Project DescriptionIn the late-nineteenth century, the São Paulo Railway Company laid a network of tracks over Brazil’s mountains to transport natural resources to the Port of Santos. A British company founded a workers’ village on the area’s highest point, Paranapiacaba. The village thrived for 40 years before automated machinery overthrew labor-intensive processes; Paranapiacaba’s population dispersed, its buildings abandoned by all but few, left to deteriorate on the hillsides.
Paranapiacaba was declared a historic district and was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch List in 2000. This sparked an initiative for collaborative preservation and regrowth, warranting further preservation with a twofold goal: caring for the city’s natural, cultural, and industrial heritage and promoting economic revival in the region. Our team of professional volunteers worked with local government agencies and communities to develop objective and informed input; it became clear that redeveloping the railway, both as a transportation system and a connecting corridor, was crucial to future success.
Our design readapts historic infrastructure to fit modern needs—the transportation and circulation plan decreases vehicular impact through the railway, walkways, and bikeways. We recommended areas with the greatest potential for specific tourism-based uses that would enrich the industry and local community, without culturally shifting it, through introducing non-industrial and sustainable economic institutions.
This landscape endures enormous development pressures from São Paulo’s growing population. Our plan recommends developing a linear city around the railway to connect Paranapiacaba to the nearest town on the railway, ultimately developing a rail connection to São Paulo. Our approach avoids sprawl by limiting development to the corridor surrounding the existing railway infrastructure and generates funding necessary for the historic preservation of Paranapiacaba. It will serve as a model for sustainable economic development by incorporating high-density towers and ecologically advanced practices for energy use, carbon emissions, waste accumulation, and water reclamation.