If we describe the way in which politics and architecture have experienced the birth, growth and explosion of the phenomenon of informal settlements (favelas, slums, bidonville, townships), if we reconstruct this history, we should speak of indifference and condemnation.
Since the end of the Second World War a lapse in memory, in attention, has created a paradoxical situation where, for at least 40 years, architecture and politics have argued to the historic city, the new city of trustees , the city of urban sprawl, but they were unable to face what was happening: anywhere a city based on the principle of survival was born, a city pushed to make maximum use of space, with minimal investments and costs in materials and technologies.
An unplanned city but made by a lot of rules. This informal city is now home for 33% of urban inhabitants of the globe.
A few months ago the population living in cities exceeded 50% of that living in the entire planet. This means that today we have 3 ½ billion urban people, a billion and half of whom live in informal settlements. For 2050, the urban population will be 75% of the entire population of the planet (approximately 6,750,000,000) and more than 2 billion of them will live in slums, favelas, slums, bidonville, townships.
Over the past 40 years the city has been informally observed, conceived, transformed first with indifference and then with condemnation.
If we think today about what we see in a big city like São Paulo, as in all large cities in the world, we must understand that we need to open a third phase, which is no longer the condemnation, which is no longer the indifference but is "taking care".
"Taking care" for a piece of our city, of our society, that we can’t erase from our eyes, but we can’t simply condemn or look as if it was a place to recover.
"Taking care" means above all to look very carefully to what is happening in societies that inhabit the spaces of these informal settlements.
What we are doing in these days and what we will do in the next months in São Paulo (thanks to the Secretary of Habitação, thanks to Prefeitura, thanks to overtime a staff of technicians and administrators led by Elisabete França) is an attempt to understand how to take care of this great piece of our world that we continue to call the informal settlements.
(Stefano Boeri, January 27th, 2012; Cultural Center - São Paulo, Brazil)
A few days ago ended in São Paulo the first of six editions of São Paulo Calling, a multiform initiative, promoted by the Segretaria de Habitaçao and curated by Stefano Boeri, lasting from January to June 2012, that will take us to discover how some of the poorest corners of the world coexist with the most incredible endeavours, to confront informal settlements, and to weave together some of the best fragments created by those who walk, live, transform and govern the city.
During six months an exhibition will analyze causes, characteristics, similarities and differences of the informal settlements of Rome, Nairobi, Medellin, Mumbai, Moscow and Baghdad, while six moments of dialogue will turn São Paulo into the world capital of the debate on the transformation of contemporary cities.
We are convinced that inhabitants’ own designation of needs and entrepreneurial self organization are the first aspects to consider and stimulate in order to carry on relevant political and urban policies. We propose that every month one favela in São Paulo hosts a series of international lectures and debates that will be accompanied with street markets, parties, live music and football matches. Our aim is not only to bring closer those who talk about the city with those who live in it, but also to transform the three million people living in these informal settlements into active protagonists of the ongoing changes and their theorizations.
In the first Jornada, from 27th to 29th January 2012, the community of São Francisco, the third largest favela of São Paulo, hosted Francesco Careri (LAC-University of Roma Tre) and representatives of Rome to discuss the role of political processes of self- organization in the transformation of the informal city.
A two-hour walk brought the two communities to explore parts of the favela disconnected and unknown, to claim trought the art of "get lost" and "discover" the right to live the city and not just the right to have a house.
And more: Stefano Boeri (curator of São Paulo Calling), Joseph Grima (Editor of Domus), Matias Echanove (URBZ, Darawi, Mumbai), Rahul Srivastava (URBZ, Darawi, Mumbai) and Elisabete França (Director of the Secretaria of Habitação and promoter of the project) have argued around the need to build a platform of discussion from Common Manifesto able to open a dialogue between the protagonists of the informal city transformations: architects, planners, researchers, politicians, administrators and local communities.
In the meantime, Giancarlo Mazzanti discussed with the students of Universidade Presbiteriana Makenzie - FAU, of Escola da Cidade (São Paulo), of ETH (Zurich) and Alfredo Billembourg (UTT) about the role of architecture in the transformation of the social and identity processes in the informal city.
All enriched by a big party, colored with music, food and dance in which the inhabitants and the community leaders of São Francisco told their pride in belonging to that part of the city that they built themselves.
They taught us that the favelas are therefore an essential part of the contemporary city, that the informal settlements are not temporary but represent a part of the city that already exists.
Architecture, social networks and economic activities are strongly linked together, like the roots and branches of trees in a forest.
Improving them doesn’t mean thinking a new model of city, but help a branch to grow so that the others will grow.