Sao Paulo: the Rescaling of Rail Infrastructure and New Models of Domestic Life

This advanced option studio will examine how the rescaling and decking of inner city rail infrastructure can serve as a driver for new sites of affordable housing in contemporary Sao Paulo (Brazil). The course will specifically focus on the architectural and urbanistic potential found in reorganizing large tracts of land, that today are occupied by mono-functional rail infrastructure into development sites for mixed use inner city housing. In doing so, the studio will explore how design can bring spatial synthesis between domestic space, the dimensions of mobility infrastructure, and the multiple scales associated to urban life.

In a similar manner to many other major metropolises around the globe (Mexico City, New York City, Tokyo) Sao Paulo has experienced most of its fast paced urban growth during the post World War II era (1940-1980). While the city’s history dates back 450 years, the vast majority of its current mobility infrastructure emerged under models and premises of the second half of the twentieth century, generally characterized by mono-functional uses and dimensions incongruent with the rest of the city.  As a result of this, today Sao Paulo is a city significantly fragmented by pieces of heavyweight mobility infrastructure (highways, rail lines, drainage systems, large logistical facilities) that were conceived as independent from the city and today severely break the continuity of its urban fabric.

Today, the city of Sao Paulo and its current municipal administration is committed to rethinking the mono-functional role of mobility infrastructure and its affiliated spaces within the city. The studio will capitalize on this momentum, in order to conceptualize the role of design in transforming emblematic parts of the city through new high-profile infrastructural projects, in combination with an expanded high-density programmatic brief heavily focused on new inner city residential uses.

This studio will utilize the city’s desire to deck rail infrastructure as a point of departure, in order to analyze the larger history of public works and urban development in Sao Paulo. Through archival research and the construction of original drawings, the studio will single out the most significant forms of urban growth that have shaped Sao Paulo and its metropolitan region. The research will specifically focus on the relationship between topography, mobility infrastructure and urban morphology.  Furthermore, the studio will capitalize on this new investment in mobility infrastructure paired with new development sites as the possible setting where new models of collective urban life can emerge. Through precise design interventions and informed by the preliminary research, the studio will be tasked with generating new physical and experiential identities that can provide alternative forms of urbanity guided by new residential uses and the models of urban life these can engender.

Clayton Strange will serve as Teaching Associate for this studio.