other side of our house was a vacant lot or, more specifically, a forest, teeming with life. Over the years large families of kingfishers and doves flew to and from their nests every day. Occasionally horses could be seen grazing, and possums would slink by, intent on their prey. There were also plenty of large termite nests and snakes (nothing’s perfect). Every day we would look over at the forest — "our forest" as we had come to think of it — and see something new and interesting. Eleven glorious years of peace, privacy and greenery.

We knew it might end one day, and so it has. The vacant lot had an owner, Octávio Raja Gabaglia, an architect, a former city councilman, and the man singlehandedly responsible for the distinct, low-rise profile Búzios enjoys to this day. While serving in the city council back in the ’70s, Octávio, or Otavinho as he’s called, introduced a law that prohibited construction above two stories, with the second story occupying only 50% of the area of the first story. The result? There are absolutely no highrises in Búzios, period. City governments have come and city governments have gone, but this law remains untouched and unchallenged (except by scofflaws, but that’s another story). Without this law Búzios would look — well, just like any other beach resort around the world.

It would look like Miami,

like Punta del Este,

like Cancún,

like Marbella,

like Rio de Janeiro,

or even like Cabo Frio, a mere half hour by car from Búzios.

Got the idea? Instead, Búzios looks like this —

But back to our lot, where Otavinho is eager finally to build the house he projected many years ago. In a spirit of good neighborliness he has made several visits to our house, blueprints in hand, both to enlist our cooperation and calm our worst fears. We’re not going to enjoy the year of construction that’s ahead of us, the noise and the dirt and all, but we will find it fascinating to watch a house — particularly an Otavinho-designed house — go up before our very eyes.

It used to look like this from the beach —                      


But now it looks like this —

Where horses once grazed and roamed free —

We now have machines —

And where I used to gaze at the ever-changing scene —

This is what we see now —

. . . to be continued.

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