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IN REFERENCE TO FAVELA CHIC :: PARAISOPOLIS

POST FROM ELISABETE FRANÇA (Director of SEHAB, Sao Paulo)

“Masters is a part of the formation of a professional who assumes a search on a particular issue. In the case of the blog we are talking about a master’s degree on “Favela Chic”…

A master’s degree student in architecture and urbanism sometimes choose to go the way of criticism, pure and simple. All that is proposed and implemented is the object of criticism. They are common in Brazil universities.

Other option is seeking for practical solutions that aim to solve the problems found in our cities. It is difficult to try someone interested in practical issues, especially in poor areas.
Either options require knowledge of the subject, further research and verification of information. Without it, we will not have a master but a text of opinion, born of ideological positions, without theoretical or practical references.

Knowing the object of research does not mean sympathize with the ideas of a teacher from a local university. It means reading all the literature on the subject produced from the time that this object was to be studied. In Brazil, slums studies involve reading classics such as Carlos Nelson dos Santos, Licia Valladares, Lilian Vaz and, of course, Sergio Magalhaes.

When you write in your blog about Paraisopolis experience that “Recently, the local government has taken Paraisopolis as a marketing strategy for international eyes”… …”In addition, the case of Paraisopolis was presented in the Rotterdam Biennale and will, apparently be one of the sites for the next Biennale, dealing with “Experimental Sites”, you are writing your opinion that not correspond to the reality. Because if you are a research it is necessary to prove why you take this conclusion about the participation of Paraisopolis projects in the Rotterdan Biennale and the intervention is “the marketing strategy for international eyes”.

Search the Brazilian reality is a good theme of masters, but write without reality testing may result in a text that seeks the sympathy of the easy means of dissemination rather than the appropriate academic contribution to the theme of urban slum”.

REPLY

Dear Miss França,

Thank you for your comments and for taking the time to read the blog. I want to take this opportunity to respond to some of the issues and concerns you raise.

The objective of the blog is to illustrate my travels and observations, as well as describe a general overview of projects and strategies taking place with regards to the “urbanization of informal settlements” (from the design and planning perspective) in different parts of the world. The blog is a public forum, giving an opportunity to engage with local professionals, like yourself, in order to learn more about each project. That said, I welcome comments and discussion that will further knowledge and understanding on the subject.

As an architect and an academic, I believe questioning and analyzing projects is part of our responsibility in order to build and develop the practice. As such, I want to stress that my comments are not meant to attack the project- on the contrary, “marketing” can be very important to this type of project- but are remarks and questions on the representational emphasis that is being placed on the favela, thus aiming to understand, explain, and further the discussion.

To elaborate on the latter, and respond to the specific points that you raise:

I- My comment that “Paraisópolis seems to be a marketing strategy for the Prefeitura” is based on the following points:

  1. From what I was able to observe when visiting Sao Paulo, a large percentage of the attention is currently being placed in Paraisópolis, as well as in Heliópolis. True that these are the two largest favelas in the city, but they are also the two favelas that are centrally located, within the formal fabric (as opposed to the majority of the favelas located in the peripheries of the city).
  2. With respect to the Biennale in Rotterdam, I want to reaffirm that the work in Paraisópolis was discussed in the previous Biennale, and based on conversations with sources in Sao Paulo, I know that the favela is one of the sites being considered for the future Biennale on “Experimental Sites”.
  3. As the majority of the architects working in Paraisópolis are internationally recognized architects and universities, it is undeniable that this will result in greater media attraction and international recognition for the project. To illustrate my point further, I attended the UN Habitat Urban Forum this past week in Rio de Janeiro. One of the sessions in which I participated, hosted by the GSD, focused a third of the presentation on a description of Paraisópolis and the projects being projected and constructed in the favela.
  4. In addition, Paraisópolis’ plan (which I am once again attaching below), reflects that the majority of the projects are locate adjacent to the new viaduct joining Morumbi and the stadium. By locating these projects parallel to the viaduct, they will automatically construct a new façade for Paraisópolis. Additionally, in a favela that is so large (such as this one, holding close to 100 000 inhabitants) having most of the projects located in one peripheral area, automatically produces an inequality in the settlement, not only with respect to the distances, but also with respect to the market and economy (even if it remains informal).

II- As a second point, you bring up some of the Brazilian literature focused on informality and informal settlements. I am familiar with the literature that you mention (“Cidade como jogo de cartas”, “Quando a rua e a casa” by Carlos Nelson de Santos; “L’esperienza di Rio de Janeiro: Favela-Bairro”, “Favela- Bairro, uma outra história da cidade do Rio de Janeiro” by Sergio Magalhaes; ”A invensao da Favela” by Licia Valladares, etc.), as well as some of your own work. I agree that it is essential to know, acknowledge, and reference this valuable body of literature, as well as the existing repertoire of previous projects for they can teach us many lessons and give us a basis for action instead of constantly trying to reinvent the wheel…

I hope that this clarified some of my interpretations. I want to thank you once again for your comment, as well as your hospitality while I was in Sao Paulo. I look forward to your hearing back from you and welcome your insight.

Best regards,

Adriana Navarro

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