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...