Inhabiting the edge: São Paulo Art Biennial

Our research addresses the possibility of adapting sustainability concepts to urban poverty situations. The case study is the municipality of Chimalhuacan, located on the eastern edge of Mexico City. Chimalhuacan has a population of 525,000, most of who live as squatters in informal settlements.

The marginal urban conditions of Chimalhuacan are the result of a lack of services, functional public spaces, proper infrastructure, legal property ownership and employment. The zone is also highly vulnerable to floods and exposure to open-air sewage and waste disposal sites. Winds from the north pass over the dumps and sewage in the direction of Chimalhuacan. Recently, cases of rabies have been found in humans.

Construction of the social sphere parallels the physical construction of Chimalhuacan. The way they build their identities reflects the elements that define them. Representation makes up an important aspect of the way the city is narrated and studied, and is influenced by cultural patterns, lifestyles, behaviors and habits.

We believe that an intensification of already existing elements can lead to the emergence of a new type of urbanism. The potential contained in everyday public activities in urban space can generate social transformation.

As Margaret Crawford said, “Urban public space can be conceived as a representative space with the potential to support new meanings, which are activated by social usage and the social imagination.”

We have developed two main strategies: theoretical and tactical site interventions.

The theoretical framework incorporates five main research topics: urban image, sustainability, poverty, informality and representation, each with their own distinct methods of inquiry and key concepts.

Meanwhile with the implementation of various tactical bottom-up interventions in the daily life of informal settlements we believe we can reconfigure urban space in order to arrive at sustainable processes. We have found that by implementing a variety of specific tactics we can give shape to the city space and find meaning in everyday life.

Location: Sierra de Guadalupe, Ecatepec

Project: Rozana Montiel | Arturo Ortíz

Photos: Rozana Montiel | Dante Busquets | Arturo Ortíz

Colaborators: Pablo Álvarez | Jessica Amézcua | Bernardo García | IAM | Alicia Mallén | José Luis Martín | Joel Martínez | Ana Karen Orozco | Gustavo Torres | Nicolás Von Wuthenau

Date: 2006