Surgical Acupunctures: A Case Study in São Paulo

headshot of a young woman with black hair and a black sleeveless shirt standing in front of a white wall
  • Helena Rong, B.Arch. 2017
  • Hometown Vancouver and Shanghai
  • Class ARCH 5902 Design X: Thesis
  • Instructor Andrea Simitch
    Visiting Critic Julian Palacio

This thesis employs vacant architecture in downtown São Paulo as programmatic and opportunistic infrastructure that catalyzes a series of seeded events and grassroots developments.

São Paulo is characterized by continuous fluctuations and constant reconstruction, a polynucleated palimpsest where the new tirelessly overrides the old. Such cycles of renewal propitiated its expansion from a modest Jesuit mission to the second largest global metropolis. Yet the absence of historical traces sets up a scenario of premature aging. Not only is the city's physical appearance in constant flux, so is its social composition. Paradoxically, while the metropolis continues to informally sprawl onto non-structured peripheral lands, the built historical center undergoes severe degradation with an overabundance of infrastructure and underutilized buildings.

This project expresses critical reflections regarding preservations and restorations involving the transformation of architectural and urban sites in downtown and proposes for a new city manifesto that employs adaptive reuse as an opportunity to initiate a bottom-up, participatory development of the urban context. Eight narratives, each with its theme extracted from existing cultural and infrastructural contexts, are sited in vacant buildings across downtown to form a constellation of surgical deployments that effectuates a new mobile network of connections rooted in a bottom-up urbanism.