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In focus, the urban problems of São Paulo

The Center for Metropolitan Studies is seeking to research and propose solutions for the metropolitan region

The goal of the Center of Metropolitan Studies is to amalgamate a series of research initiatives, which will focus on the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo, encompassing 39 municipalities. The purpose of the study is based on the results and experiments contained in research done by the Architectural and Urban Studies School of the University of São Paulo (USP) and by the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento) – Cebrap. “The research themes are those relevant to the study of major cities: urban studies, culture, demography, environment and social structure”, says Regina Maria Prosperi Meyer, the Center’s director.

The idea is to continue the two studies on the region by Cebrap: São Paulo: Growth and Poverty (1974) and São Paulo: To Work and to Live (1983). In the current project, sociologists, economists, anthropologists and political scientists under the coordination of the Center, will have as its research focus, the study of urban problems triggered by the transformation undergone by the city and its role in the national context. “This is a moment of transformation as radical as that at the beginning of the century when the city grew at rates never-before seen and in the fifties when there was a change in its profile and the industrial park of the Greater ABC (Industrial Suburbs around São Paulo) area was established”, comments Regina Meyer. Today, industries have migrated to the interior and other regions, but Metropolitan São Paulo has grown increased in importance from the point of view of its service industry. “In the face of this new vocation, a series of new questions needs to be raised: how does the city employ? How do people live? What is the daily routine of the families?” she asks.

The Center intends to seek new dimensions for urban life. “The importance of the research arises from the fact that Brazil today is an urbanized country. Based on this project, we intend to spread knowledge on ways of dealing with urban living”, she explains. Besides the research done by the Center, to add more detail to this picture, data collected by the Seade (State Data Analysis Foundation will also be used. “ We also have the partnership with Sesc – Social Service for Commerce (Serviço Social do Comércio), which given its presence in the community nationwide, will allow the researchers to make contact with highly diversified segments of the population.”

The relevance of the Center, in the current context of economic globalization, seems to be unquestionable. Data for 1995 released by UNO through the Agenda 21, shows that of the 20 largest metropolitan areas of the world, eighteen are located in developing countries. This fact raises questions linked to the dimension of the urban concentrations and the economic and social profile of their inhabitants. The Agenda 21 further shows that the lack of balance between demographic and economic growth of the larger part of these 20 metropolitan regions points to “big cities of the poor”.

The propagation project won the applause of the international judges. “This is an innovative form for dealing with pubic policies, and not leaving them confined to the offices of the specialists, but involving the population, private sector, the government as well as NGO’s.”

The Center intends to have a multiplier effect on new research, offer courses to organizations responsible for the implementation of public policies and to act as a source of permanent information for all those that have a direct relationship with the city. “We will be able to answer the more fundamental questions such as, for example, where to invest to solve the problem of violence or for the optimum investment in mass urban transport systems.”