Informality and the Agency of Design: Learning from the favelas of Rio Kit Krankel McCullough Urban Design Studio I Summer 2012 The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are representative of the most common form of urban expansion around the world—the informal slum. It is estimated that about a billion people live in such settlements—one sixth of the world’s population and growing. It is expected that this population will double by 2030 to two billion, one in four people on earth. Like slums around the world, Rio’s favelas arose from humble origins—shanties built on the hillside along a dirt track. But today the favela offers a picture of a possible future for the world’s shantytowns. Although built in a condition of temporariness, most informal settlements are longstanding, having been built progressively over decades. Rio’s favelas within the city proper are well established, no longer growing, and have become permanent and rigid swaths of urban tissue. Tin shacks have been replaced by multi-‐story, stuccoed concrete houses. Electricity and electrical meters have been installed. New streets have been paved and widened. The city has built libraries, schools and health centers. National and global brands are moving in, including grocery store chains, bank branches, cable providers and fast food franchises. As self-‐built environments, the favelas are intimately connected to the lives of the inhabitants and so in many ways are exquisitely attuned to the needs of residents. To the extent that Rio has been successful in improving the lives of favela inhabitants, it is because the city recognized relatively early that the favelas were places of value, and that eradicating the slum was not the solution. After the failure of Modernist social housing developments, new government programs such as Favela Bairro and Morar Carioca (see the following interview with Jorge Ponte) took a different approach. Rather than erasing the informal tissue, these programs sought to integrate the favela into the urban fabric both physically and programmatically. Informality is seen as a legitimate form of urbanism that should be retained and improved upon. Rio’s favelas are now at a point of significant maturation. While no government anywhere has yet found the perfect solution to housing the poor, Brazil has probably done more than any other country to improve conditions in its slums. The government’s ambitious experiments are worth examining for both their successes and failures. Our own inquiries found that Rio’s favelas offered a perfect laboratory for examining agency in the built environment. What is the role of the resident, the government, the
architect and planner, the NGO, the private developer and the corporation in creating the built environment and contributing to the quality of life for the inhabitants? What is the best balance between bottom-‐up action and top-‐down intervention? What is the role of urban design? To what extent can formal design improve upon organic complexity of informal urbanism, or at best refrain from diluting its heterogeneity? Above all, how can the design process respect and support the self-‐determination of the inhabitants? Infrastructure as platform for spontaneous appropriation The Morar Carioca program has improved many of the critical infrastructural problems of the favela—mobility and accessibility, light and air, electricity, water and sewage. Yet, the government interventions often create severe breaks in the informal tissue, with little respect for the intricacies of the existing fabric. In the process some essential, and even intangible characteristics are lost. As formal, complete elements they are static, and do not allow incremental retrofit adjustments by users. We felt the program’s interventions could be made more responsive to residents’ needs by incorporating some of the positive aspects of the favela environment through informal strategies. The new streets, in particular, represent a stark contrast from the common pathways of the informal favela. The favela’s complicated network of footpaths provides social and commercial conduits and displays an intricate relationship between social and private space, one developed incrementally over time. The original pathways were built expressly to provide access to homes: each house is directly connected to the path. Many residents take advantage of the foot traffic going by their house by opening a kiosk on the ground floor, or at the very least posting notices on their doors advertising goods for sale. Chairs are set out and the paths become social spaces. But as paths are widened into streets or new streets are cut through, the direct connection between home and business, path and social space, is lost. The new streets built by Morar Carioca slice through the informal tissue, disrupting the connection between building and street, with little consideration of the street as public realm. These streets are built for the mobility of vehicles, and the space is less hospital to foot traffic, socializing, and commerce.
The informal networks of pedestrian pathways serve as social space in the favelas. Photo by Jia Weng.
New vehicular streets sever the relationship between dwelling and public realm. Photo by Jia Weng. A more nuanced approach to the design of these streets could allow for informal appropriation. Some student projects sought to redress the collateral damage inflicted by government interventions by proposing alternative designs that not only take more care to respect context, but also support appropriation and adaptation by the inhabitants. This approach treats new streets and public spaces as open platforms for intensive and unanticipated uses that can flex over the course of the day or the week. Justin Garrison’s project, “Soft Edges,” seeks to exploit the boundary between public and private by infilling the spaces left over between the cleared areas and the new streets. These edge spaces are redesigned to accommodate resident-‐built storefronts, markets, plazas or gardens that take back the street as public space. “Soft Edges” also includes soft infrastructure that deals with storm water more effectively and helps alleviate some of the problems caused by runoff.
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Justin Garrison’s project, “Soft Edges,” infills the spaces left over between the cleared areas and the new streets with storefronts and live/work housing. A project by Shuqi He redesigned the soccer pitch, often the only open space of any size within the favela, as a flexible multi-‐use public space. The chainlink fence that typically surrounds a pitch is replaced by a more permeable enclosure. The abrupt edge to the street is replaced by a transitional space of steps, platforms and accessibility ramps that accommodate seating, vendor carts, bus stops, and other uses. Adjacent buildings and storefronts are reoriented toward this new public space. The function of the space can shift over time, hosting markets, dances, and other events, in addition to soccer.
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Shuqi He redesigned the soccer pitch as a flexible multi-‐use public space bordered by a permeable, transitional space of steps, platforms and ramps that accommodate seating, vendor carts, bus stops, and other uses. Urban Acupuncture Other students retained Morar Carioca’s strategy of top-‐down intervention, but with strategically-‐located, smaller-‐scale insertions. Chi-‐An Wu’s project posits new community buildings as “Light Houses,” an approach to improving public safety that is fundamentally different from the fortress police stations that are currently being built in the favelas. The Light Houses provide not only safe haven, but eyes on the street by placing public uses in prominent locations with high visibility that will draw people at all hours. Dongye Liu’s project suggests small, simple changes to the existing streets and pockets of open space, such as street furniture, kiosks, and plantings, that expand the usability of public space and create a much richer public realm.
New police stations have been designed as fortresses. Photo by Pei Liu.
Chi-‐An Wu’s Light Houses provide not only safe haven, but eyes on the street by placing public uses in prominent locations with high visibility that will draw people at all hours.
a more equal distribution of space
Dongye Liu’s project suggests small, simple changes to the street, such as street furniture, kiosks, and plantings, that expand the usability of public space. Design as process By improving living conditions yet supplanting residents’ own efforts in doing so, the Morar Carioca program raises important questions about agency. How does ambitious intervention in the favelas avoid disempowering the residents and creating welfare dependency? In challenging us to find new methods of bottom-‐up renewal, our collaborator Gabriel Duarte quoted the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire: “Give the tools to build the thing, not the thing itself.” A better balance requires a less conventional model of design agency—the designer as enabler. An example is Tim Bevins’ project that addresses the government’s efforts to stabilize hillsides and prevent landslides, in which he designed tools that return control over the process to the inhabitants. Currently the government imposes a brute system of covering the slopes with poured concrete, sometimes before, but often after the
hillside has collapsed. This response not only exacerbates the runoff that contributes to the landslides, but also creates a scar that erases any other possible use of the space. Bevins proposes an inexpensive, portable, modular structural system that can be deployed by the residents themselves. By giving residents control over the design of their environment, the result can respond to the specific needs and contexts of each situation. This approach recognizes the power of the self-‐built process, and uses design to shape the process toward a better outcome.
Tim Bevins proposes an inexpensive, portable, modular structural system to stabilize hillsides that can be deployed by the residents themselves.
Vernacular-‐inspiring design Despite the countless small adaptations for and by individual inhabitants, the informal tissue is global and universal in character. In the past the favela might have been described as vernacular, but the informal settlement has lost its responsiveness to place. Where the favelas were once built of local materials, in response to the local climate, and with details that derived from the local culture and history, today the architecture is globally ubiquitous. This is mostly due to the global reach of manufactured materials that have supplanted the local—concrete, clay brick, corrugated metal, prefab windows. A possible design response is what Rahul Mehrotra has termed the vernacular-‐inspiring practice. Along these lines, Yu-‐Hsiang Lin redesigned the social housing block to be more local in character. While retaining the use of global building materials and the Modernist architectural language of social housing, he has employed individual expression in the massing, as well as courtyards and cross-‐ventilation, balconies and fenestration found in the local vernacular. [Insert Shawn1.pdf here. CAPTION: Yu-‐Hsiang Lin redesigned the social housing block using individual expression in the massing, as well as courtyards and cross-‐ventilation, balconies and fenestration found in the local vernacular.] Stitching across the boundary Still, Rio’s favelas have become tourist attractions, especially the centrally located ones on verdant hillside settings overlooking the ocean, which the tourists even view as picturesque, heightened by the recently adopted custom of painting houses bright colors. The tourism has created tension—while residents are proud of the attention which gives their neighborhoods a certain legitimacy (and makes it difficult for the government to remove them) they are leery of this invasion of outsiders. They are aware of the commodification of their lives, a situation from which they are not directly benefitting.
Tourists survey the Dona Marta favela. Photo by Cesar Simborth Escudero. One of the main objectives of Morar Carioca is to integrate the favela, both physically and socially, with the formal city. The favela is a world clearly apart. The clear distinction hardens the segregation between rich and poor and exacerbates the stigma of the favela. Morar Carioca attempts to bridge the boundaries by placing institutions and community programs at the edges of the favelas, creating a shared public realm that draws residents from rich and poor neighborhoods, will encourage social interaction and a desegregation of classes. Yet at the same time, the boundaries between the favela and protected lands are being hardened, as tall walls are built to prevent informal development from expanding into conservation forests. These walls not only serve to increase the ghettoization of the favelas, but also prevent access to the adjacent conservation lands and sever any connection the residents might have to the forests. Sneha Lohoketar’s project “Transforming the Edge” extends the idea of a public realm shared by the informal and formal city as a “tourist route” consisting of series of paths, plazas and viewpoints along these edges. Residents of the favelas are able to establish businesses along these paths, allowing them to benefit directly from tourism. A clear distinction between public space and private neighborhood is delineated. Rather than seeing favela residents as enemies of conservation, Lohotekar’s proposal encourages favela residents to become protectors of the boundary and stewards of the conservation lands.
Sneha Lohoketar’s project “Transforming the Edge” extends the idea of a public realm shared by the informal and formal city as a “tourist route” consisting of series of paths, plazas and viewpoints along the boundaries of the favela. Economic Empowerment Possibly the strongest boundary between the formal and informal worlds is one of finance. The favelas were begun as illegal settlements, and as such were outside the world of financial capital and ownership. Residents made investments in their neighborhoods, began businesses and provided services all with their own available cash, and without the security of legal title. The legitimation of the favelas has opened them up to outside investment. National chains have recognized the purchasing power of the favela residents. This influx of capital has meant improved infrastructure, utilities, and commercial services. Favela residents now have access to the same grocery stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and phone, cable and internet providers as their fellow Cariocas in formal neighborhoods, but at a price. The term asfaltização (asphaltization) refers to businesses from outside the favela—from the asphalt city—invading the favela. Residents now have access to a middle-‐class lifestyle, but at the expense of self-‐owned local businesses that represent
the independency and self-‐sufficiency of the informal system. The new businesses not only send the profits from the residents’ purchases outside the neighborhood, but also displace locally owned businesses and raise the stakes beyond the ability of informal entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. Rents are higher and more startup capital is required. Jia Weng’s project “Weaving in the Teleférico,” identified the new cable car stations in the Complexo de Alemão favela as potential territory to redress asfaltização. This new transit system upends the hierarchy of access within Alemão—the hilltops, which had been the least accessible and desirable areas, are now the location of major transit stops. The areas around the stations are currently cleared and controlled by the city. Weng proposes that the city redevelop these areas as transit-‐oriented retail centers. This mixed-‐use development, modeled on the markets in Rocinha and Madureira (see Weng and He’s analysis of Madureira on the following pages), serve as business incubators for local retail entrepreneurs, while helping to connect the new transit system to the existing neighborhood.
The new Teleférico stations currently do not connect to their surrounding neighborhoods. Photo by Pei Liu.
Jia Weng’s project “Weaving in the Teleférico’ proposes that the cleared areas surrounding the stations be developed as new centers to the neighborhood.] Learning from the informal These projects are astute in their use of strategies lifted from their informal context. Interventions are small in scale and incremental, and are designed to support spontaneous appropriation. They deploy a programmatic hybridity—layering uses both spatially and temporally—that captures the richness of the intense use of space that is endemic to the favela. The projects describe approaches that can lead to a more meaningful and true integration of the favela into the formal city. The inhabitants are not merely constituents, but actors in the process. The self-‐empowered informal development process can constitute a legitimate form of city building. The much larger problem of global inequality remains to be addressed. Slums will continue to expand around the world. But as other governments and city agencies look for ways to remediate informal developments, they would do well to learn from the favelas of Rio. Approach the slum on its own terms. Recognize that self-‐organized systems are rich, complex environments that can meet many of the needs of their inhabitants better than planned environments.
The complexity of urban design requires us to rethink the agency of the designer. The idea of design has moved beyond top-‐down, deterministic planning toward the shaping of systems and processes. We must redefine the role of design as one that empowers residents and allows them to retain self-‐determination over their environments. The most successful urban interventions are not static and deterministic, but harness the potential of the informal to reweave the urban fabric to repair and reconnect the favela to the formal city.
Morar Carioca: An interview with a city architect on Rio’s Informal Settlement Upgrading program Interview conducted and translated from the Portuguese by Cesar Simborth Escudero, MUD ’13. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil has over a thousand favelas which host over a third of the city’s 6.3 million people (IBGE 2013), and over the past decades many attempts have been conducted by different public administrations in order address them. Morar Carioca is the latest Informal Settlement Upgrading Municipal Plan (IABRJ) carried by the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and now supported by federal funding as part of the preparation of the city towards the 2016 Summer Olympics. The main goal of the program is to integrate informal settlements into the formal city in three different aspects: upgrading, maintenance; and land use control. The following is an interview with Mr. Jorge Ponte, an architect and one of the City of Rio de Janeiro’s Morar Carioca officials, who met with the University of Michigan Urban Design program in Brazil. The interview was conducted by electronic communication in April-‐May 2013. 1. Como começou o Morar Carioca e que coisas fizeram necessária sua aparição? / Why was there a need for Morar Carioca?, How did it start? A Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro estabeleceu no Planejamento Estratégico da Prefeitura 2012-‐2016 iniciativas organizadas em plataformas. O programa Morar Carioca constitui uma dessas iniciativas estratégicas, composta pelas plataformas: Urbanização de Assentamentos Precários Informais, o Programa UPP Social, Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida e Reassentamento de famílias. Neste contexto, a Secretaria Municipal de Habitação tem como desafio promover uma maior integração dos assentamentos precários no município. Pode-‐se dizer que o norteador do surgimento do programa foi a ausência ou insuficiência de políticas habitacionais para uma população com dificuldade de acesso ao mercado formal, que fez da produção informal e da autoconstrução a alternativa através da qual supriu suas necessidades de moradia. O resultado, loteamentos irregulares, clandestinos e favelas espalhados pela cidade, ocupando áreas impróprias ou de risco. Apesar da implantação bem-‐sucedida de alguns programas de urbanização realizados anteriormente, a cidade ainda possui assentamentos não urbanizados e/ou em áreas de risco.
The Municipality of Rio de Janeiro established in the city’s 2012-‐2016 Strategic Plan, a series of initiatives organized in different platforms. Morar Carioca is one of those strategies composed by the following platforms: Informal settlements urbanization, the UPP (Pacifying Police Unit) program, “Minha Casa Minha Vida” (My House My Life) and families relocation. In this context, the Municipality’s Housing Department has the challenge of promoting a better urban integration of the city’s informal settlements. It can be said that the cause of the creation of the program was the lack of housing public policies oriented to the sector of the population that had difficulty accessing the formal market rate housing system. Informality and self-‐construction was their only means to supply their housing needs. As a result a number of informal settlements and favelas are spread throughout the city, which occupy inappropriate or environmentally risky areas. Despite the successful implementation of previous “Urban formalization programs” the city still has non-‐formalized urban settlements, with some of them located in areas of risk. 2. Qual é seu “role” ao programa? / What is your role within the program? Sou fiscal de projetos da Secretaria Municipal de Habitação. Faço parte de uma equipe responsável pela fiscalização e acompanhamento da elaboração dos projetos pelas empresas de arquitetura selecionadas em concurso público. I am a Project Administrator in the City’s Housing Department. I am part of a team in charge of the assessment and guidance of the elaboration of the projects commissioned by the city to the architecture firms selected by a public bidding process. 3. De que jeito o programa melhora a vida dos habitantes das favelas do Rio? / What are some ways in which the program improves the lives of the inhabitants of the favelas? O Morar Carioca tem como premissa dotar a favela de infraestrutura básica, com implantação de urbanização completa, com sistemas de saneamento básico (abastecimento de água, esgotamento sanitário, drenagem, coleta de lixo e iluminação pública). Além disso, os projetos urbanísticos contemplam a implantação de um sistema viário coerente com o acesso a todos os tipos de serviços, ao mesmo tempo em que preconiza a inserção de equipamentos públicos nas áreas da Educação, Esporte/ Lazer e Saúde, criação de praças para convivência e de edifícios residenciais multifamiliares visando a relocação de famílias ocupantes de áreas de risco geotécnico.
The “Morar Carioca” program has the premise of deploying “Complete urbanization” in the favelas, by delivering basic infrastructure, sanitation systems (water supply, sewage, drainage, waste collection) and Street lighting. Additionally the urbanistic projects contemplate the implementation of a coherent Road System which can provide access to all type of services and at the same time promote the insertion of educational, sporting, leisure and health public facilities. The project also considers public plazas for social encounter and multifamily buildings to absorb the relocation of families currently living in identified geotechnical (landslide) risk areas. 4. Você tem uma história favorita que gostaria de contar? Do you have a favorite story from the favelas? Há muitas histórias bacanas. É sempre muito gratificante quando conseguimos visualizar diretamente os benefícios que determinada obra acrescentou à vida de alguém. Nesse caso, estamos falando de milhares de pessoas sendo beneficiadas. There are many nice stories. It is very gratifying when we are able to directly visualize the benefits that a certain project produced to someone’s life. In this case we are talking about thousands of people being favored. 5. Você tem um projeto favorito? / Do you have a favorite project? Não há apenas um projeto específico que me venha à mente. Tenho real interesse e respeito por todos eles. A elaboração de um projeto de urbanização é um processo árduo e que requer certo tempo, pois é necessário entender a dinâmica daquele espaço que certamente tem uma vida própria. Cada favela possui uma peculiaridade, algo bem específico do local e dos moradores que vivem ali, portanto acabamos desenvolvendo um carinho especial por cada projeto, mesmo com as dificuldades que surgem no decorrer do processo. I don’t have a specific project that comes to my mind. I have a real interest and respect for all of them. The elaboration of an urbanization project is a hard process that requires time. It is necessary to understand the particular dynamics of each place that indeed has its own life. Every favela has something unique, something specific from the place and people who live there; as a result we end up developing a particular feeling of affection to every project. Affection and appreciation also arises out of the many difficulties we face during the process. 6. Para você, qual é o maior “logro” do programa? / What do you feel is the most important achievement of Morar Carioca? Um ponto forte do programa é que ele prioriza a inserção efetiva da favela na malha da cidade, tornando-‐a parte integrante de um tecido urbano. Os projetos
preconizam focos urbanísticos que propiciam uma real integração entre os moradores locais e o resto da cidade. One of the program’s main strengths ithat it prioritizes the effective insertion of the favela into the city’s fabric, turning it into part of one urban tissue. The projects celebrate the creation of urban nodes which favor a real integration between favela dwellers and the rest of the city. 7. Para você, quais as debilidades do programa e como você acha que elas poderiam melhorar? / What are some weaknesses of the program? How do you think it might be improved? Entendo que o programa é fruto de muito estudo e muita vivência profissional de pessoas que lidam e trabalham com favelas há bastante tempo, sejam ou não da esfera pública, portanto temos que nos conscientizar de que o Morar Carioca não é algo estático e que mereça uma nota por eficiência a ser ditada nesse momento. Estamos lidando com um processo muito maior e que será avaliado, ao longo do tempo, pela própria população carioca. O programa, por sua complexidade, torna-‐se passível de equívocos, que provavelmente serão ajustados no decorrer do processo, mas pequenos ajustes são e sempre serão necessários quando o mote em questão é algo tão grandioso a ponto de ser considerado um legado para a cidade. Algo que merece especial atenção é o fato de que, em projetos desse porte, Prefeitura, Governo do Estado e Governo Federal devem caminhar de mãos dadas, sem perder o elo, para que se alcance o objetivo almejado. Na escala municipal, o mesmo deve acontecer, com secretarias e órgãos públicos mantendo uma dinâmica de trabalho em equipe, ou seja, conversando entre si. Essa talvez seja a maior dificuldade a ser enfrentada pelo Morar Carioca. To my understanding, the program is the result of a long study and the professional experiences of different people—some coming from the public sector, others not—who have dealt and worked with favelas over a long period of time. In this sense we have to be aware that “Morar Carioca” is not something static to be graded at this time. We are dealing with a much larger process that will be validated over time by Carioca population. The program, due to its own complexity, is likely to make mistakes that probably will be adjusted along the way. Small adjustments are and will always be necessary, given the ambitiousness of its goals, to the extent of being considered a legacy for the city. Something that deserves special attention is the fact that, in projects of this scale, the City, State and Federal governments should continuously work hand in hand in order to achieve the desired objective. At the scale of the local government, the same dynamics should be maintained. The different city departments and public organizations should work as a team. This might be the hardest difficulty faced by “Morar Carioca”.
8. Que lições você acha que o Morar Carioca pode oferecer a outras cidades e países tentando melhorar as condições de suas aglomerações subnormais? / What lessons does Morar Carioca offer other cities and countries trying to improve conditions in informal settlements?
As favelas são um fenômeno mundial, existindo em maior ou menor escala em todos os continentes. Elas se apresentam de formas diferenciadas, com aspectos distintos caracterizados por questões geográficas, econômicas e culturais, demandando a elaboração de programas organizacionais como o Morar Carioca. O que deve ser levado em consideração é que cada favela possui características próprias. Um ponto muito positivo do Morar carioca é justamente a reflexão quanto às necessidades específicas de cada uma delas, não generalizando os tipos de intervenções. Favelas are a global phenomenon, existing to a larger or smaller extent on all continents. They present themselves in different forms, with different aspects characterized by geographic, economic and cultural constituencies demanding unique responses from programs such as “Morar Carioca”. Something that should be taken into consideration is the fact that every favela has its own character. A very positive aspect of Morar Carioca, is the precise reflection made of the specific needs of every favela, rather than generalized types of interventions. REFERENCES: IBGE -‐ Censo Demográfico 2000 e IPP/DIC. Cálculos: IPP/DIC e Oficina Engenheiros Consultores Associados Ltda (serviço contratado pela SMH e coordenado pelo IPP). Extracted from http://www.armazemdedados.rio.rj.gov.br/ 05/15/2013 IABRJ 2013, http://www.iabrj.org.br/morarcarioca/quem-‐somos/
Intense City: An analysis of the Madureira market district Jia Weng, MUD ’13, and Shuqi He, MUD ‘13 The neighborhood of Madureira is home to the largest market district in Rio de Janeiro, drawing shoppers, vendors and wholesalers from all over the city. As a major economic and transportation hub, it hosts an intensity and diversity of activities and a juxtaposition of uses, including retail of all types and scales, manufacturing, warehousing, office, and residential. This analysis examines the urban fabric and building morphology that supports a heterogeneity that makes Madureira one of the most active and vibrant areas of the city.