Today, partially bolstered by an uptick in media coverage and tourism over the past decade, Fordlandia is home to some 3,000 residents. Studio Swine first heard about the city in 2013, while living in São Paulo and working on another project. The story immediately caught their attention, Groves said. “It held a great fascination for us because we love crossovers. The automobile industry and suburban American houses in the remote reaches of the Amazon rainforest was the ultimate odd couple.”
Known for projects that require intensive research, Studio Swine traveled to the western part of the Amazon to stay with rubber tappers in the forest, then ventured to Fordlandia itself. They even visited the last ebonite factories in the world, located in Japan and Germany. “We also rooted through the archives of the Ford Museum in Detroit and read books on rubber—a material that we hadn’t thought about before this project but now is something of an obsession,” Groves said.
It was an obsession for Ford, as well, who by the end of his life had pumped $20 million into the development of Fordlandia. When the Ford Motor Company finally abandoned the land, they sold it to the Brazilian government for $244,200. An utter failure in its time, perhaps—but it’s found a second life now, through Studio Swine.