The debates around the pros and cons of Vila Itororó’s incorporation as a listed building to be preserved, in the 1980’s, constitute fundamental work in the intensification of the controversy regarding the future of the architectural ensemble. The pages reproduced here constitute the expert opinion redacted by Ulpiano Bezerra de Meneses for CONDEPHAAT, then presided by Modesto Souza Barros Carvalhosa, in a process over 200 pages long.

The issues that the Vila Itororó Canteiro Aberto propose to discuss  are, to a great extent, those raised by Ulpiano in the 1980’s. Vivian Legname Barbour, researcher at FAU-USP, studies Vila Itororó’s listing process and comments, in the following paragraphs, Ulpiano’s expert opinion.

Ulpiano Bezerra de Meneses’ expert opinion, of March 1985, constitutes a point of inflection in Vila Itororó’s listing process at Condephaat. The process had began three years before, with a request by IAB/SP. Until that moment, the discussions about the eventual listing of Vila Itororó were centred around its formal aspects – architects and technicians deemed Vila Itororó as a “singular construction”, whose dreamlike and surrealist features materialised a memory for the capital city. The original aspects of the buildings were highlighted: when, how and by whom the ensemble had been made.

The restoration proposal for the ensemble elaborated by request of the Planning General Coordination (COGEP), in 1975, proposed that Vila Itororó was to be recomposed in its original spirit in order to house a cultural centre. This project was used to support IAB/SP’s request for Vila Itororó listing: it was argued that the ensemble currently enjoyed public recognition and that there was a project already, signed by renowned architects that would give a “nobler destination” to the site. It was understood that housing was not the most adequate occupancy to celebrate that architectural monument and that the preservation of Vila Itororó would only be possible with the removal of its dwellers.

Thus, the proposal involved extracting Vila Itororó from daily life and placing it in an aseptic “cultural” universe: this was a fetishised notion of culture, which situated it in the materiality of the buildings at Vila Itororó, disconnecting it from the social relations that they sheltered every day. The consequences of such conception of urban space, so evident in the case of Vila Itororó, would be the erasing of the passage of time in the ensemble, involving a search for an original state, and the hierarquisation of usages as more or less meritorious in the occupation of cultural asset. The daily life of a low-income worker did not fit the splendour that was seen in the surrealistic forms of Vila Itororó.

Ulpiano Bezerra de Meneses opposed such notion of heritage. His expert opinion stated that it is not possible to think about heritage, and culture as a whole, outside social, quotidian relations. To conceive Vila Itororó as heritage whose preservation depended on the removal of its dwellers was the same as understanding that housing and culture could not live together and that in the exercise of housing activities culture was not produced. The councillor’s expert opinion proposed, then, a dialogue between housing and culture: that the proposals for the preservation of Vila Itororó should be separated from proposals for the improvement of life of the people who dwelled in the site. Otherwise, he did not recommend the listing of the site.

Contribution by Vivian Barbour, lawyer and urbanist, presently doing a Masters degree at FAU/USP about Vila Itororó’s listing process.

COGEP’s project to which Vivian refers to in the text was put forward by a multidisciplinary group, composed by Benedito Lima de Toledo, Decio Tozzi, Claudio Tozzi, Burle Marx and Aracy Amaral. It was a daring proposal as it cast a glance informed by a heritage policy background on this eclectic ensemble then not recognised as such. What was discussed, though, in the following years, keeps on being discussed today on several levels, is the usage programme that is behind of the project and the cultural destination given to the ensemble.


Information sheet sorted under Nos. 170 to 172

of P. CONDEPHAAT  No. 22372/82 (a)………….


Subject: Listing of Vila Itororó – São Paulo.


  1.  ,The present process, regarding “Vila Itororó”, in this Capital city, was first requested for listing as submission filed on 9/9/81, by the Institute of Brazilian Architects, São Paulo Departament, (shts. 3 to 56), which adequately justifies the interest of the property, with historical and architectural information, floor plan of the situation and photographs, besides newspaper cut-outs.
  2.  By means of a dispatch of the then president of CONDEPHAAT, not having been submitted to the Collegiate, the respective demand[Autor des15] [fabio zuk16]  was transformed into a process for the study of listing, on the 18/11/82 (shts .37), having been carried out the customary notifications (shts .62 and subsequent sheets[fabio zuk17] .).
  3.  Attached to the process, further, the drawings (of the situation, floor plans and cross-sections), provided by architect Benedito Lima de Toledo who, together with architects Cláudio and Décio Tozzi and the collaboration of Aracy Amaral, submitted the project for the recuperation and usage of Vila Itororó.
  4.  On the 20/8/84, the Collegiate approved the expert opinion redacted by Councillor Carlos Lemos (shts.99 to 100), in the sense of waiting, before a definitive procedure, for the establishment, by CONDEPHAAT, of a listing policy, being necessary, notwithstanding, to request the City Hall for the inclusion of the building into the group of the edifications protected by the municipal zoning law. This measure had already been taken by the municipality, as the head of SEMPLA informs on shts.103 to 165, by means of the Decree No. 19.835/84, that, as it complemented the framework of LAW 8.768/78, has included the ensemble in question within the zone of special usage (z8-200-095).
  5.  In face of the decision already made by CONDEPHAAT, therefore, and of municipal protection, the restrictions incurred in the opening of the process must be lifted and the present process stalled.
  6. However, I find opportune to consider afresh the considerations of the sensible expert opinion by architect Carlos Lemos and add further arguments. CONDEPHAAT has not as yet defined its guidelines, on the several fields of action, although there is a document already, dated from the previous administration, proposing general criteria (not a list of attributes for automatic identification, but only a list of the levels of issues that should be considered in listing). Examining Vila Itororó under the light of such proposals (item 2.1 of the “Guidelines for the formulation of an action policy for CONDEPHAAT, 1984”), it seems to me that there would be good conditions for accepting the request for listing.

Above all, it is an ensemble, an urban sprawl, and not a single isolated point.

Regarding cognitive values, the site is a precious document of particular aspects of the spontaneous occupation of certain areas, according to the vila[Autor des18] [fabio zuk19]  formula [a group of houses built around a street or square], during a pre-industrial phase of São Paulo’s urbanisation (dated of the 1920’s). With regards to formal values, they are relevant, although they do not represent any sophisticated or coherent aesthetic. On the contrary, it is a plastic collage, made up, with demolition materials, into a monumental space, reorganising and reinterpreting scholarly solutions with much inventiveness and some theatrical flavour.

With regards to affective values, it suffice to mention that, in the  “The city is also your home” competition, organised by the Regional Action Coordination of the Planning State Secretary, in 1974, Vila Itororó and the Municipal Market were the two monuments that most attracted attention of the competitors, in the whole State.

  1.  However, the most acute problems, methinks, are of a social and economic order. There are 41 dwelling places, most belonging to a charitable organisation, and rented out to a low-income population. The general state of conservation is lamentable and the dwellers’ resources most restricted. Under such conditions, listing would only make sense within an urban revitalisation project that, among other precautions, avoided the removal of the dwellers – a fact to which international experience has been bringing attention to in the last fifteen years. “Cultural usage” projects, like the one mentioned above and like the one considered perhaps by SESC (interested in purchasing the buildings), do not avoid the risks that the 1984 “Guidelines” have already denounced: that, instead of introducing quality of life, it would compartmentalise it in levels – some of them artificially privileged. See item 2.2.c: “valorization”). The problem of Urban Environmental Heritage is essentially a problem of qualification of all the levels of urban life, with the values that cultural heritage seeks to mobilise. So, to abstract “cultural life” from the universe of daily life and work in order to hide it in the cellars of the periphery, for the benefit of “nobler” functions is to establish, in a prejudiced way, privileges of space, times, users and activities.
  2. So, unless CONDEPHAAT is in a position – which I repute debatable – to launch, in articulation with metropolitan and municipal authorities, an urban revitalisation project, there is no sense in the listing, which I, therefore, advise against.

São Paulo, 25 of March 1985.