[Updated January 17 with a response from Bjarke Ingels]
Bjarke Ingels was in Brazil on Tuesday, January 14, for a meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro, according to multiple sources (complete with photos).
The summit, which reportedly took place at the Palácio do Planalto in Brasília, came at the behest of the Minister of Tourism Marcelo Álvaro Antônio, who invited the Be-Nômade (Be-Nomad) group—responsible for an eco-conscious hotel in Tulum, Mexico—and Ingels to tour several states. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the Be-Nomad group is looking into investing in sustainable tourism projects in Brazil, and the delegation visited Ceará, Piauí, and Maranhão before their meeting with the president.
The group landed on Friday, January 10 and:
“During the four days in the country, investors had meetings with Minister Marcelo Álvaro and other representatives of the federal government, such as the Ministries of Economy and Environment, as well as the Civil House of the Presidency, BNDES and Banco do Brasil. The agenda revolved around Brazil’s tourism potential, where the group is considering developing projects that will help boost the travel industry.”
However, encouraging sustainable growth is seemingly at odds with the approach Bolsonaro has taken in the past. The President has drastically scaled back environmental protections and enforcement, drastically sped up the deforestation of the Amazon, doesn’t believe in climate change, and has expressed support for developing nature preserves. In fact, environmental groups and American Museum of Natural History employees successfully shut out a gala honoring Bolsonaro at the museum last April over exactly those concerns.
That’s before even mentioning his homophobic comments, or the decision to strip protections from indigenous Brazilians in favor of agribusinesses.
“The last months have shown with jarring clarity that the social challenges of Northeast Brazil are beginning to translate into ecological challenges,” wrote Ingels in response to an inquiry from AN. “We have travelled Brazil’s Northeast region with our collaborators from Nomade Group and met with local governors and mayors, as well as the relevant ministries of Economy, Culture and Tourism and finally the president’s office to gauge the possibility of devising a holistic masterplan for the Northeastern coastal states of Brazil to create ecologically and economically sustainable development. We return incredibly encouraged with the awareness and readiness we have encountered at all levels of government across the entire political spectrum as well as across state borders and city limits to collaborate towards creating a regional masterplan for socially and environmentally sustainable communities.”