‘Taking Care’ of the Informal City: the transformative vision of ‘Sao Paulo Calling’

On the 27th of January 2012 in the Centro Cultural of São Paulo ‘São Paulo Calling’ was inaugurated. It is an exhibition on urban informality promoted by Sehab -the Secreteria de Habitação of the Municipality of São Paulo- and curated by the architect Stefano Boeri.

The exhibition is part of a wider project, lasting six months from January to June 2012, that involves many international actors and intellectuals, to inaugurate a new season in dealing with informality.  The vision of the project is to overcome the duality between indifference or eradication, towards the idea of ‘taking care’ of informal settlements as a necessary, productive, lively part of contemporary global cities.

The intention of the exhibition is to create a platform for an international overview on ‘best practices’ dealing with informal settlements, drawn from the experiences of differentiated actors -from architectural practices to NGOs, from institutions to activist groups. The first round of Jornadas de Habitação involved six cities -Rome, Mumbai, Nairobi, Medellin, Moscow and Baghdad- which were paired with six of the favelas in São Paulo –São Francisco, Paraisopolis, Heliopolis, Cantinho du Ceu, Bamburral and the city center- and aims to be extended to more cities in the future.

First Jornada de Habitação: São Francisco / Rome

On the 28th and the 29th of January the first Jornada de Habitação was set in the favela of São Francisco and was created in the previous two weeks by the collaboration between the local community and the team of Laboratorio Arti Civiche from Rome. The aim of the collaboration was to create a connection between the experience of Metropoliz, the former Fiorucci factory in Rome occupied by the political movement BPM –Blocchi Precari Metropolitani (Metropolitan Precarious Blocks)- to create an alternative to the absence of public policies on social housing, and the community of São Francisco in São Paulo, both characterized by a very strong political organization of their local residents. The work of the LAC team was organized around the idea of giving voice to the struggles of the community in spatial terms: it is through the transformation of space that the aspirations of the inhabitants of São Francisco will be articulated and publicly presented to the international audience on the day of the Jornada.

The process of the spatial articulation of struggles became quite complex as the relationship with the community leaders of São Francisco was gaining depth and intensity. The elaboration of multiple proposals reflected the complexities of the relationship between the actors and revealed the lines of tension between local representatives and the public administration. The final elaboration was opted as the maximum result possible with the greatest involvement of the community at a minimum economic cost.

An animated discussion between the LAC team and the community leaders indicated a very clear claim for public health, among other issues, as the most important matter that affected the community.

This is how the idea of a public walk for health on the day of the presentation was formulated. The spatial device to spread the message would be for all the participants to wear a shirt with a red heart symbolizing health. The LAC team therefore organized a workshop involving the community, particularly women and children, to creatively paint 250 shirts with red hearts to be distributed to the people participating to the Jornada.

For the community the device was particularly successful to publicize at a large scale their struggle for health. From an institutional point of view, the claim for a hospital structure was implicitly declaring the effectiveness of the program of urbanization and public housing implemented by the Sehab. The house is not anymore the most urgent need, the (former) favela is now ready to become an active part of the city: it is claiming urban services.

The walk crossed the different parts that compose the territory of São Francisco, from the occupations to the Promorar[1], from the Mutirao[2] to the new predios[3] and became the occasion to create attention among the population around the claim for health in a creative, ludic manner.


[1] Promorar is a type of public housing intervention implemented by Cohab (Companhia de Habitação) in São Francisco in 1978.

[2] Mutirao is a type of public intervention involving a scheme of housing units planned by professionals and self-constructed by the inhabitants. In São Francisco it was implemented in 1980.

[3] Predios are the current housing typologies that are being built since 2006 by Sehab  to provide a secure shelter to the shanties built in risk area.

It ended in an area that the population had pointed out as a possible lot where to build the hospital. In that place ‘The First Cure’ a rite of traditional medicine took place, everybody stood in a circle and drank a homemade herbal remedy in coconut shells prepared by local inhabitants together with LAC. The ritual symbolized the first cure and stood as a site of hope for future transformation.

Despite its great scale and ambitiousness, one of the most important values that are being brought forward by this twenty year program of favela upgrading, is its great investment at the human scale: the key are the people. Sehab chose to invest, with success so far, on the one hand on the young generations of professionals -architects, urban planners, sociologists and so on- on the other on a very direct and transparent relationship with the population. The doors of the local centers of Sehab in the favelas are always open to people and this has started to create more cohesion among the residents and more unity in their struggles.

Most probably not everything is perfect, still many aspects can be improved, among which the quality of the spatial design. However, certainly this new approach in dealing with informality is setting a new vision and constitutes an important precedent on how to build strong and effective public policies to transform, spatially, economically and socially, favelas in an active part of contemporary global cities.

It is very likely that this new approach is just now beginning and that it will hopefully involve in the debate other cities of the world where the phenomena of informal settlements is questioning the future development of cities and the very role of urban planning and public institutions.

Azzurra.

POZIONE

“Lo spazio deve essere identificabile inizialmente con l’emozione e quindi simbolicamente qualcosa che rimanga nel ricordo, che nasce gia dal ricordo. Ecco perche’ e’ importante coinvolgere gli abitanti scavando nel passato rurale e magico della loro terra.
Da qui l’idea di creare la cura naturale: un fuoco e un calderone miscelano la pozione che con pazienza le donne hanno composto sapientemente, cogliendo erbe nei loro giardini e nelle campagne di Sao Francisco.
L’atto di creare un cerchio e di bere l’infusione da una noce di cocco, porta a termine la volonta’ fisica di iniziare un cammino come quello appena percorso: fatica e sudore che all’arrivo verranno placate come difficolta’ da superare per arrivare ad una effettiva costruzione in armonia con il parco. Discorsi importanti accompagnano l’evento…”

SAUDE!

Prima Jornada de Habitação “São Paulo Calling” -28 gennaio 2012-

São Francisco

“SAUDE!”

Performance d’apertura dell’istallazione.

Da Metropoliz a São Francisco. Una maschera che rappresenta una doppia identità: riconferma di quella gia esistente.

L’istallazione del laboratorio arti civiche, iniziera’ un percorso che portera’  alla scoperta dell’opera finale, coinvolgendo gli abitanti di São Francisco in questa performance. Il grido di libertà e di appartenenza sarà rimarcato da queste maschere che  nascono dal teatro di strada nel momento culminante della festa: il carnevale e che tutti possono “indossare”.

La maschera è un simbolo importante: “la parola che significa maschera serve anche, per determinati rapporti, ad indicare ciò che l’uomo è di fronte agli altri uomini.

La maschera è un oggetto culturale primordiale ed essenziale che svolge un fondamentale ruolo di mediazione tra persona e ruolo, tra esperienze intime e rappresentazione pubblica, tra identità individuale e identità collettiva. L’uomo con la maschera crea la partecipazione, e la sua sola realtà è quella maschera per l’altro uomo.”

Partendo da una esigenza d’affermazione collettiva, il percorso si trasforma attraverso un intimo carnevale espresso  nel volto, fino alla conquista di uno spazio legittimo d’espressione.

I sogni son desideri… che a Sao Paulo sono diventati realta’ e che continuano a crescere   sempre piu’ forti, ogni giorno, nella  citta’ ,nelle favelas.

E’ strano chiamare favela Sao Francisco. E’ una mistura (nei miei ricordi, nel mio inconscio) di quartieri che riconosco come la garbatella, il quadraro, centocelle, tor bella monaca…

Dove la grandezza naturale e’ quella dell’essere umano. Piu’ arrivi al centro della citta’ piu’ tutto si fa immenso e irraggiungibile. Dispersivo e caotico.

Certo e’ che per arrivare a questo obbiettivo importante per la riqualificazione e il miglioramento dello stile di vita sono passati anni, lotte e cervelli in continua attivita’ ed espansione.

Il cammino parte dalla cruda favela: “le case” costruite durante un’ unica notte disperata, vengono abbattute e bruciate. Cumuli di macerie di materiali infiniti e indecifrati riposano, come dopo una lunga lotta, su un letto di morbida terra glitterata.

Dalla cenere, come sempre succede, sta nascendo nuova vita. Quello che e’ stato raso al suolo  dara’ spazio alla realta’ felice dell’abitare. Davvero.

La verita’ e’ tutta intorno alle colonne di fumo che  si mescolano al cielo grigio carico di pioggia: basta voltarsi per vedere chiaramente le nuove costruzioni, il quartiere in espansione, panni stesi, odore di soffritti e aquiloni: tutto al loro posto.

Una donna nel deserto di “lixo” piange la sua unica ancora di salvezza che sta per perdere. Il giorno dopo la trovo vestita di rosso dentro gli uffici della comunita’: “le hanno assegnato una casa”, spiega qualcuno.

Ma quanti meravigliosi contrasti ci offre ogni paese! Voglio che questo succeda anche a Roma o a L’Aquila o in Sicilia, potrei parlare di tutta l’Italia.

L’allegria costante e il fervore con cui si discute durante la giornata, parla chiaro dei 17,000 abitanti di Sao Francisco. Aprono porte, case, stanze, strade, voci, cucine, ricordi, famiglie. Inizialmente si entra con un senso d’invasione, a spalle strette, poi si comprende il senso di appartenenza ad una terra, un bisogno collettivo: lo spazio per l’uomo che loro vogliono condividere, la vittoria di vivere e crescere.

Cosa fare? Sempre migliorare.

Noi vogliamo essere la voce di Sao Francisco.

Affrontiamo le tematiche sociali: vince il primo premio, l’abitare.

Approfondiamo le tematiche sociali: l’attenzione va alla salute e all’educazione.

Come in una partita di calcio i tifosi saltano dalle sedie gridando quando conquistiamo il punto! La salute avra’   voce  nello spazio abitato, il giorno piu’ importante in Sao Paulo Calling.

Ora non ci resta che l’atto pratico della progettualita’ che sigillera’   l’unione tra noi diventati voce, Sao Francisco e la crescita inarrestabile del bene comune espressa con il cuore.

Laura.

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Meeting with Community Leaders


Yesterday was a very special day! We met with the leader of São Francisco to share their story and their struggles and pull out some issues that are important to them.

The discussion was organised by subjects in relation to its relevance  to the main question investigated: the strength of the community and the transformation of space.

We asked the community to seek their own issues that are central to their collective strengthening and how this translates into spatial transformations.

The discussion was organised in a circle. At the center of the circle two papers with the central questions: Strength of the Community and Spatial Transformation. From there strings were tied each one to a topic.The lines represent temporary lines, and collect the most relevant events starting from the past through the present and coming to the desires and current struggles for the future.

I proposed two issues to start the discussion: Infrastructure and Urbanisation (they corrected Urbanisation with Social Housing), and added: Education, Health, Sport, Environment Preservation. For each topic one leader presents stories in the history of São Francisco.

Especially older leaders told us how it all started with the migrations in the 70s-80s, especially from the northeast of the country, which generated social work for housing. Because of the lack of Employment, begun ad occurred quite occupation of land and a strong social struggle for the house. The occupants begin to ask the public to build social houses and provide education, infrastructure, transport, health. But most of all houses and infrastructure.This occurred in all that time in São Paulo, but in São Francisco the level of organisation of the population was a bit stronger than in other barrios of the city.

From there it started a history of struggles around the house and services, as opposed to public power, which was quite hard and that only from the end of the 90s started to change its course. In 1997 there was a law, 362/97, that obliged  public power to contemplate the voice of the people in the urban transformations, so to negotiate with the leaders, especially if houses are removed, and to guarantee an alternative arrangement. Anyway it was not until 2000, when the Participatory Ozamento was inaugurated, that struggles took more force, and there was much more union among the population when relating to public power. They demanded the regularisation of housing and the continuity of projects.

Leaders at this point made me realize with great conviction that this management of public administration is the first one facing the social housing collaboratively with the population, the only one ,  they told me, that is always open for our needs. And this’ public investment  ‘also contributed’ to give more awareness and more organisation to the people, beginning a virtuous cycle finally in the management of the complex issue of the social housing, especially in São Paulo, where the numbers and variety of conditions of the necessary attendances are quite relevant.

The discussion was articulated in many detailes and colours, and finally to what now for them remains a battle front. In the different subjects several open questions were raised: more schools, more parks, a recycling center, improvements in transportation between city and suburbs, the actualisation of the  secretary of the sport, (incredibly enough, the line of Social Housing remained empty, and in my opinion this is the highest recognition by the community to the management of the present Secretary of Social Housing). But everyone’s opinion is unanimous that the current most important and most urgent struggle is the need for a hospital around São Francisco.

In the coming days we will be articulating the question in terms of space, so that the voice of the community gains more strength and clarity through us.

Reunião com Lideranca

Ayer fue un dia especial! Nos encontramos con la lideranza de São Francisco para compartir su historia y sus luchas y sacar algunos temas que para ellos son muy importantes.

Entonces la discussion fue organizada por temas en relacion a su relavancia por la question principal que investigamos: la fuerza de la comunidad y  la transformacion del espacio.

Preguntamos a la comunidad de buscar ellos mismos temas que sean centrales por acrecer su fuerza colectiva y como esto se traduzca en transformaciones espaciales.

La discussion fue organizada en circulo. Al centro del circulo dos papeles con las questiones centrales: Fuerza de la Comunidad y Transformacion Espacial. De alli unos hilos hacia fuera cada uno dedicado a un tema. Los hilos representan lineas temporales, y colectan los acontecimientos mas relevantes partendo del pasado, pasando por el presente y  llegando a los deseos y las luchas actuales por el futuro.

Yo propuse dos temas para empezar la discusion: la Infraestructura y la Urbanização (ellos corrigieron Urbanização con Habitação), y añadieron: Educação, Saude, Sport, Preservação Ambiental. Por cada un tema sacaron cuentos de la historia de São Francisco.

Sobretodo los lideres mayores nos contaron como todo empiezo’ por la imigracion en los años 70-80, especialmente por la parte nortestina del pais, la cual genero’ un trabajo social por las viviendas. A causa de la falta de emprego, empiezo’ ad ocurrir bastante ocupacion de suelo y una fuerte lucha social por la casa. Los ocupantes empiezaron a pedir al poder publico de construir casas sociales y proveer a la educacion, las infraestructuras, el transporte, la salud. Pero sobre todo casa y infraestructura. Esto ocurrio’ en toda São Paulo en esa epoca, solo en São Francisco la poblacion era un poco mas estruturada que en los demas bairros de la ciudad.

De alli empiezo’ una historia de luchas por la casa y los servicios, frente al poder publico, que fue bastante dura y solo desde final del los años 90 empiezo’ a cambiar su curso. En 1997 hubo una ley, la 362/97 que obligava el poder publico a contemplar la voz de los habitantes en las transformaciones urbanas, entonces a negociar con las lideranzas, sobre todo en caso de remoccion de la vivienda, y garantir una sistemacion alternativa. De todas formas fue a partir del año 2000, cuando se inauguro’ el Ozamento Participativo, que las luchas tomaron mas fuerza, y hubo mucha mas union entre la poblacion frente al poder publico. Ellos pedian la regularizacion de la vivienda y la continuidad de los projectos.

Los lideres a este punto me hicieron entender con mucha convincion que esta gestion de la aministracion publica es la unica que esta enfrentando la question de la vivienda social de forma colaborativa con  la poblacion, la unica, me dicieron, que siempre tiene puertas abiertas para nuestras necesidades. Y este ‘investimento publico’ tambien contribuio’ a dar mas consciencia y mas organizacion a los habitantes, empiezando asi finalmente un ciclo virtuoso en la gestion de la complexa question de la vivienda social, especialmente en São Paulo, donde los numeros de atendimientos necesarios son bastante relevantes.

La discusion se fue articulando en muchos detailles y colores, hasta llegar finalmente a lo que ahora para ellos sigue siendo un frente de lucha. En los diferentes temas sacaron questiones abiertas: necesitan mas escuelas, mas parques, un centro de reciclaje, mejoras en el transporte entre ciudad y periferia, la actuacion de la secretaria del sport, (incrediblemente la linea de la Habitação se quedo’ vacia, y esto me parece el mayor reconocimiento por parte de la counidad a la gestion de la Secretaria de Habitação!). Pero la opinion de todos a la unanimidad es que la lucha actual mas importante y mas urgente es por el hospital por todo São Francisco.

En los proximos dias iremos articulando la question en terminos espaciales, para que la voz de la comunidad gane mas fuerza y claridad atravez de nostotros.

Acabamos el trabalho de la exposicao

The first week has been extremely intense! We have been working day and night to finish all the materials for the exposition.

On thursday we went to the favela of Sao Francisco, where we will be setting the workshop for the next two weeks starting tomorrow, monday.

We stayed up all night working the night before so we slept the whole way there in the car! It seems a miracle to me that I was able to articulate thoughts with the community!