During the ’90s, workers and proletarian social movements began to break into abandoned buildings in São Paulo, Brazil. Today, there are more than 40 self-claimed organizations that ‘squats’ in hundreds of abandoned properties, allowing families, immigrants, students, or workers in a homeless situation to live in these places.
On the 13 floors of the ‘Marconi’ squat, about 400 people accommodate in offices adapted into rooms of 50 to 100 sq ft, under the uncertainty of a decent housing solution. Within it, the notion of home (a space of emotional relationships and identity) becomes as unstable as the memories and expectations of a steady future. Marconi is a place where life stories have common experiences of nostalgia and loss.
Several life testimonies from the residents of Marconi invite us to ask ourselves, how deep we can see within our cities, how do we deal with housing problems? Who organizes? Where is the real crime in all this? To whom is it visible, and who is not?. ‘PREDIO’ encourages dialogue about an urban crisis within a South American historical context, and what we leave behind in our identity and collective memory.
In 2013, I started visiting the ‘Marconi’ building. During this process, I was invited to be a part of the community, living for periods of six up to eight weeks, two or three times a year. The full body of work consists of a series of photographs, video footage, interviews, archival material, and collages from a personal travel journal.
The 1988 Brazilian Constitution allows people to occupy abandoned properties that aren't fulfilling any social function. These buildings are informally referred to as 'Squats'. The Marconi has been occupied since 2012 and is still waiting to be deemed public housing (which would allow it to receive subsidies from the state). Roughly 400 people live in the building. São Paulo, Brazil. 2018.
Former offices, many of the rooms inside the Marconi have been adapted into studio apartments and are used by families who would otherwise be at risk of living on the streets. SaÌƒo Paulo, Brazil. 2018.
Antonia, 56 years old, was one of the oldest and most respected women from the Marconi. Originally from Paraíba, arrived in São Paulo at the age of 18 and lived in the streets with a toddler. Later on, the convent where she worked, forced her to give up her baby for adoption. She explains: ‘’Up until now, I’m still asking her about where my child is. And she keeps saying, “I don’t know where your baby is.” São Paulo, Brazil. 2016.
A kid takes a photograph of his toys with a smartphone. Social groups shelter people who aren’t able to pay higher sums of rent. São Paulo is the most populated city in South America, with a number of 30.000 people living in a homeless situation. SaÌƒo Paulo, Brazil. 2014.
William, 18 years old on the right, Lenny, 24 years old. Families are often from the inland countryside, as part of the internal migration of Brazil. ‘Squats’ are the only affordable solution for those who aren’t able to survive with the minimum wage of 998 Brazilian reais per month (USD 262.25), when a standard rent costs about 1400 reais. São Paulo, Brazil. 2015.
Once a building is “squatted,” there are 72 hours where people must wait until police forces can not evict them. Essential services, like water, electricity, or even sanitary sewers, are crafted and forced to function. SaÌƒo Paulo, Brazil. 2018.
Marco Antonio, 42 years old. After an extensive interview at his room, Marco Antonio falls asleep on his bed. Fatigue is a side effect of the medication he takes for schizophrenia and Asperger syndrome. São Paulo, Brazil. 2016. He explains in an interview: (...)Those ones are my pills…They aren't available in the Public Health Care system; those are imported from the USA. I pay 100R$ (30 USD) each dose...and sometimes I use 2 per day. (...)Dystonia, weakness, it's tough for me to get things done...I forget about things... that's why my room is such a mess, you know? But I think it is just because I'm always tired…And all of those boxes there is just junk(...). SaÌƒo Paulo, Brazil. 2016.
Kley was among the first people to claim the empty Marconi and began the process that she hopes will ultimately recognize the building as public housing by the state. “This building is closed,” she says, explaining her thinking, “and we have so many people living in the streets.” São Paulo, 2014.
A tent camp settled outside the ‘PalaÌcio do AnhangabauÌ,’ was another protest for housing resolutions. People stayed for over six weeks on improvised tents, sharing shifts, and constantly cutting the transit in order to raise awareness and attention. SaÌƒo Paulo, Brazil. 2016.
Window view from the Marconi, looking at an office building in São Paulo’s downtown, where abandoned and active real estate blends into the urban landscape. São Paulo, Brazil. 2014.
Families are often from the inland countryside, as part of the internal migration of Brazil. ‘Squats’ are the only affordable solution for those who aren’t able to survive with the minimum wage of 998 Brazilian reais per month (USD 262.25). A standard rent cost about 1400 reais (USD 400). São Paulo, Brazil. 2015.
A family of five in total with three kids and a dog sleeps in what was once a dentist’s office, now adapted into a 100 sq ft room. One of the challenges for the movement was to adapt spaces for pregnant women and newborn babies since the building hasn’t received any disease control or safety inspection. São Paulo, Brazil. 2018.
Despite the significant number of people in São Paulo who are living on the streets, the city is home to hundreds of uninhabited properties. These buildings often stand empty and abandoned, when they could instead be a home for the priced out of the city’s housing market. São Paulo, 2018.