One Fabric, Different Scales, Multiple Actors: Cabuçu de Cima, São Paulo

Master Thesis, University of California Berkeley, May 2015

São Paulo is a city characterized by profound inequalities. It is sufficient to look at the asymmetry of the everyday commuting of its residents: while workers from the peripheries pile in queues waiting for buses, citizens from élite classes escape traffic jams and insecurity through private helicopters that hover over the city.[1] At the same time, São Paulo has been a fundamental laboratory for the transformation of urban policy into a means to citizenship and equality.[2]

The “right to the city,”[3] claimed by the residents of the peripheries of São Paulo since the 1980s, has been the right to produce the space and to access the level of infrastructure available in the center. Since the 1980s, multiple actors (residents, planners, administrators, and architects) have negotiated urbanization projects in the peripheries of São Paulo.

This thesis provides five accounts of actors involved in the transformation of Cabuçu de Cima, an area located in the Northern periphery of São Paulo: the municipal administrator, the technical team of the São Paulo Housing Agency, the resident, the architect. I also added the researcher’s (myself) perspective. This multi-perspectival account is vital to understand the complexity of the processes underpinning the fabric of Cabuçu de Cima, São Paulo, and other urban peripheries in the global South.

[1] United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). São Paulo. A Tale of Two Cities.Cities & Citizens. Bridging the Urban Divide, 2010p. ix.

[2] Caldeira, Teresa, and James Holston. “Participatory Urban Planning in Brazil.” Urban Studies, March 5, 2014.

[3] “The Right to the City. “ In H. Lefebvre, Writings on Cities, E. Kofman and E. Lebas (eds), 63–184. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996, p. 158.