Due to open this year, the new Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro – the recipient of the 2016 Wallpaper* Design Award for Best Building Site – will house a vast archive of photographs, film, documents and sound recordings that tell the story of the city’s cultural, artistic and social life since it was founded in 1565.

Designed by New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the 9,800 sq m, eight-storey building (two underground), in concrete, steel and glass, is partly funded by the government and the Roberto Marinho Foundation, and it takes its cue from Brazilian artist and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx’s famous undulating wave mosaics, designed in 1971, that run along the boardwalk of Avenída Atlântica at Copacabana Beach.

‘The building is conceived as an extension of the Avenída,’ says Elizabeth Diller of DS+R. ‘The beach is Rio’s great democratic site. It unifies the city. It’s a place of socialising around natural resources, a place of spectacle. We have taken the mosaic pavement and stretched the boulevard up through the building.’

The building’s front façade features a zigzagging set of stairs, which, as visitors ascend, plays with the view, teasing with glimpses of the city. ‘The postcard view of the beach and surrounding mountains is the museum’s most potent physical holding,’ says Diller. ‘The view is precisely curated through hundreds of tubes that orient towards different locations, producing a lenticular effect. The view is turned on and off and dispensed slowly, in small doses, as one moves up the stairs, from gallery to gallery.’

The foyer will feature a digital version of Rio’s distinctive street newsstands, showing the events and exhibitions on that day, while the first floor will celebrate the city’s party spirit, including a series of galleries dedicated to Carnival. Going up through the floors, the museum will also cover Rio’s musical history, television (especially Brazil’s infamous telenovela soap operas) and the Brazilian bombshell herself, Carmen Miranda. Finally, it will open up on to a rooftop terrace, with views out to sea and down to Marx’s boardwalk. At night, the building will take on a different quality, with the rooftop playing host to a bar, restaurant and outdoor cinema, while a basement nightclub will attempt to recreate the rowdy baile parties of the favelas.

Diller is hoping the museum will reflect the city’s democratic mix. ‘Rio is a gorgeous setting ringed by favelas, producing a super-juxtaposition of haves and have-nots,’ she says. ‘I wanted to help reconcile this polarity.’

As originally featured in the February 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*203) 

See the Design Awards 2016 in full – including our extra-special Judges' Awards - here