Sâo Paulo has been a good city to learn about. It’s a megacity and this alone can mean we will never truly understand everything that happens across the homes of over 20 million people.
I’m here to prepare myself for a study looking at the emerging urban planning practice of PLACEMAKING. A big part of why I am here is to look at the effects of a link between Placemaking and community safety. Secure streets offer an astounding plan for the future. I knew Sâo Paulo would be a great place to test this principle but in 24 hours I was astounded at the evidence of social challenges in this city.
Take one. Action.
A 26 story building (another story I read wrote 24 storeys) in the central area of the city caught fire. The video below, courtesy of the BBC, shows it.
The tower collapsed. It was a massive event and we remain unsure of the number of poor people killed during the disaster. It was something that could and should have been avoided from regulatory steps, I feel. I automatically looked up at my own ceiling in the city, pondering the same fate.
In Australia, every household has a fire alarm installed. Do we think of our luck in what would occur if a fire started and we didn’t see it or were not home? If we were home we would be supported to survive quickly in Australia, as the fire services would arrive with such speed.
In Sâo Paulo, the fire alarms did not save this building. I’m unsure if there were fire alarms that reflected the practices of the Australian standard, the building and lives would have been saved, if the alarms had been built across the building’s construction.
Another interesting reality is that within an hour and a half, the fire began and consumed the building to cause its fall. That is a fast pace and one could say that the building itself was in a derelict condition. It was once a commercial building but had become the home of many low income residents. However, the building was still owned by the federal government and it makes you wonder if the possible disrepair of the building could have been a causation of the process. If repair was required to the construction, then this should have been done to preserve the tower for use today and tomorrow. The question remains on whether such a project was halted as those living inside were squatters and not considered ‘economic clients’ of the development.
The city government has estimated that dozens of other buildings in the area, occupying thousands of families, are in a similar condition. Why? Regulation of these living spaces could be a cause for future turmoil or imminent death, things like excessive waste in elevator shafts and cooking facilities not being monitored for safety offer a reason for blame. Buildings in a similar condition make me wonder if the government is doing anything to inspect these spaces. Anything.
Take two. Action.
I was wandering in the leafy Ibirapuera Park, enjoying the cool labour day air. The park was filled with this megacity’s population, enjoying some recreational time on the public holiday. We were sitting and the person I was with heard some loud noises, I wonder what that was…
Within moments police cars zoomed into the open space where we were sitting, asking everyone to leave quickly. It felt like some kind of military exercise, suddenly police appeared on motorbikes to herd everyone to the other side of the park. This was a huge task as they didn’t have time for long conversations, while they attempted to catch the source of the sound we heard.
That sound was a shooting. A man with a gun had entered the park en route from a robbery. He shot a guard and that was likely to be the reason behind the sound we heard. He then left the park and took a woman from a nearby residence hostage, before his apprehension.
It was a little scary but much of the park stayed on. Enjoying their day off work.
Take three…wait, this isn’t a movie. This is reality!
Safety and Security are only dreams for some in the city of Sâo Paulo…