A Place in Heaven/A Place in Hell. Tactical Operations in Sao Paulo’s Informal Sector

Informal urbanism is the dominant mode of development in the fastest growing cities of the world. Today, we live in an age where over 30% of our urban world population lives in slums. The total of one billion slum dwellers is supposed to double by 2030. With the world going into a major recession, informal urbanism will expand even more than projected. Despite these facts, the majority of our design profession does not work, and more importantly does not know how to work in these areas. Cantinho do Ceu (\”A Place in Heaven\”) is an informal city in the South of Sao Paulo; it houses 70,000 slum dwellers out of the 1.5 million in the metropolis. Cantinho is of strategic importance for Sao Paulo. It sits at the largest water reservoir of the metropolis which it pollutes heavily. Despite its poor infrastructure, sanitation and economic problems, Cantinho is a vibrant city. Its several kilometer long waterfront is undeveloped and has high potential.As finite masterplanning has failed, the studio will pursue tactical operations unfolding over periods of time. Investigations will range from the watershed scale to the individual housing unit. A special focus will be placed on the deep integration of public space with alternative infrastructure propelling current favela upgrading practices to more contemporary principals of ecological urbanism. Cantinho is a real project by our sponsor, the Sao Paulo Housing Agency which will fund our site visit in the first week of March. The studio is open to all departments and will be consulted by an international team of specialists ranging from environmental engineers to artists. The results of the studio will be published in a book, presented and exhibited at the Museu da Casa Brasileira in Sao Paulo.Instructor Team and Studio Mentors The expertise of the instructor team extends over three disciplines: landscape architecture (full-time), architecture (three visits + field trip) and environmental engineering (two visits + field trip). The part time instructors will be available for consultations by e-mail and skype. The instructor team will be complemented by a group of 22 studio mentors. These are experts in various disciplines and take great interest in the topic and progress of the studio. As a group they represent an immense body of knowledge and have agreed to be accessible for consultation. Matching the interdisciplinary composition of the instructor team the studio is open to all departments. Students should be prepared to develop detailed physical designs on the landscape, urban and architectural scale.SiteCantinho do Ceu is a 150 ha city occupying one half of a peninsula at the Billings water reservoir about 30 km south of historic Sao Paulo. To its west, Cantinho do Ceu is separated through a powerline corridor from Beira Mar, a similar sized favela (the Brazilian name for slum). Cantinho do Ceu was founded around 1970 when developers illegally staked out land and sold the parcels to poor people who could not afford apartments in Sao Paulo. The city quickly grew and houses today around 70,000 out of the 1.5 million favela dwellers of Sao Paulo. Cantinho do Ceu is densely populated. It is as crowded as Manhattan island, with the difference that Cantinho do Ceu\'s inhabitants are housed in two to three story buildings. Cantinho do Ceu has massive infrastructural problems. Electricity and potable water is pirated; untreated sewage flows directly into the reservoir; the town has only three access points by road. With the exception of one large new school and several churches, other necessary infrastructure like hospitals, daycare centers, nursing homes and recreational amenities are non-existent. Public open space is reduced to narrow unpaved streets and unbuildable steep slopes. Like in many Brazilian favelas, security is compromised and drug trafficking is a common problem.Despite all these predicaments, Cantinho do Ceu is a lively city with co