Thursday, December 17, 2009

Online Petition against the Construction of New Highway-Lanes along the Tietê River

We are in 2009 and it seems that São Paulo's local authorities are still in the 1960's, 1970's...
The functionalist view of that time, which celebrated vehicular individual circulation as one of the priorities of urban planning, has unfortunately turned into more than a "bad habit" of São Paulo's State Government: it is a mania, a compulsion, a blindly followed obsession. With this "strategy" the State Governor José Serra expects to gather votes for the next presidential elections...

In May this year the newspapers announced: new highway-lanes will be built along São Paulo‘s Tietê River. Last month two lanes were opened to the traffic. The other lanes shall be opened until March next year.


It is no big news, that this kind of mono-functional infrastructure stresses the already grave social and spatial disconnectivity of São Paulo city. The river remains a marginalized space, isolated by huge infrastructure lines, daily erased from the citizens conviviality and only remembered, during flood events or hot days, when the water has an unpleasant smell. The cars that are already transiting in the freshly inaugurated road lanes are those of a smaller part of the population. The most important question remains unanswered: what about public transport?

The online petition written by Professors of the Faculty of Arcuitecture and Urbanism (University of São Paulo) against the absurd construction of these lanes, is worth to be read. The letter is in Raquel Rolnik's website (in Portuguese).

According to the petition, the cost of all major road works undertaken in recent 15 years in the city, which primordially benefits high-income groups, would have been enough to finance the construction of the entire subway line "Linha Amarela".

That is more than embarassing... I still don't get it: how long will the city's governors insist to help transforming São Paulo in hell?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

São Paulo and the Tietê River

Here another try to call the attention to the city's main river.
To see the video, just click here.

Trailler do piloto do programa Brazil Secrets
Apresentação: Bill Hinchberger
Produção: Rodrigo Gontijo
Fotografia: Crys Nascimento

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Activate Public Awareness

Last year the artist Eduardo Srur tried to call the attention to the alarming situation of São Paulo's water pollution and the negation of the river as part of the public realm.

Image source: Pra ver e Pensar

From Srur's website:
"PETS, 2008 - Urban Intervention consisting of 20 monumental inflatables in the form of colored pet bottles along the margins of the Tietê River between the Limão and Casa Verde bridges in the city of São Paulo. A special lighting system activates the giant sculptures visually during the night. The work will be seen by more than 1.500.000 people daily. During the exhibition, 8000 school children from state schools will have access through monitored visits by boat on the river. The public will also be able to make the boat trip. Once the exhibition has closed, all the material used to produce the inflatables will be transferred into backpacks and donated. The work, 'PETS' is an integral part of the 'Nearly Liquid Exhibition', with Cauê Alves as curator ad Itaú Cultural responsible for organization and production."

To see a video about the Project (in portuguese) click here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The measure of man

Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, received the Philadelphia Liberty Medal at Independence Hall on July 4, 1994. Here's an excerpt of his remarks.

"We may know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did, and yet it increasingly seems they knew something more essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.The same thing is true of the nature of ourselves. The more thoroughly all of our organs and their functions, their internal structure and the biochemical reactions that take place within them, are described, the more we seem to fail to grasp the spirit, the purpose, and meaning of the system that they create together and that we experience as our unique self."

Drawing by Benjamin Eiband.

The importance of good places

When you degrade the public realm, you automatically degrade the human being.

We don't need places that tell us, "YOU ARE NOT LOVED".

We need places that are meaninful, that have quality and character, that help us remember who we are.

- - -

It's an emotional experience listening to James Howard Kunstler's view about public spaces and the need to transform them in a physical manifestation of common good.
I highly recommend it:

Summer Altstadtfest, Freising, 2008

Pinheiros riverbanks with its multi-lane highway, São Paulo, 2007

Here are some quotes from Kunstler's speech. (The world's financial crisis was not that bad, as he gave this speech. But it is getting worse each day. His comments apply not just for americans, but obviously for all of us.)

"We gotta a lot of work to do."

"We are sleep-walking into the future. We are not ready for what's coming at us."

"So I urge you all, to do what you can."

"Be prepared to be good neighbours."

"Be prepared to find vocations."

"Please, stop referring to yourselves as consumers."

"Consumers are different than citizens."

"And as long as you are using that word 'consumer' in the public discussion, you will be degrading the quality of the discussion we are having and we're gonna continue being clueless going into this very difficult future, that we face."

Monday, January 19, 2009

For a more human city

Today I read in a document from CERTU (Centre d'Etudes sur les Réseaux, les Transports, l'Urbanisme et les constructions publiques) the following sentence:

"Public spaces design has for a long time been restricted to a primarily functional approach: travel and parking have been given preferential treatment to the detriment of local life and the urban environment."

To plan cities starting from a automobilistic logic sounds quite illogical to me. Such planning position - unfortunately still blindly followed in São Paulo until these days - close all the doors to a more human city, in which the man is the protagonist, and not the machine.

It is a great irony to look at the city and see that the car is the king, and not the human being. The "nurturing" city is where I feel free to meet people, to move, to get inspiration from the experiences I live and unfold my creativity.

- - -

Hundertwasser said: "Architecture should elevate the man, not humiliate, oppress and enslave him. Architecture should offer something to human beings. We must feel secure and at home in there. Architecture must have the potential to be like a third skin.'

I bet he was referring to the public realm as well.