SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL
The Public Realm
Urban Design at the Block Scale
Scales of Public Space
Master Plan Framework
Inner City Affordable Housing Models
Inner City Affordable Housing Models
A priority for migrant populations moving to cities is to find housing in proximity to employment opportunities. Access to transportation and the services that come with urban life are equally important. Generally, these criteria are prime concerns for low-income residents in urban regions. Comparatively, the house itself draws lesser concern. Scarcity, high costs, and the lack of subsidized housing programs define the challenges related to the access to housing in cities. Affordable housing development has taken place on the outer fringes of cities where land is cheap, service networks are underdeveloped, and work opportunities are scarce. There is sufficient evidence that housing in such locations, regardless of region, is a failing proposition. In such contexts, families will commonly abandon newly-built units in favor of lower-quality units in locations that are closer to job opportunities. Thus, there is a need to explore housing opportunities for low-income and migrant populations within dense city centers close to jobs and livelihoods, social networks, and urban services.
The Context In São Paulo, the strategy for building low-cost housing followed the typical peripheral pattern. “Mi Casa Mi Vida”, a national program that provided minimal, incremental housing on the outskirts of the city, was hailed by some but derided as producing too little housing of low quality that was poorly located. The social failure of these settlements can be assessed by the litany of complaints on social media describing leaking roofs, damp buildings, and poor construction. These minimal houses are particularly unaesthetic with few urban attributes. In April 2012, the State announced a new affordable housing program called Casa Paulista. This was a distinctly new approach targeting urban renewal of former manufacturing warehouse barrios within the city with the introduction of higher-density housing for lowerincome families. Six areas with good transportation access were identified in the expanded downtown for the implementation of the program. A competition was launched to find teams who could produce economically viable options for these sites. Criteria included a proportional distribution of metrics for housing standards and income levels. A relatively unknown team from the Instituto de Urbanismo e Estudos para a Metrópole (URBEM) won the competition for all of these sites. Their proposals included sophisticated modeling of economics, spatial programs, and urban design principles. Five necessary conditions were suggested by them to ensure success; primary of these was the mixing of housing for various income groups. This principle has been promoted globally to avoid creating ghettos for the poor. The first Casa Paulista project, to be constructed in 2017, contained 3,700 units only for the very poorest households. This was the financial reality of the time but in doing so they chose to forgo the primary principle for development.
URBEM kindly gave us their materials to review as we were seeking a venue for this workshop. We were attracted to the area called Brás because it was a lively retail area containing small shops and workshops with an ethnically mixed population. The buildings were quite dilapidated with many seemingly vacant properties. Access to transportation was excellent. No block was the same.
We decided to continue our demonstration of what Casa Paulista in Brás barrio could become, using the guidelines we understood. We changed the percentages of housing for the lowest-income group to 35%, a number we were advised was the maximum to attract investors. We included the slightly higher income group (HIS). The popular market housing was an attractive addition at 45%. In a few blocks, we also provided the possibility of market-rate housing with elevator lobbies at street level. A mixed-income neighborhood was a key goal.
While the promise of Casa Paulista was refreshing, combining urban renewal with the opportunity to build much needed urban housing, we had to speculate on the capacity of the public entity to fulfill this promise. Five years had lapsed since the competition was launched and only one project was finally underway. Did the financial capacity to support housing for more than the very lowest income households exist? Did the State have the power to help in the assembly of the land owned by numerous entities? Did they have the experience and sophistication to engage in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) since this was likely to be the financial model? The Zeis (Zone) 3 in which we could build affordable housing had very strict zoning guidelines. 80% of the area was to be developed as social housing; 60% for the lowest-income group (HIS1) with 20% for slightly higher income groups (HIS). There were provisions to increase the buildable area by another 20%, including the construction of popular housing on site. The floor area ratio (FAR) of 5.3 was high given the convenience of the location. We consulted with developers who saw little benefit in investing in a project with such a high percentage of low-income households. Economists were not optimistic that a mixed income neighborhood could work in the current milieu. Housing Authority spokesmen considered it too early to change aspects of the zoning that inhibited better planning ideals. There was clear evidence that the political and economic conditions were not adequate to fulfill the promise of this development concept, certainly at this time.
The area lacked any public open space, sports facilities, schools, libraries, and most urban amenities. We were committed to maintaining the lively retail atmosphere where people came from neighboring countries to buy cheap goods in bulk to sell at home. A bonus was given for continuing publically accessible ground floor uses such as retail. The unusually deep blocks, formerly covered by warehouses had become logistic centers for this commerce, parking garages, and non-light seeking uses. The truck traffic on the streets, together with very active pedestrian activity, suggested that housing was best proposed above the second level, where a new ground plane could be developed. Our report for this first planning phase of work was undertaken by faculty and graduate students from MIT working with faculty and undergraduate students from the Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Universidade de São Paulo (FAU-USP). It resulted in a report titled “Urban Framework for an Affordable Housing Community for São Paulo, Brazil”.
An extensive and thorough analysis of buildings and blocks within the study area was carried out by the FAU-USP students. This yielded an inventory of structures to be preserved. We reviewed the regulations for maximum block sizes and created several new streets. In this process, we created a pedestrian friendly “loop” with limited vehicular access to enhance the retail area. We designated streets for truck traffic linked to the logistics warehouses we saved.
Finally, we had a significant amount of open space for housing, gardens, and public space for the new residents of this portion of Brás. This formed the last design challenge for the workshop.
The whole district was isolated due to the presence of railroad lines on 2 edges. The passenger railroad line and tracks created a large vacant zone to the west. We proposed 2 significant pedestrian bridge crossings framed by a publicly significant anchor, a new central educational institute (Centro Educacional Unificado – CEU), where they intersected. Public facilities such as nursery schools, libraries, middle schools, and health care centers, were proposed for sites within the large blocks with access from side streets and open spaces. Sports facilities were designated along the railroad edges. Areas for redevelopment were architecturally tested by applying typical housing typologies for the categories of units we proposed. Walk-up units for 5 or 6 story affordable housing blocks would be typical. Elevator use was proposed for popular market housing up to 12 floors. Some market-rate housing was proposed with street level lobbies facing the railroad tracks and prominent downtown views.
The second phase tested out, in detail, the program developed during the first phase. Four adjacent blocks were designated to test urban design strategies, housing program combinations, and the required housing densities. The housing development was placed on a podium at 6 meters above grade. The podium was expressed as 3 meters deep allowing for a covered arcade at street level. The ground level contained a continuous retail edge to the streets and parking, with service and logistics within. Three blocks contained community facilities – a nursery school, a middle school, and a shopping center. Houses were provided for a mix of income groups. On the elevated deck, offices and retail uses edged the common open space. We view the potential of this raised-level neighborhood as a special opportunity given the density of use historically in Brás. Convenient, tranquil, landscaped, with flowering plants and good open space, this should be seen as a safe oasis for family life. Community management, surveillance, programming, and community participation will be needed to keep this place special and unique.
We picked 4 blocks to program uses above and below deck level to meet the zoning criteria and FARs. There were adequate revenuegenerating uses to absorb the space on 2 levels in each block. We retained several existing structures for historic reasons because they were either fully functional or important to the ecosystem of the area.
Collaborators and MIT Support
Adèle Naudé Santos Angelo Bucci Gabriel Kozlowski
Marina Grinover Luís Antônio Jorge Shundi Iwamizu
Arq.Futuro MIT-Brazil MIT Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Diana Ang Giovanni Bellotti Bumsuk Cho Anne Graziano Justin Lim Yi Liu Tyler Swingle Alexander Wiegering
Lucas de Andrade Thalissa Bechelli Mariana Caires Miguel Arturo Croce Victor Felix Beatriz Gomez Nathalia Lima Augusto Longarine Otavio Melo Rafael Migliatti
Luiz Nascimento Luiz Rampazio Luiz Sakata Ricardo Sakurai Henrique Castro E Silva Clara Troia
Industrial lot with a blind facade towards the street
Industrial, empty, narrow lots. Most of these are used as storage or garages
Narrow, picturesque, historic worker villas with doors to the street
Existing Conditions Introduction
Overall Sites Brรกs is located in Sector E
Commercial Axis Pari
Downtown BrĂĄs E10
Logistics Concentration Logisictics Concentration
City-Wide Transit Connectivity
Master Plan Framework
The master plan is a series of independent operations which may be developed in different timeframes. A new route for heavy traffic, giving access to the logistical areas in Brรกs, is proposed in order to guarantee connections to existing and future developments, as well as minimize the impact on the residential blocks. High-density development is proposed along Cavalhero road and on the expanded connection along the train station. A new public space, for leisure and culture, becomes a node in the southern part of the block, which is currently a bottleneck. New pedestrian connections over the rail are proposed to address safety concerns and open up new opportunities for residents and businesses on both sides of the tracks. On the publicly-owned land along the rail, new mixed-use development is proposed, framing the front of the new promenade. At the heart of the development, a pedestrian ring encourages slower, resident-only, vehicular circulation, and provides new opportunities for local businesses.
Existing Conditions and Preservation Areas Preserve active streets and commercial areas
A New Identity and a Public Anchor CEU
Internal Pedestrian Friendly Loop The “Loop” – Pedestrian-oriented streets
Master Plan Framework Strategies
Two Types of Development Strategies N
The workshop developed 2 types of development strategies. One focused on maximizing the social housing units while maintaining a mixed use development. The second provided an equitable balance between market housing and social housing to provide a more diverse set of income groups within the same neighborhood.
Strategy 1: Maximize Social Housing
Strategy 2: Market Housing and Social Housing
The Public Realm
Scales of Public Space
The Pedestrian Loop The pedestrian loop is at the heart of the development. Allowing slow-speed vehicular access, only to residents, for drop off, it provides a necklace of amenities accessible to Brás residents and visitors. The reduction of the width of the right-of-way allows for planting, providing a cooling effect on the area. Pockets along the blocks become hosts of specific programs for leisure, education or commerce.
Inner Block Streets A finer grain of circulation is articulated, for pedestrian use only, to navigate within the blocks at the ground floor levels. Providing pedestrian shortcuts among the large blocks, they also increase the public perimeter of the area.
The Plinths The plinths, 5 meters high, are developed on a functional 5.5 meter grid, flexible for both parking and residential use. This “neutral” base becomes the basic platform for the development, one to be articulated through individual architectural projects.
The Market Street The new development along the publicly-owned land by the rail tracks opens a wider promenade for both vehicular and pedestrian circulation. A canopy shelters a space for market and trade, giving form to the existing, vibrant commerce in Brás.
Public Space Design
The Public Realm
Simultaneous activities, speeds, and lifestyles are possible in this new composition of public areas. From the semi-private services on the plinth, to the small scale commercial activity along the pedestrian loop, to institutional spaces for leisure and culture, these spaces reconnect Brรกs to its immediate context and the city. They re-imagine the connections between neighbors and businesses.
Pedestrian Loop and Pockets
Market Street and Bridge
Pockets A 900 meter long pedestrian path forms a focus of the project. A change in the street section levels the sidewalk and the road for a slow speed, one-way route, mainly dedicated to pedestrians, while â€œpocketâ€? sized squares, commercial spaces, and public functions gravitate around it. The pockets are designed as small isles of public space, equipped for leisure and sports. Trees line the streets and stretch into these spaces, while the paving, consistent through the pedestrian strip, becomes a collage of tiles.
Plinth Programming The blocks are programmed with public space and services, responding to the increase in density.
Two Stations: Market Street + Bridge Connecting the main public functions of the neighborhood â€“ the park, the station, and the proposed cultural and recreational block â€“ the market strip becomes a linear public space, programmable according to the calendar of the neighborhood. A 390 meter long canopy provides shade to the main circulation axis used for pedestrian circulation along the market and other public, programmed spaces.
Urban Design at the Block Scale
Each block has a special ground level use. For example, a 2-level retail center, a school (possibly a middle school) with a playground in the center, an arts classroom with a library that rises above the deck to provide an afterhours community facility for the residents, a shared gymnasium, and a child care facility/nursery school with a sunken garden. On the street level, the perimeter has retail spaces on 2 levels. Stairs and elevators on each side of the block give access to the deck above. On street corners, particularly on the pedestrian street, the sidewalk widens for coffee shops and eating spaces. The podium is expressed as a 3 meter layer which pulls back to express important experiential moments. For example, on the market street, the lobbies for high-rise buildings are given expression on the street. On the deck, space can be articulated in different ways. Housing defines the perimeter with private gardens facing the streets. Some blocks form courtyards with common gardens private to the residents. Along the edges of the communal space on the deck, office and retail spaces are proposed. Finally, the housing programs are expressed with different circulation systems, a variety of plan formations, and a potential blend of 6 floors of affordable housing with 2 story townhouses at the top. Garden units for the elderly or differently-abled are placed on the deck. Elevator access for the less basic units can lead to roof gardens with urban views. Market-rate housing with big balconies and amenities, like exercise rooms, on decks are possible options. Participation in the communal life at the deck level can be developed. All desirable amenities, including parking, are possible under the decks. Due to the accelerated time frame for the workshop, an articulated landscape plan was not possible, however enough space was provided to form gardens at different scales which can be beautiful landscapes for individual and collective pleasure. 29
Revised Urban Massing Four adjacent blocks were designated to test urban design strategies, housing program combinations, and the required housing density. Community facilities with open spaces are housed within the blocks which are linked by 2 bridges. Housing units are placed above the street, on a podium, and cater to a mix of income groups, with 35% of the units designated to the lowest income group. All residential units are private, and several buildings have courtyards for the residents. The decks are proposed for community amenities such as playgrounds, sports facilities, sitting areas, and gardens. On the elevated deck, offices and retail surround the open space.
Architecture Design Architectural Design
4-block Figures BLOCK A
Loggia Plinth School Building 1 Building 2 tall tower Building 3 Building 4 Building 5 Building 6 short tower Building 7 Building 8 Area Plot
1993.21 3993.5 406 710.37
02. 02. 03.a
0 0 0 50
0 0 0 175
5730.75 2547 2547
83 18 18
290.5 63 63
764.2 954.4 11949
40 60 Total Units Total Populaiton Density
140 210 361
0 0 32 120 44
0 0 112 420 154
Plinth Loggia Building 1 Building 2 Building 3 Tower Fl 5-20 Tower Fl 1-4 Tower Lobby Area Plot
1831.5 3168.6 487.6 728 771.6
GROSS FLOOR AREA 1831.5 6337.2 1950.4 8736 3086.4
493 72 6340
24 0 Total Units Total Population Density
84 0 348
0 0 0 30 40 41 Total Units Total Population Density
0 0 0 105 140 143.5 111
0 0 0 60 10 77 35 37 Total Units Total Population Density
0 0 0 210 35 269.5 122.5 129.5 219
Total Units Total Population Density
Loggia Plinth School Building 1 Building 2 Building 3 Building 4 Building 5 Area Plot
1431 3963 0 447 135 1068 421 534 8100
GROSS FLOOR AREA 3270 2304 1468 2880 3065 3159
GROSS FLOOR AREA 2862 3963 0 4917 675 4328 2105 2164
TOTAL PROJECT Area Plot 30854 Total GFA
04. 04. 05.a
817.75 424.5 424.5
Loggia Plinth School Building 1 Building 2 Building 3 Area Plot
GROSS FLOOR AREA 3986.42 3993.5 692 4262.22
a. Logistics Center; b. Parking
a. Library; b. Primary School
Block Level Plans
Upper Plinth Level +6.00m
Upper Plinth Level +6.00m
Upper Plinth Level + 6.0 m.
Upper Plinth Level +6.00m Retail Market
Library Storage Primary School
Ground Floor 0.00m
Residential Special Uses Private Gardens
Ground Floor + 0.0 m. Commercial
Ground Floor 0.00m
Views from a private terrace to the pedestrian street below
A walkway overlooking the pedestrian street
The Block 5 library and amphitheater for residents and visitors
Community gardens on the roofs of the low-income housing blocks which allow for additional income for the residents.
Upper level terraces with city views provide for community activities such as gardening and relaxation.
The pedestrian loop road at the center of the 4 blocks is lined with cafes and retail stores.
This publication is a preliminary summary and accounting of work conducted by graduate students in a workshop held at MIT. This report is not intended to be read as a comprehensive peer-reviewed document.