It was during my walk along the Minhocão – São Paulo’s grotesquely endearing monument to the car – that I first spotted it: an islet of tiled perfection in a city full of fractured and forgotten pavements.
An isle of tiled perfection (otherwise known as a ‘curb extension’). Note, the Minhocão in the background.
Unlike the pragmatically Ilha Grande (big island) and Ilhabela (beautiful island) which sit along the coast between Rio and São Paulo, mine is no island of exotica but instead one of Ballardian concrete.
Why, though, my fascination with a slab of paving in an unremarkable neighbourhood like Santa Cecília? Aren’t those ‘real’ islands on the Atlantic coast infinitely more interesting? Perhaps, but thousands of words have already been written in their honour; they’ve been Trip Advised to death.
What interests me are the ignored curiosities on our streets, and taking the time to stop, notice and appreciate them. As psychogeographer and novelist Iain Sincliar observes: ‘Walking is the best way to explore and exploit the city…allowing the fiction of an underlying pattern to reveal itself’. Continue Reading
The Minhocão (known officially as Via Elevado Presidente Costa e Silva), is a 2.2 mile (3.5km) long elevated highway that perhaps exemplifies best how São Paulo came to privilege driving over walking and using public transportation.
Built in 1971, during a period in which the car industry was highly influential* and the city experienced rapid and unplanned growth**, the Minhocão was seen as being the solution to the problem of urban mobility – although today it instead symbolises all the worst aspects of São Paulo’s outdated infrastructure.
The highway earnt its nickname (Minhocão means “big worm”***) from the way in which it snakes through the city, from Barra Funda in the west to República in the centre. However, it might just as well be called “the thrombotic vein”, seeing as it is forever clogged with cars**** being pumped towards the beating heart of the city centre.
My first experience of the Minhocão came one rush hour morning as I caught a lift into town with my father-in-law, and I couldn’t help but be struck by how both sides of it are hugged by office and residential high-rises, although moving at speed made it difficult to fully appreciate this peculiarly intimate relationship.