Mapping contested space: A walk in downtown São Paulo

Downtown São Paulo, the center of the largest city in the Americas and heart of Brazil’s industrial expansion, is a contested space. For many decades the area has come to be seen as deteriorated, with hundreds of vacant buildings as a result of many of the older enterprises relocating out of the city center. Since the 1990s, housing movements (often known as “sem-teto”–“roofless”) have been asserting their right to decent housing in central areas, while other forces aim to “regenerate” the area in the typical manner that privileges property owners and the elite rather than those that are truly in need of housing and access to the city.

This is a map I made based on a transect walk in downtown São Paulo with a professor in urban planning who was kind enough to accompany me, pointing out various types of structures that offer clues to the story of the city center. On our walk, we saw previously vacant buildings occupied by housing movements, older historic buildings from when the center was previously an elite space, newer “cultural” projects aimed to attract investment to the area, and indeed new apartment buildings with less-than-affordable rent aimed to attract the city’s newer business elite. It is difficult to tell the whole story with a limited map and photos (many occupations and developments are not included here), especially when the situation is in constant flux. In mid-September, one occupied building I had seen on the Avenida São João was raided by military police, carrying out a judicial order to vacate the building. It is clear that the future of the city center remains undecided.

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O centro de São Paulo, o centro da maior cidade das Américas e o centro da expansão industrial do Brasil, é um espaço contestado. A área foi percebida como degenerada nas últimas décadas, e movimentos de moradia (ou “sem-teto”) afirmam o direito á moradia digna na área central. Entretanto, outros poderes tentem criar um modelo de regeneração que beneficia proprietários elites e não as pessoas que mesmo precisam de acesso á moradia e á cidade.

Aqui apresento um mapa baseado num passeio no centro de São Paulo que eu fiz com um professor de planeamento urbano, que me acompanhou para que eu pudesse melhor perceber a história do centro. No passeio vimos prédios anteriormente vazios agora ocupados pelos movimentos de sem-teto, edifícios historicamente para o elite, projetos ‘culturais’ com objectivo de atrair novos investimentos na área, e prédios com apartamentos novos construídos para o elite mais recente. É importante notar que todas as ocupações e desenvolvimentos não são incluídos, e a situação está sempre a mudar. Em setembro, a Polícia Militar invadiu uma ocupação na Avenida São João para executar a reintegração de posse.

29-IMG_3702Neste clipe de áudio, o professor Comaru da Universidade Federal ABC introduz a história da moradia no centro, desde o século 19 até os movimentos sem-teto atuais:

Continue reading “Mapping contested space: A walk in downtown São Paulo”

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Introducing the DPU Photography Project

Happy to announce the launch of this project in which I took part:

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“We are a group of 30 DPU students, hailing from 19 different countries, with a passion for photography. Traveling abroad for fieldwork as part of our MSc programmes, we agreed to take photos to share experiences from our unique trips to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Peru. Before the trip we selected nine themes that served as creative lenses for participating photographers.

For us this blog became a temporary platform to experiment and explore the potential of photography.  For you we hope that the blog is conducive of real insight into people’s work and day-to-day experiences, allowing you to emotionally engage with different realities as depicted in the pictures and giving food for thought.

The final blog works as a mosaic of moments and motifs that will hopefully capture your attention.”

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Click here for the Flickr page

Click here for more background

These photos were taken on a walk from Mile End to Hackney Wick, which is the small space of land that is part of the larger borough of Hackney but also falls into the “Olympic fringe area” adjacent to the Olympic park. It is rather divided from the rest of the borough of Hackney. The area’s industrial history shows itself among the new housing developments springing up and young artist types searching for cheaper rent and blank canvases.

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A walk through Haggerston in London’s Hackney

Haggerston is a neighborhood in the London borough of Hackney, which is classified as one of the most deprived areas of the UK. It is also a rapidly changing area as property values rise in conjunction with the “regeneration” of East London, especially since the 2012 Olympic Games were hosted very nearby. This walk was a preliminary mapping exercise that is part of a university project centering on East London.

The route of my walk:

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The London boroughs are huge and so this did not necessarily cover that much ground, but there were still many observations to be made. Most of my Hackney knowledge thus far is based around Hackney Road, which bustles with the sounds of cars, buses, the occasional siren. Veering away from there, however, I was surprised by just how much of Hackney seems to consist of housing. There are a large number of council estates (Britain’s form of social housing), but these have turned increasingly into privately-owned flats in recent years. Hackney was part of London’s urban sprawl in the 19th Century, home to a growing working class that fueled the city’s industry. Hints of the area’s history and current “regeneration” are quite evident when walking around, especially as estates and buildings with boarded-up windows, along with construction sites, are commonplace.

The route of my walk was random, but afterwards I gained further information about some of the structures that I saw from this document, published by the Hackney Society: http://www.hackneysociety.org/documents/Highlights_of_Haggerston1.pdf