São Paulo City Center between Neoliberal Urbanization and the Common
Following the Occupy movements in the USA, 15M in Spain and the struggles for Taksin Park in Turkey, Brazil has seen its own new cycle of urban struggles emerge over the past years. Committees organized against the processes of accumulation by dispossession undertaken in the making of Brazilian cities for sports mega-events and enormous countrywide protests in the so-called June Journeys in 2013 are all expressions of a new wave of activism for the right to the city. In São Paulo, one noticeable aftermath of this wave is the proliferation and the spread of social movements, mobilizations and radical action occupying vacant/public spaces, opposing privatizing and predatory urban projects, prototyping alternative urbanities and reclaiming the city as a common. Contesting neoliberal urbanization and the imperative of rentability, these movements challenge an urban structure dominated by shopping malls and high-rise gated communities, shaped over the past three decades as a highly segregated city of walls.
But the exercise of a collectivity in reshaping urbanization process is soon appropriated by the real-estate capital in a power struggle over the production and consumption of central urban spaces. Ideals behind urban activisms are incorporated to discourses and to the promotional material of new housing development, mildly translated as a desire for a “more creative” city “on the human scale”. The paper examines new housing development in the city center of Sao Paulo, studios as tiny as 10 square meters targeting educated, creative young adults. I argue that for this new and extremely rentable typology of housing products, the city advertised as a lively stage for expression and contestation is a valuable product.