Laje dos Pescadores, Rio de Janeiro’s Scenic Balcony

Laje dos Pescadores, Rio de Janeiro

photography by: Omri Westmark

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On first glance, the derelict concrete platform along Rio de Janeiro’s Avenida Niemeyer might look like a hazardous eyesore, left in tatters for decades. While to some extent, this is absolutely true, there is far more than meets the eye. Popularly known as the Fishermen’s Slab for being a magnet for local anglers, this piece of decrepitude was also the scene of one of Brazil’s most heinous crimes which shocked the country during the 1970’s.

More often than not, the 4.76-kilometer-long Avenida Niemeyer is seen as a mere throughfare that connects Leblon and Ipanema with Rio de Janeiro’s westernmost parts. Sandwiched between an almost vertical cliff and the Atlantic Ocean, this narrow road is surprisingly replete with several interesting places to explore.

 

Tucked away roughly midway between Leblon’s Lookout and São Conrado Beach, Laje dos Pescadores is a rectangular concrete platform, perching atop the area’s steep coast. As its name implies (“The Fishermen’s Slab” in Portuguese), the place is frequented by gobs of piscators who cast their fishing rods into the nearby waters.

 

Built during the second half of the 20th century as a scenic lookout, this slab was originally crowned by a concrete hat which earned it its former moniker, Chapéu dos Pescadores (“The Fishermen’s Hat). At its heyday, the place was teeming with fishermen and visitors alike, most of whom came from the adjacent favela of Vidigal.

 

Despite its growing popularity among locals, the brutalist monument’s days of glory were short lived. Before long, it succumbed to the occasionally inclement weather and lost its concrete roof. The bare structure fell into a state of disrepair shortly after, stranded in a perpetual limbo between a renowned past and an uncertain future.

 

As it turns out, in contrary to the place’s seemingly peaceful vibes, it was the scene of one of the country’s most gruesome murder cases. On July 1977, a 21 years old girl by the name of Cláudia Lessin Rodrigues went missing after attending a rowdy party in an affluent part of Rio. Few hours later, her disfigured body was found tied to a suitcase right next to where Laje dos Pescadores currently stands. Less than two days after her death, the police already managed to solve the mystery when it discovered that Rodrigues was brutally killed by Michel Frank, a Swiss-Brazilian millionaire and his BFF, Georges Khour, probably after resisting a rape attempt. Whereas Khour was caught and served jail time, Frank fled to Switzerland where he was shot dead a decade later without ever facing justice. In 1979, the story of Cláudia’s murder was made into a film entitled O Caso Cláudia, where the horrifying events of that night were recreated on screen.

 

The grisly crime which traumatized the whole nation is now contrasted by the sweeping views of Rio’s marvelous coastline. To reach the site, visitors must first climb over a sewer and then cautiously descend across the rugged terrain. As the platform has neither guardrails nor a parapet, walking along the edges is at your own risk.