Aseem Inam: How does one design emerging urban practices for the 21st century city? A group of scholar-practitioners from New York and São Paulo investigated this strategy under the thematic umbrella of "informal urbanisms." By "informal urbanisms," I mean the condition of ambiguity that exists in between conventionally demarcated notions of the city [formal/informal, legal/illegal, acceptable/unacceptable, public/private]. Our team worked intensively and interactively in the Guarapiranga area of Sao Pãulo by developing practices that emerge out of our interactions with each other, with the area, and of course, with local communities.
In this process, we created new connections on the edges of the Guarapiranga reservoir by designing a "pier to pier" strategy of new piers that serve as public spaces, locations for social service delivery, and leisure activities. Services such as health clinics, public libraries, job training, and tactics for community organizing help enhance the lives of those in the surrounding favelas (low-income communities) without intervening directly into those communities. Such services also also foster conditions for lower- and middle-income groups to meet and interact.
In addition, a "floating plaza" circulates throughout the large reservoir, serving as a place of gathering and meeting, as well as a flexible setting for a cooperative bank one day, a health clinic the next, a public library the next, an affordable housing workshop the next, and so forth. The unique design of this "floating plaza" makes it a community landmark that residents can identity with. Finally, a new public ferry system works in tandem to facilitate access to employment opportunities in the city. Such emerging urban practices create strategies that are flexible and adapt to the rapidly changing needs of the 21st century. AI