Monday, May 10, 2010

City of fences

One of the things that I find most striking about São Paulo is the feeling that I am always looking at something through a gate or a fence.

In every area of the city I have visited, properties are divided by fences right to the edge of the sidewalk. In Jardins, which is a very wealthy neighborhood, mid and high-rise towers provide the majority of residential accommodation. Most have relatively small footprints, so they tend to jostle right up next to one another when seen from a distance. The towers themselves occupy either the center of the property, or push all the way back from the street. Add fences, plus the wildly growing vegetation hovering over them, and the towers almost disappear.

What you are left with is a myriad of fences enclosing the streets, punctuated every five or so meters by driveways that propel cars over the sidewalks onto the streets. Luckily for the hapless pedestrian, each driveway is marked by a warning sign with two flashing lights for when a gate is opening and a car is going to be ejected forth from its exclusive domain.

Adding insult to injury in many cases is that these aren't walls (which Id say disallow any views beyond) but fences, with varying levels of transparency, so that you always know what is right beyond but unavailable to you. Which in many cases is nothing of interest at all. Instead, it is the separation and exclusivity that are important.

And that seems to be common to many aspects of S
ão Paulo. Some of the interesting architectural projects I have wanted to visit are for exclusive members clubs or gyms or “superVIP” areas. Consequently, I didn't get in. (Contrast this with areas I really want to see but are exclusive to the poor: the favelas).

Obviously, there is a great disparity between (monetary) wealth in S
ão Paulo, but does that really explain the need for such hyper-exclusivity?

1 comment:

  1. Um, I'm don't understanding your verbal description. Could you diagram this for us, please? I only speak diagram now.