Smart Informal Territories lab

Client: City of São Paulo Year: 2009-2013
Project: Smart Informal Territories Lab Heliópolis (SITlab) works with the Prefeitura de Cidade de São Paulo, the local community and various ‘NGO’s’ on upgrading projects for the Favela Heliópolis where an estimated 190.000 people live without formally having an address. Inclusive planning instruments are essential for the upgrade of living standards and to solve underlying causes. The legalization of housing could help inhabitants to break out of a socio-economic spiral that is largely caused by having no legal address and by the extreme high costs of living in an ‘illegal city’. With SITlab Heliópolis the Universidade Presbiteriana MacKenzie São Paulo, Parsons the New School for Design and the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam work on plans and co-creative planning tools for the Favela that could be applied in other similar conditions in Brazil.

Creative spaces for safety

In the summer of 2007 the ‘Coalition Project 1012’ started. This collaborative project initiated by the municipality, intends to reduce crime and to contribute to the economic upgrading of the postcode area 1012, the Red Light District in Amsterdam. 1012 is located in the heart of historic Amsterdam and is a major attraction for visitors from home and abroad. In order to maintain and improve this condition the Red Light District should be diversified. One of the applied strategies is a street-oriented one. Quite some red light windows and coffeeshops will dissappear after negotiation with the owners. To upgrade the street, ‘streetteams’ will be established who together with the inhabitants and entrepreneurs will make a vision for the street or a cluster of streets. Together with parties who already have position in the area a strategy to buy property has been set up. This property gets another function. Successful is to attract the creative industry. This sector feels at home within urban and ‘rawer’ conditions and are not scared off by the dubious industry which is just around the corner. The 1012 project already added several interesting creative spaces to the Red Light District like Ultra de La Rue Creative Space on the picture below. In the Rua General Jardim in São Paulo a similar strategy upgraded a  prostitution street with the addition of a school for architecture, the Escola de Cidade and the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil. This resulted in a weird mix of functions and people on the street, but above all it established a safer and more attractive street in downtown São Paulo.

Do It Together; Mutirão

Heliopolis is a favela within the city of São Paulo. Estimated is that within this favela 190.000 inhabitants live without having a legal address. In the seventies people invaded land and build this city themselves. Nowadays a share of the inhabitants rise into middle class. Part of the inhabitants still live in very poor conditions. Although the structures along the streets are actually quit good, the inside of the building blocks conceal a different quality, often with scarce space and daylight in a moist environment. Now that the city of São Paulo aims at the upgrade of favelas in the city the idea of mutirão becomes an alternative for the outplacing and verticalization of inhabitants.

“Rio established Operação mutirão which for the first time deemed resident participation necessary in community upgrades and relied on their own labor. The government provided engineering assistance and materials left over from other construction sites. Similarly, in 1968 governor Negrão de Lima gathered a group of architects, economists, and planners to form a program that offered design support and long term, low-interest loans on construction materials to residents: the Companhia de Desenvolvimento de Comunidades (Community Development Company, or CODESCO). CODESCO had residents vote on where within the community new streets would run and made sure to keep families together when moving people from one part of the neighborhood to another”. (rioonwatch.org)

“In Portuguese, the word “mutirão” is used to describe “a meeting place, an opportunity to work together toward a common goal” (Harrison, Huchzemeyer & Mayekiso, 2004). “Mutirão, a word from Tupi Guarani, an indigenous language of Brazil, translates as a group of people who work together to create something that benefits all,” (Habitat for Humanity, 2010). In an urban context, it often means neighbors getting together to construct part or all of their homes together, people helping to build each others’ houses instead of doing it on their own, particularly during portions of building which require a great deal of work during a short period which one family, alone, cannot deliver. This kind of mutirão has been commonly used in past decades by international development agencies and governmental programmes for construction projects. It is also the basis for international volunteer programs like Habitat for Humanity.  It was a way to save money on the one hand, and give people the chance to be a part of such projects, on the other.” (rioonwatch.org)