18 October 2011

São Paulo's Highline

Picnic on Elevado Costa e Silva. Image source.
The city of São Paulo is famously known for its congested streets and highways and as well its tremendous lack of public space. In the 1970s the Elevado Costa e Silva (also known as the Minhocão - the 'big worm') was built to relieve the load of the traffic in the city centre. Right from the beginning the infrastructural project has been very contested, since the elevated highway was boldly erected in the inner cities street canyons leading the traffic only few meters away of the windows of the neighbouring buildings. This fact has rendered an ongoing discussion to destruct the highway ever since it has been built. In order to compensate the infrastructural misplanning the city government has decided to close the route from Monday to Saturday during nighttimes and also during daytimes on Sundays only a few years ago. Hence the 2.2 miles long Minhocão has become a space for leisure in the city where public space is scarce. For many residents the highway, paradoxically, has become a retreat from the chaos of the congested city to enjoy a minimum of leisure time. Hence especially on Sundays the park is packed with runners, dog walkers and even picnickers. Therfore each week a linear park evolves comparable to New York City's Highline - both are successfull, but the Minhocão doesn't need an awarded design firm for its public activation.

all images by Paolo Batalha

Nevertheless in recent years the dismantling of the expressway is demanded from various fronts, including São Paulo's Major. Also filmmaker Fernando Mereilles advocates for its destruction. The Minhocão famously featured in his film 'Blindness',  since for him it 'is a perfect image to represent the madness of a city built and inhabited by the blind'. In case it is possible that the traffic can be dealt with, the destruction might be a good idea. Nevertheless, what Mereilles - who interestingly also is an architect and urban planner - and the other supportes of the highway's destruction are not thinking of is to compensate the use of the Minhocão as a public space. 

Film still 'Blindness'. Image source.

This post is part of an ongoing research on urban picnicking. More to come soon.