12 June 2009

Life on the bus

Everywhere you go different systems for organizing public transport is utilized. Here in São Paulo the buses are divided in two. You enter by the driver and walk to the middle of the bus where a person charges your ticket. You pay with cash R$ 2.40 (about US$ 1) or with your precharged electronic "bilhete unico". If you use the "bilhete unico" you can take up to four buses within three hours without being charged additionally. If you are a student you have the "bilhete unico estudante" which gives you 50% off. After paying you are allowed to the back section of the bus where, if you are lucky, there's a free seat for you. The front section is for people that for different reasons don't have to pay; including, amongst others; elderly, police officers, employees of the public transport system and their families.

The buses are often very crowded and if you don't have a place to sit you are left standing. You will, as elsewhere, offer your seat to elders, pregnant women and such. Also, ofcourse, to beautiful girls if you're a young man full of hormones or an elder man who also likes beautiful young women. There's a lot of sympathy for the beautiful young women in Brazil and men of all ages help them never getting exhausted.

Often seen, which struck me as sympathetic and different, is the habit of seated persons carrying on their laps the loads of standing persons. This gives a relief to the standing person, and also offers him/her a better balance, the buses not being a stable invironment having to break and go, do fast turns (yes, I think it must be a law for the bus drivers to really push the limits on speed at all times), and also when exposed to the innumerable speed bumps, which seams to be Brazilians solution to all trafic problems. It is not uncommon to have speed bumps every 100 meters, even in areas which are mostly for transit.

The charger is seated in the middle of the bus. Here he controls who goes on and off, and that no one gets on at the exit door (which would leave this person not paying). He also controls and gives a sign to the driver when everyone that intended has left the bus and the driver might close the door and take off again.

The charger is the one that has most contact with the public. On the photo above helping a woman to get off at the right stop.

Confrontation and paralysis

The strike immobilizes the faculty, there might not be final presentations of students projects, as planned for next week. This means that notes will be given only in August. The photo below is from the central plaza at campus where students have hung a "Get out MPs!"-flag on the clock.

A video filmed by one of the students under the confrontation with the MPs. From
http://dceocupado.blogspot.com/, a student blog that follows this process. Interesting to check out for more photos and videos.

10 June 2009

Whispers of yesterday

Photos from: http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/folha/educacao/ult305u578870.shtml

During the dictatorship in Brazil, the university was moved from the centre of town to a new campus enclosing all the faculties. The objective was to isolate the students and the "problems" they bring, such as manifestations.

5th of May functionaries of the University of São Paulo (USP) went on strike, because it is the only way they get a rise. University council would like to rise their salaries every 5 years, however the functionaries demand a rise every 2 years. So every two years they go on strike. This time the leader of the syndicate was suspended during the negotiations, and so manifestations started. The functionaries include bus drivers of the "Circular" (circular bus service on campus), employees at the "Bandechão" (cafeteria where you can eat for only R$2 (less than 1 dollar) etc.

The way I have understood it the functionaries started blocking the enterence of the respective buildings in protest. The government then inserted the military police to remove them. Students started protesting against the aparance of the MPs and yesterday, during a protest where the students were blocking one of the main access points into campus, there was a confrontation with the MPs. The MPs through smoke bombs at the students and pointed arms. Since the end of the dictatorship this is the first time the MPs have entered university grounds. Consequently all the students at my own faculty is now on strike as a protest.

Photos from: http://veja.abril.com.br/noticia/brasil/policiais-militares-entram-confronto-estudantes-usp-476304.shtml

26 May 2009

The public space is a private space

Here in São Paulo the municipality is not responsible one for the condition of the sidewalks, every house or building, private or public, is in charge of the sidewalk next to its own terrain. They are the ones contructing it, choosing materials and shaping it and the responsible ones for cleaning it and keeping it in shape. This results in strange pedestrian routes ever changing in colour and materials. The sidewalks of this one street in my neighbourhood, Rua Azevedo Carlos, has been formed by the inhabitants to such a degree that I normally walk on the road itself because one must pay a lot of attention when walking on the sidewalk that suddenly turns into stairs and slopes.

Sidewalk adapted for entering the garages.

Stairs and slopes.

This part of the sidewalk needs reform.

I like this little house on the photo above, also found in Rua A. Carlos. It is nearly invicible behind a small forest of palm trees. The fence of the house is low and shows age, different from most houses in the city which are protected by high iron fences or concrete walls. I like the old red car that is parked in the front patio.

23 May 2009

A favela

According to wikipedia a favela is:

A favela is fundamentally different from a slum or tenement, primarily in terms of its origin and location. While slum quarters in other Latin American countries generally form when poorer residents from the countryside come to larger cities in search of work, and while this also occurs to some extent with favelas, the latter are unique in that they were chiefly created as large populations became displaced. Many favelas now have electricity, which 20 years ago was un-heard of. Favelas differ from ghettos such as those in the US in that they are racially mixed, even though blacks make up the majority of the population - that is, in Brazil it is chiefly economic forces, rather than ethnic or cultural issues, that drive people there.

Shanty towns are units of irregular self-constructed housing that are typically unlicensed and occupied illegally. They are usually on lands belonging to third parties, and are most often located on the urban periphery. Shanty town residences are built randomly, although ad hoc networks of stairways, sidewalks, and simple tracks allow passage through them. Most favelas are inaccessible by vehicle, due to their narrow and irregular streets and walkways and often steep inclines.

These areas of irregular and poor-quality housing are often crowded onto hillsides, and as a result, these areas suffer from frequent landslides during heavy rain. In recent decades, favelas have been troubled by drug-related crime and gang warfare. There are often common social codes in some favelas which forbid residents from engaging in criminal activity inside their own favela.


In short favelas are illegal settlements, often by "nortestinos" (people from the North of Brazil) that come to the city hoping for a new and better life. I visited one of the favelas in the outskirts of São Paulo with some friends from my faculty that are doing a project there. The first photo is from a central square where some of the more engaged settlers imagine "encontros femeninos", or activities more directed to smaller children and women, as the favela already has a brilliant football field for the men and accordingly a bar for the men to drink beer and watch a match.

House upon house cover the hills and valleys of the favelas, finally appearing like one mosaic mega structure. This is the great number.

Many favelas have piracy electricity. Weather this is the case in this favelas I cannot tell, the wiring is certainly interesting as it leads a life of it self like a drunken spider webbing unconsciously.
Television is a very important part of a Brazilians life, and I'm told an inhabitant of a favela will buy a set before buying a cooler for the food of the family. All the windows of the houses were opened and allowed the sounds of soap operas, popular music and religious programs fill the streets. Most Paulistanos are unfamiliar to the value of silence, for me somewhat hard to accept at times. In this case it made me relax, having heard favelas are very dangerous. Only the foreigners in our group had dared to bring cameras. The Brazilian middle and upper class have a lot of preconceptions and are dramatic and overreact as often as possible.

A bar gathers people on the square when the sun is setting and everyone gets back from work. People in the favelas often have to travel with public transport for hours back and fourth every day, since their jobs are often in the centre of town. The favelas themselves have little commerce and offer few job opportunities.

This favela is lucky to have a group of activists that constantly lobby at the municipality to get projects financed. I find it quite amazing that the municipality has financed a football field at a illegal settlement. São Paulo has many empty buildings in the centre of town that could offer housing for the people that are forced to occupy other-mans-land, but these buildings are on private hands, and the state have nowhere else to house the favelaers if it were to reclaim the land.

The main square with the little bar at the end and the flood lights from the football field behind it.

São Paulo 360 - as seen from Predio Italia

Predio Italia is one of the buildings in town with a top deck (and a very expensive restaurant) where the city can be viewed from the top. Let me take you on a little tour. The day I went there was a Sunday with a quite clear sky (São Paulo standard) - what you see is the ever present fog created by it's 20 million inhabitants. Check out the little pool on the foot of that sylindric skyskraper. Many buildings have in town have pools on the roofs for it's inhabitants.
The wave-shaped apartment building occupying most of the photo above is Oscar Niemeyer's Copan building. It is the largest concrete stucture in town. I've been told Oscar Niemeyer is the architect in the world to have produced most buildings. São Paulo is certainly full of them.

On the two photos above is Praça da Republica, one of the central squares. Every Sunday, as on every other free lot in town, there's a marked. On this particular marked you can find artesanals as well as a corner for food, mainly maritime. Other markeds have fresh vegetables, antiques etc.
City, city, city...

16 April 2009

The sudden sun

The golden hour at sunset and sunrise lasts for just a short whisper this near equator. In no time the sun fully penetrates the gloomy night sky every morning, revealing the clouds and paints golden contours on them before she fills them up completely with bright light and demonstrates their translucency.

At this time of year she rises before six in the morning and keeps it going for more than 12 hours before she suddenly disappears again from the horizon, leaving the unprepared in despair. On my way to Ilha Grande for Easter I was told to bring a flash light for this specific reason, not getting trapped on any of the unlid trails between the bearly inhabited beaches.

The picture above is from Angra dos Reis around 6 in the morning, where I was waiting for the boat to Ilha Grande.

29 March 2009

A home with a garden

This family with dogs occupy a patch of grass between two of the busiest roads in the centre of Sao Paulo. They've set up some kind of shelter at the far end. I think of the old fortresses with moats around them for protection, in the same way this family has found it's sound island in an ocean of sharks. The dogs are the guardians if anyone should trespass all the same.

However bizzare, this is not a uncommon living situation in Sao Paulo. I've observed more permanent settlements in similar situations, some that has even planted small crops of corn on these 'gaps between'.

17 March 2009

A school of architecture will always be a school of architecture

Approaching Faculdade de Arquitetura e urbanismo (FAU) I found a peacefully placed block of concrete in the midst of trees. It reminded me of my own home school of architecture in Norway, Bergen School of Architecture (BAS), which is also a big block of concrete, however vertical. The mild climate allows a fully open structure into the interior, and only auditoriums have walls and doors, not to keep warm or cool, but for acoustic reasons.

The first days of school was nothing but carnival performed by the fresh students. Samba drums were played, body paint distributed and sleeping in the halls after singing and dancing.

FAU has four floors connected by wide ramps where students circulate. On the bottom level is a large auditorium and some offices, and the ceiling is penetrated by bright daylight. The middle of FAU is a large space filled with the immensity of just air.

The main floor is used for multiple purposes that require space, like an exhibition. Just now there's an exhibition of Brazilian projects that has received recognition from FAU.

First year students cleared the exhibition for a couple of days during their nude studies. A cultural difference from Norway, where nude studies would be performed in a closed space in respect of the models. There generally seams to be much less sexual taboos in Brazil than most places I have been.

Overlooking the main floor comes the library, the diner, print shops, offices and computer labs. On top are the five open studios and finally a corridor of the many smaller auditoriums.

The rough interior of FAU allows for messages to be written with chalk on the walls concerning changes of location and such.

12 March 2009

Inland ships

Raging mega structures, residential giants, are found all over São Paulo. The demand for housing in this ever increasing city is never ending. However many of them are totally abandoned, whilst more than 2 million people in San Paulo have nowhere fixed to live. The ecomonic difference between rich and poor is so big it's impossible for someone on the lower level of the ladder to afford decent housing. There exists organizations that storm such buildings to squat there, because 'if you don't have an address you are nobody.'

The picture above shows one of these clusters 10 minutes from my house near the centre of town.

This second picture is a newer stucture in the calm area of Villa Madalena, the alternative area of town. It used to be populated by artists and Paulistanos like describing it as the citys 'Soho'. Now it is however a popular place for upper class citizens and students from this respective social class.

11 March 2009

What's this?

San Paulo is full of concrete structures which simply leaves me quite puzzled. These ghosts stand out like remains of giant beasts, ignorant of winds and rains. The functions of these massive scelletons are often not apparent, and many times I cannot tell wether they are in any kind of use.

I'm very fascinated by them. My mind wanders to another world where living beings occupy only spaces like these. What kind of lives would they lead? Architecture has the ability to change us and is always a mirror of life.

09 March 2009

The big cities

Big cities have a certain smell. Absence from them makes me forget. But then, on the first morning in the big city, standing on the balcony before breakfast, there it is again. It's a mix of smog and people and construction, air and humidity. I'm reminded of New York and Bangkok and New Delhi, and with them a world of memories of past experiences. And I miss a magic jar to collect the smells of the big city.

This first picture is from the balcony of the apartment of a friend where I stayed the first week. San Paulo extends to infinity in all directions. It has 11 million people in the centre of town, and San Paulo metropolitan area is third largest in the world with more than 20 million people.