Promoted by the Municipal Housing Secretariat, São Paulo Calling is the project that will take us between January and June 2012 to debate the policies undertaken by the Municipality of São Paulo and those prepared by other metropolis that, in different and distant parts of the planet, are facing today the big problems of the informal settlements.
For six months, a traveling exhibition will explore the characteristics, the differences and the causes of the informal settlements of Rome, Nairobi, Medellin, Mumbai, Moscow and Baghdad.
At the same time, 6 workshops to be held in São Paulo, in the districts of São Francisco, Cantinho do Céu, Bamburral, Heliópolis, Paraisópolis and the center will highlight practices and direct life experience of the inhabitants. Convinced that self-determination of needs and entrepreneurial self-organization is the ﬁrst thing to consider and provide incentives for a correct political and urban action, every month a slum from São Paulo will host lectures and debates of international guests and their own inhabitants. This will be accompanied by street markets, festivals, concerts and soccer tournaments, not only to bring closer those who talks to whom lives in the city, but also because the three million people living in informal settlements are active protagonists of transformations and theorizations.
Laboratories and research on São Paulo Calling will highlight some important common themes to the informal settlements in the world today that can be summarized in eleven points in a ﬁrst draft of a manifesto.¹
3,000,000 people live in the informal settlements of São Paulo
8,000,000 people live in the slums of Mumbai
2,500,000 people live in poor areas of Nairobi
The informal settlements are not an alien, strange body, separated from the city, but they are an important and constitutive part of the contemporary city.
The informal city grows fast, sometimes even faster than the capacity of the public administration to plan the development.
In many countries, the informal settlements are the primary form of access to urban life to thousands of migrants and farm workers. An unstoppable ﬂow of urbanization that every year moves millions of inhabitants of the planet from the countryside to cities.
Often distant from downtown, the slums are isolated, autonomous, distinct systems, transforming the urban system to which they belong into a unit composed of ‘many small towns’.
Each slum has its own characteristics, its language, its activities, its music, its ritual, its aspiration. Each one follows its organization logics and identity.
In the slums, the survival needs and the absence of restrictions and regulations may encourage the widespread development of small craft businesses and service to the citizen that replace the public welfare and nurture a molecular market of products.
You can live in the slums with little and choose to learn. Every idea can become a profession and creativity produces economy.
The informal settlements have a unique physical structure, composed of thousands of small buildings clustered. A compact, small and intimate structure where every corner has life. Intimacy means that everyone knows of everyone’s life, to be intimate with their neighbors for better or for worse.
The slums host legal and illegal forms of self-organization. Religious associations, business community, but also criminal organizations that manage the illegal drug markets. The degree and nature of these forms of informal organizations can increase the degree of protection of informal settlements.
The slums are constantly changing, evolving.
They change and grow, satisfying the changing needs of individuals and families that live there.
They reveal a history of primordial development, conﬁgured through the biography of every migrant, every family, every community living there.
The slums are an eco-city, which never irreversibly changes the territory. But they are also viral cities, occupying every free space and that transforms the landscape in a bio human nature: each space is invaded, there are no gaps in which the city can slow down, breathe. The slums are therefore an essential part of the contemporary city.
The informal settlements are not temporary but they tell a part of the city that already exists. Architecture, social networks and economic activities are hopelessly entangled, like the roots and branches of a forest.
Improving them does not mean thinking a new model of city, but help a branch to grow so that the others will grow too.
(1) The points, presented below, are the elaboration of the manifesto born from the collaboration between Stefano Boeri and Urbz and also the contribution of Sehab and the researchers involved in the project São Paulo Calling.