Building Family-Friendly Walkways in São Paulo

Building Family-Friendly Walkways in São Paulo

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Block by Block Workshops in São Paulo engage local schoolkids and artists in transforming a crumbling staircase into a playful mini-park.

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Building Family-Friendly Walkways in São Paulo

Public intervention transformed this once-neglected staircase into a work of art. Credit: Cidade Ativa

Public intervention transformed this once-neglected staircase into a work of art. Credit: Cidade Ativa

Background

São Paulo is a colorful and active city. While most neighborhoods are lively, some lack essential public utilities, including safe walkways for pedestrians. Common issues of litter, lack of lighting, and general disrepair affect some of the public staircases that connect the city. As a result, these core walkways fall far below their potential as urban resources.

Mind the Step, an initiative by Cidade Ativa, addresses the potential of these underutilized staircases. The organization selected a site in the under-resourced Jardim Nakamura neighborhood, at the city’s southern edge. The staircase chosen for redevelopment serves a connecting role between residential and commercial areas, but had broken steps and accumulating trash.

This public staircase serves as a connector in the city. Credit: Cidade Ativa

This public staircase serves as a connector in the city. Credit: Cidade Ativa

Building Family-Friendly Walkways, Block by Block

In May 2018, Mind the Step hosted a workshop for local youth, many of whom use this staircase to get to school every day. Twenty-three students formed a “walking bus” to travel the one-kilometer route to the staircase. The group, roughly half female and half male, learned about the importance of pedestrian infrastructure and participated in a guided discussion about possible solutions for the staircase itself.

Participants suggested plants and flowers along the stairs, in addition to open seating, art, trashcans, and open-use games or a library. Another high priority was repairing crumbling steps.

There is a certain irony in the thought that the cities of tomorrow will be inhabited by today’s youth, but it is the younger generations that are most often left out of the decision-making processes. Block by Block offers an opportunity to change this.
— Kyle Farrell, Block by Block

Students worked together to design their ideas in Minecraft. Credit: Cidade Ativa

We found a language that kids enjoy and understand, which is important because they are the majority in many places and will grow up to be the adults in the city. Minecraft is not just a game. It is a co-creation tool to build better cities and better communities with more equal societies.
— Pontus Westerberg, UN-Habitat

Progress

The community worked together to create a vibrant park along the newly updated staircase. With paint, building materials, and playful new ideas, the stairs now infuse the neighborhood with color and imagination. Artists, including kids, introduced large, bright murals along the walkway. Additional structures like benches, a community library, and a slide, offer new spaces for families and commuters to relax and play. As a result of the transformation and improved safety, usage of the staircase has drastically increased.

The staircase got a playful makeover from artists and builders. Credit: Cidade Ativa

People are shocked and always say, ‘Who knew kids would have such good ideas?’ And we always answer, ‘We did.’
— Lydia Winters, Mojang

The Jardim Nakamura staircase now invites locals to enjoy art, play structures, and a safer place to walk through the city. Credit: Cidade Ativa