Städtebauliche Denkmalpflege und Urbanes Kulturerbe

Dissertation: Preserving the late 20th century metropolis: The Underground in São Paulo (Provisional title)

Lara Melo Souza M.Sc.

What is the cultural significance of the underground in São Paulo? Due to its relevance for everyday life and for the construction and transformation of the city, it has been the theme of a considerable amount of studies. Technical, urban, and designing aspects were explored. However, no attention has been paid to understand it as cultural heritage or to its preservation. This approach is not a local issue, but part of an international context of investigating recent artifacts and preserving everyday infrastructure. Are these objects in danger even before recognition?

As in any other large metropolis, mobility is a compelling issue in São Paulo and there is a lot of pressure on expanding the underground, not only by the construction of new lines and connections, but also by increasing and adapting of the existing infrastructure. The aim of this study is to understand the underground system in the city of São Paulo as a part of its cultural heritage.

The construction of the underground in São Paulo began in the mid 1970´s under the military dictatorship, was first expanded along with the democratic reopening in the 1980´s and middle 1990´s and had its first privatized line constructed in the first decades of the 2000´s. While historically it has gone through many phases, the underground is an integral part of everyday life and primary means of conveyance for millions of citizens, being at the same time symbolic public spaces continually under growth and transformation pressure.

Nevertheless, the system is tightly connected to the history of the city and is related to its identity. It has transformed central consolidated areas and created new landscapes at expansion vectors, being a projection of public policies, economical and political contexts, technical and esthetical representatives. Four isolated stations are already protected by the municipal heritage institution as architectural landmarks.

My intention is to focus on the infrastructure built between 1972 and 1998, designed by three generations of architects and corresponding to the first three lines. This fragment was entirely planned, undertaken and is operated by the state and represents an idea of a public accessible infrastructure in different historical moments supporting the metropolis to grow. Brazil has recently experienced extensive privatization of mass transportation and services – the underground in São Paulo included. If this model shift resulted in a transformation in management and space production, is there an impact on identification and permanence?

Systematic heritage studies referring to objects dated to the 1970s on are still under construction. With this research I aim to contribute to the field. Through the analysis of architectural projects, maps, social and historical context, media mentions and iconography, as well as relevant literature, the goal is to explore the underground’s cultural, social, historic, scientific, and aesthetic significance and understand the relevance of its preservation.