Vila Itororó is an architectural ensemble created by Francisco de Castro, encompassing more than ten buildings erected in the course of the twentieth-century, for the purposes of residence and leisure. Vila Itororó is located on the banks of the Itororó Valley, on the border between the Liberdade and Bela Vista neighbourhoods, downtown São Paulo. It occupies an area of 6,000 meters square, right in the middle of a block. Vila Itororó became a listed site, by an act of CONPRESP (at municipal level) in 2002, and of CONDEPHAAT (at state level) in 2005. In 2006, it was declared an area of public interest, expropriated and converted into public usage by São Paulo State government and by the City Hall, for cultural purposes. The restoration of Vila Itororó, started in 2013, is carried out by means of a partnership between São Paulo Culture Municipal Secretary and Instituto Pedra.
Instituto Pedra is a non-profit institution that holds as a mission to carry out interventions and readings that value cultural heritage, generating knowledge with an integrated focus, considering its symbolic, material and territorial dimensions. While it carries out architectural surveys in the Vila Itororó ensemble (which was never done before), as well as complementary projects and restoration work, Instituto Pedra has also opened the construction site, with the aim of sharing the knowledge generated on site and of collectively debating its future usages.
Instead of carrying out restoration work behind closed doors, and later opening a finished cultural centre, defined by few people, the Vila Itororó restoration project proposes the opening of the restoration construction site from the beginning, as well as the setting up of an experimental cultural centre (LINK) right in the middle of the works. The idea is to unveil the very process involved in restoration and to imagine future usages for Vila Itororó, grounded on experimentations and public debates taking place today, in the present. This is an integrated action as it involves the participation of Vila Itororó’s former dwellers, residents of the surrounding areas, artists, researchers, architects and builders/workers of the construction site.
The restoration of Vila Itororó
The first proposal for intervention in the space dates from the mid-seventies, by a group composed by architects Benedito Lima de Toledo, Claudio Tozzi and Décio Tozzi, together with curator Aracy Amaral and landscape designer Burle Marx. This initial proposal allowed for a fresh gaze to be cast over this ensemble of informally built edifices, thus recognising the cultural importance of this kind of property, which, until then, was not usually valued by heritage agencies. The proposal put forward for the usage of the place intended to transform the site into an artistic, tourist and gastronomic hub. It sparked fierce controversy among architects, dwellers, social movements and heritage agencies, among other reasons, due to the fact that it did not take into account the fate of the then dwellers of Vila Itororó (see, for instance, Ulpiano Toledo Bezerra de Meneses. Adviser of Condephaat. Expert opinion. Interested party: São Paulo Institute of Braziian Architects. Subject: Listing of Vila Itororó. São Paulo, 25th of March 1985) LINK.
This debate continues even today. The issues and criticisms raised in the course of those forty years resonate in the present project: why set up a cultural centre in a place meant for housing? How to integrate housing into the cultural project? How to live in Vila Itororó? How to live in culture? What are the possible usages for Vila Itororó in the future that may establish a dialogue with its past and with the present-day needs of the neighbourhood and of the city?
The families who have lived in Vila Itororó for the last few decades, after approximately seven years of struggle and resistance, were rehoused into social housing schemes, remaining in the central regions of the city. Here, on this web site, it will be possible to access some of their memories, as well as of artists and activists who have also participated in this movement. Today some of the former dwellers participate in a neighbourhood collective, which meets every couple of weeks on the worksite to debate and decide on the destination of part of the funds allocated to the space’s programme.
São Paulo City Hall has opted for the use of resources obtained through the tax exemption Rouanet Law, as a way of making the execution of the restoration project possible, establishing a partnership with Instituto Pedra. The project was approved by the Ministry of Culture and since then is has been carried out with the support of resources from both businesses and individuals. See here how to contribute (LINK).
Explore this website to know a little more about the context and see how to participate in the daily life of the open restoration construction site and in the exercise of collective imagination about the future usages of Vila Itororó.
Photo: Nelson Kon