Intro Post by Kirsten Larson
“Cada casa bonita. É romantica.” (Each house is beautiful. It’s romantic.) Video narration from a five-year-old as we wander the narrow streets of Bamburral.
The train ride from São Paulo’s Centro to the north periferia is like a flipbook of the urban environment, as modernist high-rises give way to raw brick buildings that scale the hillsides. It’s only when the train stops and I get out that the details are filled in – as kids leap down uneven staircases snapping photos while Pelé (father and forty-year resident) explains the neighborhood’s gradual transition from plywood shacks to brick homes.
I have had the privilege of being one of the leaders of the Coletiveo de Arte do Bamburral since Febuary 2010. The aim of the Coletivo is to register and act upon one of the most intense parts of the urban environment through drawing, photography, video, installation, and intervention led by young residents. By cultivating an understanding of place we make room for architects to co-create spaces and landscapes that are truly connected to social infrastructures.
I moved to São Paulo in 2010 eager to study how collective processes, particularly those in art and design, were shaping public space, and after visiting JAMAC, an art collective led by Monica Nador in the Jardim Miriam favela, was excited to see how these projects played out in other peripheral neighborhoods. (Note: the linked video is in Portuguese but for those who do not speak Portuguese it is still worth a look as you can see much of her work.)
I am lucky that I came to São Paulo with time, what was supposed to be a nine-month trip has stretched to almost two years (Brazil has a way of getting under your skin). I am also incredibly lucky that I came to São Paulo without a ridged research schedule; I have spent a lot of time wandering, visiting projects, listening and observing. My days spent working with the Coletivo have, by far, been the most insightful parts of my experience. It may be a drawing, photograph or simple comment – but the young residents of Bamburral never cease to amaze me. They give glimpses into a reality both incredibly vibrant and incredibly difficult at the same time. They give glimpses into types of community interdependence that do not function in high-rise apartments of the “formal” city. They give texture and depth to a particular situation, wholly unique in itself, yet somehow representative of a myriad of situations in Brazil.
It is these small insights and observations that I will be sharing over the coming months along with snippets from readings, interactions and discoveries that have influenced my work with the Coletivo and ever changing thoughts about architecture, art, activism, education and our collective urban condition.
For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other. – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.