Producing the Contemporary City

24 May - 2 September 2007
PowerNotes #05
Watery Voids

Watery Voids, São Paulo (Brasil) is a plan made by MMBB Arquitectos. This is one out of fourteen plans made for the exhibition Visionary Power, Producing the Contemporary City. Watery Void belongs to the Power theme Informal cities-Migration.

Every year, São Paulo is struck by heavy floods. The city's explosive growth has lead to the occupation of areas that were previously fluvial plains. As a consequence, water can no longer seep into the ground fast enough. Therefore, the state has built piscinões throughout the city, giant basins to catch the excess water. Of the 131 piscinões planned (which will hold 15,5 million cubic metres of water), 42 have now been completed. For most of the year, they are no more than immense open holes in the middle of the city. MMBB calls for abandoning the exclusively technical view of infrastructure works. Instead of this, infrastructure should be designed as urban space, integrated with the urban fabric and adapted to the city's local scale. São Paulo's informal sectors are the most lacking in regard to public space. MMBB Arquitectos proposes the redesign of the hydrographical system in such a way that it creates a structuring system in the periphery, a new network of public spaces that can strengthen social bonds in this though metropolis. For most of the year, the basins can then serve as playgrounds, football pitches, skate parks or gathering spots.

This action demands the cooperation of other policy sectors and the configuration of strong referential images within the cityscape. The strategy is to work with the existing social wealth, directed towards projects in the periphery aimed at bringing about improvements in the central area. The proposal is to confer Power to construct urban values in places where there formerly existed only functional ones.


MMBB Arquitectos received an Award for the best entry in the international exhibition Visionary Power for their project Watery Voids. The jury, chaired by Dutch Government Architect Mels Crouwel, praised the project for its realism and the intelligent way it links official infrastructure to the problems of the informal city, the favelas.



"This is not a mountain full of houses, it is a house as big as a mountain."

(Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner in Carácas. The Informal City, 2007)