News / November 2018
Tuesday 17 October 2017
Exploring density in Sao Paulo

Earlier this month, HASSELL Principal Tony Grist attended the fall meeting of the Van Alen Institute’s International Council in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It was the first meeting held in the southern hemisphere, following previous meetings in Copenhagen, Munich and Chicago.

The trip included an architectural tour of a range of urban spaces and buildings designed for large populations, including post-WWII and contemporary examples and an unplanned favela.

There was also a multilingual panel discussion with Instituto Lina Bo Bardi (‘Concrete + Conjured: Lessons on Density’), studio visits to local practices and a final day design charrette on density and civic participation involving International Council members and guests.

Tony says it was an opportunity to explore challenges for densification in one of the world’s densest cities.

“Sao Paulo has developed many strategies for high density living, such as the utilisation of vacant multistorey buildings close to the city centre with ‘organised’ occupations," he said.

"But one lesson learnt is that adequate housing for lower-paid populations needs to be provided in city centres, so as to reduce long commutes from distant suburbs and ensure that essential workers can contribute to core service provision."

The result of inadequate densification in city centres is urban sprawl, a familiar issue faced in Australian cities, Tony says.

"But given the scale of Sao Paulo there are also opportunities to create satellite centres that are well serviced by infrastructure and economic opportunity and offer shorter travel distances for portions of the urban population." 

"In Sydney, Parramatta is a good example, as are the planned areas around the new Western Sydney Aiport."

The not-for-profit Van Alen Institute is based in New York and works with architects, academics, policymakers and communities on cross-disciplinary research, public programs and design competitions.

Members of its International Council meet twice annually to investigate issues facing cities around the world, convene with local policymakers, developers, researchers, and designers and identify topics with potential for deeper exploration with Van Alen’s international audience.

The International Council is led by Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Kim Herforth Nielsen, 3XN.

Tony Grist and Mark Loughnan – joint Heads of Design for Architecture at HASSELL – were appointed as members in 2016.

The next Council meeting will be held in early 2018 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Tony Grist drawing with Van Alen International Council members (Credit: Jose Pelegrini)
Van Alen Institute International Council on tour in Sao Paulo
Ibirapuera Park Buildings by Oscar Niemeyer
Oito Building by Isay Weinfeld
Edificio Copan by Oscar Niemeyer

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