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Recapturing Livelihoods

A social Improvment of Sao Paulo’s Downtown By Stella Kelmann


University of South Florida Master’s Project Fall 2012-Spring 2013

Recapturing Livelihoods

A social Improvment of Sao Paulo’s Downtown By Stella Kelmann

Chair: Vikas Mehta Committee: Josue Robles Jan Wampler


Acknowledgments I wish to thank, first and foremost, my parents Isaac Kelmann and Maria F. Kelmann for the inspiration and support throughout this academic progression. I would offer my sincere gratitude to my chair, Professor Vikas Metha for all the patience, guidance, and persistent help throughout the development of this master’s project. In addition, I would like to thank my committee member Josue Robles and Jan Wampler, on which involvement and participation have strongly contributed to the improvement of this research. Finally, I would like to thank my classmates Lauren Sajek and Aline Constantinides for accompanying me through this journey, and my beloved fiancÊ Timothy Collinsworth for the all the affection and encouragement.


Table of contents Abstract |5 Introduction |7 Core Interest Social Aspects Physical Aspects

Case Studies |8

Coin Street Community Inner City Arts Fernando Botero Library Park Las Independencias’ Escalator Projeto Nova Luz

Urban Approach |13

Network of Interventions Overview Site Analyzes Program

Architectural Approach |17 Embracing the context Conceptual Ideas Centro Cultural

Conclusion |31 Bibliography |33 Image Credits |37



Recapturing Livelihoods Sao Paulo’s Downtown has been a setting for significant physical, social and economic transformations the past several decades. The metropolis is constantly sprawling to fulfill the demands of its fast growing population; the result is an inconsistent urban pattern with a decaying core, wealthy suburbs, and remote slums. While informal settlements are developing on the outskirts, the downtown degenerates and loses population. This is a typical scenario in Latin American cities, a consequence of fast and unplanned growth. The core where the initial settlements took place, at one time contained the city’s richest concentrations of cultural facilities and historical structures, but now is a context of misery, violence, and drug abuse. This master’s project is an exploration of how design can be used as a tool to respond to major social issues of distressed urban settings. With a focus on the Sao Paulo downtown district, the research is undertaken in two phases; Urban and Architectural. The initial phase, at neighborhood scale, identifies both physical and social aspects of the area, with a focus on density, identity and livelihoods. A network of coordinated interventions is further developed and aimed at responding to the existing context and social issues. Subsequently, the second phase exemplifies how the interventions would perform as a single architectural entity. At this stage, the social issues are further addressed through programmatic and conceptual design elements for a significant social impact.


Image 1 The elevated highway Elevado Costa e Silva, also known as Minhocão.

Image 2. Pátio do Colégio, the oldest building of Sao Paulo founded in 1554.

Image 3. Colorful graffiti at the downtown streets.






Core Interest São Paulo is a dynamic city; cosmopolitan in nature, it is distinguished worldwide for its emerging economy, outstanding commerce, and cultural background. Being the largest megalopolis of South America, it has grown extremely fast during the past century, from 240,000 inhabitants in the early 1900’s to approximately 11 million today. This intense population growth has resulted in significant physical and social transformations within its urban fabric. The consequences of this fast and unplanned growth resulted in the formation of suburban settlements known as Favelas* as well as the downtown decay. “The demographic growth of São Paulo’s Metropolitan Area is very uneven. While the center of the city is losing significant population, the share of the population in periphery is still growing very fast, going from 19% in 1991 to 30% in 2000.” (Torres, Alves, & Oliveira, 2007). The recovery of the downtown districts of São Paulo has been a major issue and focus of several revitalization programs over the past 20 years, but unfortunately, none of these projects have been successfully implemented, the majority The center of São Paulo is where the initial settlements took place in the 1500’s; it contains the city’s richest concentrations of cultural facilities and historical structures. Unfortunately, social issues such as violence, misery and drug abuse are still major within the area, diminishing its historical relevance and constantly expelling people from the core. Graphics Studies indicate that the central districts have similar criminal rates, household income, and social vulnerability with the peripheral areas. (See image 2). Despite the great accessibility, developed infrastructure, and employment opportunities, the downtown area has similar social issues as those of the remote slums. which were developed with the absence of basic infrastructure services such as utilities and transportation. The reactivation of Sao Paulo’s downtown district is essential in a context where suburban areas are constantly growing. This will not only benefit the local distressed community but it will also increase awareness of urban sprawl, which will in turn improve the urban realm and its society.

Graphic illustration of the downtown social issues.


Map 1. Social Vulnerability

Map 2. Household Income

Map 2 Household Income

Map 3. Criminal Incidence



Social Aspects For several years, São Paulo’s downtown has been the setting for significant social transformations since its initial settlements took place in the 1500’s. “During the first 3 centuries after its initial occupancy, the settlement was constrained in a small territory known as historic triangle.” (Nobre, 2009). After the 19th century, due to the coffee plantations influence within the area, the city began to quickly expand. Consequently, the assets accumulated due to exportation of coffee attracted immigrants from Europe which contributed to population growth and the social diversity found today. It was not until the 1950’s and 1960’s when the downtown began to decay. “A newer downtown for the elite began to consolidate at the Avenida Paulista, few miles away from the core. The Downtown then began to attract a lower income population, as it was being progressively abandoned by wealthier. Therefore, an ideological process of neglecting the central area begins; it is no longer the elites place to shop, work or enjoyment. “ (Nobre, 2009). Since the 1980’s the central area has lost even more population due to large investments in developments located in a suburban area on the southeast side of the city, facing Pinheiros River. The area where Avenida Berrini is located is the new business district. Since the downtown district was abandoned by the elite, a lower income community began to activate the area. The core has not deceased, instead it has changed its appearance and crowd; a dynamic commerce of innumerous shops, street vendors, markets have developed within the area. The area attracts thousands of shoppers each month due to its inexpensive variety of products offered; from music instruments, to electronics, clothing and crafts. In addition to retail, the downtown is also distinguished for its culture, history, arts and music. The area is rich in galleries, museums, music halls and cathedrals. In spite of its social, cultural, and historical significance, the downtown is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of São Paulo. Since its decay the number of homeless and squatters has increased. Additionally, social issues such as drug abuse, prostitution, and crime has become critical within the area. These issues have negatively affected the reputation of the downtown resulting in a large amount of vacant buildings. In order to improve the area it is necessary to take these critical social issues into account and find an inclusive solution that will incentivize social change and empower the distressed population.


The historic context of Santa IfigĂŞnia neighborhood, Image 4 (Left of pg.13). Active commerce of Downtown Sao Paulo, Image5 (right of pg.13). Historic building of Luz Train Station complex, Image6 (Top). Signs of urban decay, Image7 (Left).



Physical Aspects São Paulo Historic Downtown complex consists of two main districts; Sé and República. (Image 1). Both districts were center point of the city’s expansion toward the suburbs and are undergoing the same issues recurrent of urban decay. Because both districts are distinguished by demographics and administrative entities, this research focuses mainly on the República district. The urban investigation of the area includes demographics, mapping, and transportation which will help to further identify possible areas of intervention for an urban impact. The district of República occupies an area of 2.3 km² or approximately 568 acres with a density of 24.8 habitants/m² with a population of 56.981 habitants. (IBGE, 2010). It is also the second densest neighborhood of São Paulo, Bela Vista being the first with a density of 26,715 habitants per square meter . The analysis through maps illustrates the density and diversity of use as well as historic and relevant sites. The high density of the locale is again confirmed trough the Figure Ground Maps (Map 4). It also shows how the few public open spaces are large in scale and concentrated within the center of the district. The Relative Land Use map indicates area variety of usage, and predominance in commercial use towards the center, and limits with Sé district (Map 5). Finally, the Historic Sites and Points of Interest Maps (Image4) illustrates the areas abundance in historic buildings and of cultural interest (Maps 4 and 6). The broad options of public transportation within the district of Republica, makes it extremely accessible and intensifies the pedestrian flow. There are 4 metro lines running beneath the district, with access through 7 metro stations. There is also train access through the Main Station of Luz, a relevant historic landmark located at the extreme north end of the district. Finally, Bus is the most utilized transportation system in São Paulo, and also the most affordable way of getting around the city.

Map 4


Map 5

Map of the city of Sao Paulo. (Left) Darker area represents the downtown districts.

Map 8

Map 9

Map 6

Map 7



Case Studies


Case Studies

Coin Street Community London, United Kingdon

The Coin Street foundation is a social enterprise and development trust in London that took place in 1984 with a main goal of improving the South Bank area for living, working and tourism. The 13-acre site that has decayed after industrialization and World War II and was suffering with a dying residential community and a weak economy was an ideal target for developers seeking major office developments for real estate speculation. The local residents formed the campaign to respond to current development proposals by transforming the area into the thriving neighborhood that is found today. The Coin Street Community builders strictly consist of local members that understand the needs and opportunities within the area. The development is a mixed use neighborhood that includes co-operative homes, shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars; as well as outdoor spaces for children, festivities, and events. The area is also popular for having the Tate modern gallery and the riverside Stamford Wharf. Today the area is not only a stunning site which attracts of thousands of visitors to the area; but a strong and self-sufficient community as well. The Coin Street is an example of a successful community based urban development that has not only saved the area from being turned into a market for real estate speculation, but has instilled a sense of pride and identity for its local residents


Coin Street Housing Image 8 (left pg 19). Gabriel’s Wharf Image 9 (right pg 19). London’s skyscraper, Image 10 (bottom pg 19 and 20). Coin Street Conference Centre Image 11(top pg 20).


Case Studies

Inner-City Arts Los Angeles, California

The Award winning Project of Michael Maltzan, FAIA, caused a positive impact in the neighborhood of Skidrow in Los Angeles by improving it both socially and aesthetically. Inner city arts is a nonprofit organization providing education to local disadvantaged students in the areas of ceramics, visual arts, theater, dance and animation. The program also offers art courses for public schools teachers. The educational complex stands out as an “urban oasis” in the Skid row district which is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of L.A. The Inner-City Arts one acre facility opens up to the city through a network of courtyards, which is in contrast to its grey and enclosed surrounding context.. It facilitates accessibility from the streets, good visibility and provides gathering spaces for the students. “Inner-City Arts balances demands for protection and learning, connection and individual identity,” (Pearson, 2009). The building exterior was painted white to represent purity and make a statement of challenge to the community to preserve something that is given. Inner-city arts successfully introduced a distinct architecture of social responsibility to an urban context of violence and despair. Its design goes beyond the programmatic elements for reaching out for individual identity and social relationship to the collective whole.

1. Classroom 2. Workshop 3. Storage 4. Ceramic Classroom 5. Klin yard 6. Resource center 7. Conference 8. Theater/performing arts classroom 9. Office


Main floor plan, Image 12 (pg 21).Aerial view of Inner-city Arts, Image 13 (top). Campus view Image 14 (bottom left). Courtyard, Image 15 (bottom right).


Case Studies

Fernando Botero Library Park Medellin, Colombia

The Fernando Botero Library was designed by Orlando Garcia from G Ateliers Architecture for a township community in Medellin, Colombia. The library is located on a hillside slum-like neighborhood known as San Cristobal as part of an ambitious urban development program that focuses on revitalizing precarious urban areas by bringing the community social and cultural services. The project has introduced a cultural and social program to satisfy the most urgent social necessities of the local community of San Cristobal. It consists of a library, daycare, and computer labs in addition to visual and performing arts facilities. The project was development with community involvement at the preliminary design phase. According to Orlando Gracia, “the community desires and dreams are reflected in this building.” (Broome, 2012) The design of the building responds to the program with carefully sculpted interior and exterior spaces. The architecture of the Library blends in with the existing context due to the building’s positioning on the hillside and small scale perforations, cavities and cracks in the facade. The project became a significant addition for San Cristoban’s community; It evokes a sense of pride by bringing culture, knowledge and hope to the marginalized population. “The people here have appropriated the library and its services and have become very protective of it,” (Broome, 2012)


Interior of library, Image 16 (top pg 23). Children’s room, Image 17 (bottom pg 23). Cross sections, Image 18 (top).


Case Studies

Las Independencias’ Escalators Medellin, Colombia

Over 12 thousand residents of the Las Independencias neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia were benefited by this public infrastructure project consisting of a series of six escalators. The project is located in a steep hillside of Medellin; nearly 1,260ft high. Prior to the implementation of the escalators, residents had to climb hundreds of steps to get home from the city center. Las independencias is also one of Medellin’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods, the escalators are part of larger scale initiative by the Mayor of Medellin known as PUI (Proyectos Urbanos Integrales) attempting to improve the city and its reputation of violence and drug abuse. “Medellín’s way of conducting urban development has been refined under Sergio Fajardo’s mayorship, from 2003 to 2007. Together with then-head of urban works Alejandro Echeverri” (Halais, 2012) Las Independencias’ escalators are certainly a social improvement to the community, making the area safer and more accessible. The project ultimately benefited the local residents by improving their access in and out of the area, as well as integrating the remote hillside slums with the remaining of the city.


Architectural Detail, Image 20 (Left). Community utilizing scalators, Image 21(Top pg 26). Top view of escalators, Image 22 (center pg 26). Transition Tower


Case Studies

Projeto Nova Luz Sao Paulo, Brasil

Nova Luz Project was an initiative of the City of Sao Paulo to revive the downtown neighborhood of Luz, an extremely decayed area known as “Cracolandia�, what means crack land due to the high amount of violence and drug abuse. The intervention has been target of several urban revival projects due to its central location, and potential for growth and development. In order to revive the area it is first necessary to change the area’s reputation. Nova Luz is one of the largest and most ambitious urban interventions in Sao Paulo, it occupies an area of 120 thousand acres or 45 consecutive city blocks. The project was advertised by the city as sustainable and restorative, also for diversifying the land use and protecting existing historic structures. Therefore, to develop this project, the City authorities would have to expropriate private property for development purposes. This action would result in the demolition of 58 buildings, relocation of 12,000 local residents, 10,000 businesses and 50,000 workers. In 2012, the local community gathered together and fought against the project which resulted in its permanent cancelation. The judge decided that there was lack of community involvement, consisting of a low income residents, small business owners, and entrepreneurs that would have been directly affected by the proposed urban intervention.

Night rendering of one of an active street, Image 24 (left). Rendering of residential area and plaza, Image 25 (right).


Community protest against Nova Luz Project, Image 26 (left).Project Scope, Image 27 (bottom).



3.Urban Apporach Due to the complexity of Sao Paulo’s downtown was essential to define an order of priorities prior to developing a strategy for urban recovery. First was necessary to understand the territory (District of República ) and the most urgent social issues to be addressed. Secondly, precisely identify the areas in which to intervene for greater connectivity with the physical environment and relationship to the context. Finally define the programmatic elements that will address the main issues and promote social change.


Urban Approach

Social Urbanism The main goal of the network of interventions is to stimulate social impact to further improve the district of República. “Gently touch an urban area to help cure and improve while originating a chain of positive reactions. Intervention is necessary to revitalize. Planning it’s a careful and ongoing process that does not result in immediate transformations.”¬¬ (Lerner) The social issues of downtown are extremely relevant and should be addressed prior to physical and economical transformations. The crime rates and drug abuse are greatest concern within the area keeping people from living their houses or utilizing public spaces. Those issues go beyond urban planning, involving political and financial interests as well. To minimize these issues is necessary to generate a strategic cultural program that will motivate the distressed population for a more inclusive, harmonious, and safe environment. “We must promote the “spirit of community”, aiming for strong families, positive “core” social values though in schools and citizen involvement in life of the community” (Etzioni, 1994) When addressing social issues of such complexity, is important to evaluate the existing neighborhood structure and needs prior to developing the program. With a relatively large population of over 50 thousand habitants, the downtown district lacks spaces for community gathering, recreational activities, and public schools. Image 5 and 6 proves the downtown deficiency in public spaces when the population utilizes the elevated highway Elevado Costa e Silva, also known as Minhocão, for recreational activities over the weekends. Minhocão runs through downtown Sao Paulo and is closed for vehicles passage on weekends and holidays. In addition to gathering spaces, the district of Republica has no public schools, thus the children growing up in the area has to commute to adjacent neighborhoods. Currently, there are 6,947 children from 0 to 14 years old within the district (IBGE, 2010), accounting for 12% of population that lives within the area. These children are growing up exposed to violence, drug abuse, and several social issues that will strongly affect their transition to adulthood. Image 7 illustrates a program developed by a community-based organization to keep the distressed children living in downtown away from the drug abuse and crime. The program consists of soccer and other recreational activities that are held on the streets due to lack of public spaces. The recovery of the downtown district is an ongoing process that will not happen overnight. First is necessary to carefully address social issues of marginalization, crime and drug abuse and supporting the distressed community by providing public support through community involvement. Secondly is necessary to further avoid those issues through a youth development program with activities that will keep children growing up in distressed areas away from street gangs and illegal drugs. “Even in affluent suburban communities, young people face serious obstacles on the path to productive adulthood. Most make into their teenage years intact. However, of those living in distressed neighborhoods with few social supports, jobs, or recreational opportunities, may do not” (Weston, 2001).


The elevated highway known as Minhoc達o, Image 28 (top). A child playing soccer over the Minhoc達o, Image 29 (left). The volunteer program developed by a nonprofit community organization to keep downtown children away from drugs, Image 30.


Urban Approach


Embracing the Context

One that has visited São Paulo Downtown recognizes the areas desperate need for recovery. The extremely dense and diverse context of is constantly decaying. The area needs more than physical recovery through urban renewal; it needs a well-structured and targeted network of interventions that will influence the distressed population and create a strong and safe community. Due to the complexity of the site is important to understand the existing context and historical significance to identify possible areas of intervention that will preserve, respect, and relate to its surroundings. “To fix without destroying or dislodging; to create from what is given, to recycle, revive and respect the configuration of different times, to reconnect with tradition and finally build a “place” – with the strong meaning of the term - to form the unformed, without thereby wanting to proclaim it, but instead, returning its former dignity, rediscovering the lost thread within its historical continuity, what gives a meaning, and so on [...] It was an effort to rescue the cityscape, and its urbanity within. Perhaps even a public life lost, conducted [discreetly], by carefully selecting the distressed areas, step by step, so to speak [in crumbs], due to its deterioration, or by its lost meaning, to create a point of irradiation that would reclassify the surroundings – to improve the relationship of people, the environment, and the space in between. This actual endurance program has done the opposite; or rather reveal its hidden truth: an obscure conservation of its reality, the accuracy of a way to manage contradictions, to conceal conflicts, and hide the misery” (Arantes, 1998). Identifying possible intervention parcels at a high density context like São Paulo’s core can be challenging. A previous urban project attempting to recover a portion of the downtown known as Nova Luz (Case study pg. 26), has been extremely controversial for proposing demolition of a third of the existing buildings. Even though the buildings to be demolished are not considered historic, the project specialists saw them as unfeasible due to physical deterioration among other issues of concern. Consequently, the project was revoked and never implemented for being unsustainable and disregarding local community as well as existing context.

Initial site studies of the Republica Distric focuses on possible areas for small interventions within the urban fabric (Left). Network of small interventions (Right).


In order to intervene in a dense context of such a nature, is necessary to attempt preserving the existing “active” buildings, while identifying vacant parcels or inactive structures to intervene. Because vacant parcels are minimal at the district of República, abandoned buildings, warehouses and parking lots were identified as possible intervention areas for the development of this strategy. The composition (pg. 33) illustrates the strategy developed at urban scale: the Network of small interventions. The interventions sites were carefully selected according to available “inactive” parcels such as vacant lots, parking lots, or abandoned structures. In addition to available sites, the selection is also based upon current issues and necessities of those areas for greater impact; the more decayed the area is, more interventions it will hold. For example, the northwest zone of the district, being the most depressed area, holds a greater concentration of interventions when compared to the remaining of the district. In order to successfully exemplify how the Network of Interventions programmatic elements responds to current social, economic, and physiological issues, it is further concentrated at a larger scale within the district.

Map 8. The elevation montage on the right capture the character that exists within the streets of São Paulo through materials, scale and other architectural elements typical of the region. (right)


Ice cream men at downtown streets, Image 31 (left). Decaying historic building, Image 32 (right).


Urban Approach

Programatic Elements The network of Interventions program is an essential key to transform the distressed core of Sao Paulo into a stronger community. It consists of pedagogical cultural program of “civic and cultural restructuring that is aimed to change the general behavior of the citizens by promoting a culture of mutual respect” (Echeverri, 2011). The programmatic elements main goal is to activate the decayed areas, support the population in general, and keep the children growing up in the area away from illegal drugs.

Espaço das Artes

School of Arts and Craft

Centro de Informática

Media Center

Escola de Ensino Fundamental Elementary and Middle School

Biblioteca Municipal e Patio Rio Branco

City Library and Rio Branco Avenue Square

Centro de Educação Infantil

Pre-School and Day Care

Parque Juvenil

Neighborhood Park

Centro Cultural

Community Center



The marginalization, crime rates, among other social issues, has moved many children and families away from the area. Activating the downtown means providing activities that will bring the population together independent of age, sex, or income level, to improve the perception of their neighborhood and public realm. “A city that is good for vulnerable citizens such as children, elderly, the handicapped, the poor is good for everybody else” (Peñalosa, 2012). The program will foster educational, cultural and recreational activities and events trough cultural centers, schools, and open spaces to re-activate the area and attract more families. Schools are essential to build a stronger community. Youth growing up in dense urban areas are usually exposed to violence, illegal drugs, and several social issues that will negatively affect their transition to adulthood. To further avoid those issues is necessary to find a solution that will promote youth development by dealing with drug abuse and violence early on in their lives through proper education and activities that will keep children away from street gangs and illegal drugs. “Even in affluent suburban communities, young people face serious obstacles on the path to productive adulthood. Most make into their teenage years intact. However, of those living in distressed neighborhoods with few social supports, jobs, or recreational opportunities, may do not” (Weston, 2001). Educational facilities including schools and cultural centers are extremely valuable resources not only for children but also for the entire community. In distressed areas, public schools can foster activities and offer support for kids and their families. These facilities can also offer continuing education and other training courses to prepare lowerincome adults to compete on the job market. “We must promote the “spirit of community”, aiming for strong families, positive “core” social values though in schools and citizen involvement in life of the community” (Etzioni, 1994). Is essential to provide community based institutions in the process of urban improvement when dealing with urban distressed environments.


The 3 diagrams (left) are studies of the distressed neighborhood of Luz. Physical model (Top) of the network of interventions within the neighborhood of Luz.



Three dimensional studies of density performed in distinct sites to explore architectural ideas and their relationship with context, (left). Graphic illustration of the distressed neighborhood and possible areas of interventions (right).

The development of the network of interventions at neighborhood scale is essential due to complexity of the urban environment of Sao Paulo downtown. It incorporates a holistic approach to improve depressed areas that goes beyond physical recovery responding to immediate “social needs� through a program of civic buildings aimed to build a stronger community. The Network is further developed at a smaller scale to exemplify how the interventions will perform as a single architectural entity.



Architectural Approach “Through quality architecture, a city can generate a culture that permits a harmonious and inclusive urban existence claiming the symbolic value of architecture as a physical expression of new public policies for education and culture� (Echeverri, 2011). After developing a network of interventions that responds to both physical and social aspects of the downtown district, is essential to determine how the interventions would perform as an architectural unit in order to evoke social change. This section addresses how buildings can include both programmatic and aesthetic appeals to transform distressed areas into a more inclusive, accessible and safe environment.


Architectural Approach Conceptual Ideas To further improve the depressed areas within São Paulo downtown, the previously established interventions should respond to program and context that translates into an architectural language. This language includes design elements that evok openness, integration, and inclusion, in order to foster activities that will further re-construct identity and culture of a depressed community. To successfully achieve this goal it is necessary to select an intervention site and develop a set of rules that will originate a consistent standard of design throughout the district. The standard is based upon the idea of Jan Gehl that individuals and events can influence and stimulate one another. The idea of openness is contradictory to São Paulo’s downtown and considered inappropriate in a context where marginalization and crime are issues of major concern. Therefore, the majority of buildings and public spaces within downtown are enclosed by walls, fences and metal bars. Opening up within this context can be a challenge although necessary (depending on the building program) to exchange experiences and making events visually accessible from the public realm. Openness and visibility from the street can also increase the sense of safety in public spaces, considering crime usually occurs in darker and remote areas.


The programattic concept models were developed to explore the ideas of invitation, inclusion, and openness in three different sites within the neighborhood (left pg. 45). Initial progression of the selected area of intervention into the architectural scale (above).


Architectural Approach Network of interventions


The programmatic concept model (Left) was selected and is further developed into a Cultural Center. Images of the cultural center final model (Right).

The notion of integration implies the incorporation of different individuals as equals into a society. “Integration of various activities and functions in and around public spaces allows the people involved to function together and to stimulate and spire one another” (Gehl, 2006). Integration is combined to the civic program of the interventions to create inclusive society. It can be translated into architecture by incorporating flexible and interconnected spaces that foster different activities and attract people from different ages, sex and social background. For example, a public school’s open plaza which is utilized by students on weekdays can also hold public art exhibits over the weekend. Lastly, the concept of invitation can be translated into accessible spaces to facilitate movement and activities to occur. “Weather the public environment invites or repels is among other things, a question of how the public environment is placed in relationship to the private, and how the border zone between the two areas is designed” (Gehl, 2006). It can also relate to visibility and being able to see the activities happening. For example, a group is performing Capoeira at a park that will cause people that is walking by to stop and watch the performance. This idea can be incorporated in architecture while making certain activities visible from the street to motivate participation. The conceptual ideas of openness, integration, and inclusion when combined with the programmatic elements of the network, will work towards improving the quality of life within the downtown of Sao Paulo. These ideas are further exemplified at the architectural scale through the selection and development of an intervention site.


Architectural Approach Centro Cultural The development of an intervention into an architectural entity was necessary to exemplify how the design will relate to current social issues to create an inclusive, open and accessible environment. The Cultural Center was selected from the previously mentioned Network of interventions and further developed at the architectural scale. The civic cultural program of the intervention responds to local population interests by offering innumerous activities such as arts, music, and performances to build a safer community.


Three dimensional Model illustration of the northwest plaza (left). Upper view of the northwest plaza with focus on the path that cuts through the site (top left). South entrance with access to Timbiras Street auditorium (top right)


Architectural Approach Network of interventions The intervention site of choice is an infill type “L� shaped parcel, with access through three streets, and a total area of 23329.46 sq.ft. Considering the small size of the parcel, the program is organized in section to minimize footprint, while leaving room for gathering open spaces at the street level. The exclusive shape of the parcel gave the opportunity of connecting its two opposite sides, creating an open path among the two parallel streets Rua Aurora and Rua dos Timbiras. This path is a substantial feature of the project for connecting the two main open spaces were the majority of activities occur while generating a threshold from the public to private environment. The open spaces are essential for the cultural program; it gives access the building while allowing innumerous activities to occur. Along with the path are the two main open spaces located in opposite sides of the intervention site: The Northwest Plaza and the Timbiras Street auditorium. The North Plaza opens up on the corner of two main streets (Rua Aurora and Avenida Rio Branco). Because of its size and strategic location, the Northwest plaza is more open in order to invite the community into the building. The opposite side of the site, where the Timbiras street auditorium is located, is smaller in size and semi-enclosed to protect the performance spectators.

Process section (right). Upper view of the Cultural Center (top right)



Architectural Approach Centro Cultural


Site plan (top left) First and second level floor plans (top right). Images of threedimensional construct of the Cultural Center



Night images of the threedimensional construct, with focus on the connective path illumination (right).


Rendering of south entrance of the Cultural Center; access throug Timbiras Street Auditorium. Image illustrates the space activation and illumination at night. 58



This study was set out to explore Sao Paulo’s depressed downtown districts and possible alternatives for improvement. The relevance of improving the central districts is unquestionable when considering the city’s current unsustainable setting; the suburbs are constantly growing while the downtown districts decays and losses population. In order to reverse this scenario a deep investigation of the area’s physical social and cultural aspects was conducted. The studies indicated that social issues of violence crime and drug abuse are interrelated with urban decay, therefore a holistic approach in both urban and architectural scale is needed to address these issues. When dealing with issues of such complexity is necessary to take into consideration the social needs and community livelihoods prior to physical recovery. These needs are addressed through the development of a set of priorities responding to the most urgent social issues to reestablish the perception of the city public space, urbanism, and architecture. This perception is more inclusive and seeks community integration, unlike current programs of regeneration that are based on an idealized progression through real estate-speculation. Developing effective strategies for intervention in distressed urban environments is a challenging and ongoing process that involves issues of political, economic, and social concern in addition to Urbanism and Architecture. Because is unintelligible to address all issues recurrent of urban decay, the development of strategies of improvement can be used to increase awareness and promote motivation for change.




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Image Credits


Image 1: “Elevado Costa e Silva http” :// Image 2: “Pátio do Colégio” Image 3: “Colorful graffiti at the downtown streets” Image 4: “historic context of Santa Ifigênia” by Chico Saragiotto th_photo_id=31476497&order=date_ desc&user=860019 Image 5: “Active commerce of Downtown Sao Paulo.” Image 6: “historic building of Luz Train Station complex” da_Luz.jpg Image 7: “Signs of urban decay.” Image 8: “Coin Street Housing” Image 9: “Gabriel’s Wharf” Image 10: “London’s skyscraoer“ Image 11: ”Coin Street Conference Centre” Image 12: “Main floor plan “ asp Image 13: “Aerial view of Inner-city Arts“ asp Image 14: “Campus View“ Image 15: “Courtyard“ asp Image 16: “Interior of library” Image 17: “Children’s room” Image 18: “Cross sections” Image 19: “Building Facade” Image 20: “Architectural Detail” Image 21: “Community utilizing scalators” dellin-2004766 Image 22: “Top view of escalators”

Image 23: “Transition tower” Image 24: “Night rendering of one of an active street” Image 25: “Rendering of residential area and plaza” Image 26: “Community protest against Nova Luz Project” Image 27: “Project scope” Image 28: “Elevado Costa e Silva, also known as Minhocão” Image 29: “A child playing soccer over the Minhocão” Image 30: “Social Program created to keep downtown children away from drugs” Image 31 “Ice cream men walking on the street” by Chico Saragiotto th_photo_id=64068564&order=date_desc&user=860019 Image 32 “Deteriorated historic building“ by Chico Saragiotto th_photo_id=64068564&order=date_desc&user=860019


Master's project  
Master's project