case study – Infrastructures as barriers – Belo Horizonte Anel Rodoviario; Brasil

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Belo Horizonte is, at the moment, crossed by a high speed arterial road, the “Anel Rodoviário”, an arc-shaped Regional highway that brings many negative consequences as a strong disconnection between the different parts of the city, a high level of danger, the presence of undefined urban areas, a lack of public spaces, problems in the interference of activities and the environmental fragility of the surroundings. The project is aimed to convert the present Regional Transportation Corridor into a local road, elaborating a new “model of public transit-oriented urban development“ and activating short and long-term strategies of urban regeneration.

MARGINALIZATION AND SOCIAL EXCLUSION

In Brazilian cities, the phenomenon of inequality and social marginalization becomes an “urban question”, a phenomenon characterized by dynamics and features different from the European situation, which require a deep awareness of the territory and of its problems.
The social marginalization in European cities (with great differences in the various cultures) corresponds to the formation of suburban models, poor quarters, which are marginal and diametrically opposed to the geographic center of the city. The city of the poor in Europe is to be defined as a process seen in its historical context, a strategy of exclusion (B. Secchi) which concentrated the immigrated working class in distant enclaves, far from the wealthy class, thus generating suburbs and peripheries. These are parts of a planned and spontaneous city and, with time, they have acquired different characteristics and distinguishing features with the evolution of the economic system and the social changes: from the success of the megalopolis linked to the industrial revolution, to the rational vision of the city , to the Taylorist and Fordist model, to the advent of mass society and the crisis of modern western democracies, characterized by ever-changing social relations and structures (liquid society, Baumann ), by the limits and risks linked to the dissolution of the classic industrial society (the risk society, Beck ) and by the success of new economic and consumption models which brought to the exclusion of the poorest brackets of the population (the society of access, Rifkin ). If, on the one hand, these socioeconomic processes can be read in a planetary and global dimension, on the other, the situation of Brazil must be analyzed in its specificity. In this context, the social separation and the informal city are significant phenomena, a matrix of urban fabrics and a macroscopic mechanism of city growth.

In the villas and favelas of Belo Horizonte, as in the rest of Brazil, lives a great part of the population (more that 11.4 million people equal to 6% of the whole Brazilian population – the states of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro e San Paolo total half of the population of the favelas of the country ) and this strongly affects the development programs of the cities within the critical urban issues, such as the ones linked to the concentration/separation of distressed communities, to urban fragmentation and to the dispersion provoked by the housing policies, characterized by a constant obligation to identify new areas for social housing.
Nowadays, the experiences made in the last decade can be evaluated, starting from the push given by the creation of the Ministero das Cidades in 2003, by analyzing the programs and projects which dealt with the urban question and with the problems of the informal city also by means of experimental interventions.
Urban planning has evolved, it has acquired new instruments capable of triggering a process of inclusion and social development, a multi-disciplinary approach has affirmed itself and the importance of people’s participation to the decision-making and land use planning process has become clear.
However, the overall scenario is complex and it is a mistake to think that social exclusion and urban decay exist only in the favelas; on the contrary, the complexity of urban phenomena, the system of relations and the possibility to improve the city extensively, respecting the identity of local places and communities , are factors which must be considered.

In this Urban project, carried out with the local authorities, these principles are applied to redefine the characteristics of the suburban urban arch of Belo Horizonte, giving to public transport the task of making the city more accessible and homogeneous. The low cost of public transport and its widespread coverage of the territory represent, in fact, principles of equity and democracy in an urban context characterized by deep poverty and strong social differences. The project of the public transport corridor is meant to be an infrastructure dedicated to public space, a project accepting to function on a human scale, a system capable of redeveloping the existing city and of generating new poles and new urban sites, through a vision aimed at designing a more equitable and accessible city, by improving circulation (especially commuting) and providing support to the policies based on the improvement of life quality.

URBAN MODEL

The regeneration of the existing city and of the urban and social fabric is therefore the main challenge of the work carried out for the project of the Anel Rodoviario; the project proposal is centered on a model of layout, envisaging at same time the maintenance of the existing urban characters and the new opportunities of development both sustainable and compatible with the territory.
The general guidelines for the ongoing planning process can be summarized as follows:

An URBAN MODEL ORGANIZED BY PARTS –
The proposed model of development aims at characterizing each area for its specificities, preserving the different historical/cultural/geographical contexts, focusing on their particular qualities and reconstructing the identity of the different boroughs (Bairros). The large-scale urban plan coexists with district-scale projects to rethink public spaces, create new opportunities and reconstruct the system of relations within the city;

by parts

A MODEL CENTERED ON THE TRANSFORMATION/REGENERATION OF THE EXISTING CITY The goal is to promote flexible models, with the intent not to cancel the existing city but rather to facilitate processes of urban renewal and regeneration. Investments and resources are not only concentrated on single interventions, as the benefits are extended to larger areas, triggering citywide processes to contrast marginalization and involve in the transformation a large part of the population (Favelas). The intention is to encourage an equitable model of development, that can foster at the same time big works and a widespread urban renovation.

BALANCE BETWEEN BUILDING DENSIFICATION / CONSERVATION OF THE PRODUCTIVE ACTIVITIES/ PRESERVATION OF THE GREEN CORRIDORS The necessity has been pointed out of a synthesis between the different realities that characterize this urban crescent. The many strategic functions along the Ring are preserved and their coexistence is promoted, dealing with the complexity of the system, optimizing and improving the compatibility of the different activities and limiting their impacts;

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A MODEL TO IMPROVE THE INTEGRATION OF THE VARIOUS TRANSPORTATION MODES WITH URBAN SPACES
The Public Transport Corridor is meant to be at the same time a new infrastructure to support and connect the existing city and generator of new polarities and new places. The project for land use planning and the processes of urban requalification are strengthened by the redesign of the public transport network, through a methodology in which the two phases, one focused on the development of the public transport system and the second centered on the public spaces design, merge in a single project finalized to build a more accessible city, rationalize the travels (especially commuting) and provide support to the policies based on the improvement of Life Quality.

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