Focus on Brazil: The Minhocão

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The Minhocão or “big earthworm” is an elevated expressway that was constructed in 1969 under the Maluf mayoral administration to move traffic east to west through the city center. A civil engineer, Maluf was responsible for São Paulo’s largest infrastructure projects. Yet  rather than “lift” the problem of transit off of the ground with concrete, the Minhocão wrecked physical and social havoc on the central neighborhoods through which it passed.

As a result, community groups and urbanists have fought for the closure of the Minhocão since its inauguration. Consistent protest resulted in its closure to traffic on Sundays and holidays beginning in 1976, an accord that expanded to include the hours between 9pm and 5am in the 1990s. During these scheduled windows of time, the Minhocão changes from a river of vehicles to a valuable urban resource filled with bikers, joggers, children, street venders, samba bands and city residents of all stripes.  As a platform for community engagement, the Minhocão is an example of how a public ill can be transformed into a public good with limited resources and an abundance of creativity.

Find images of this project by searching the VRC’s online image collection using the search terms “Minhocão” in the Subject field and “São Paulo” in the City field.

Photograph by Kristine Stiphany, courtesy UTSOA Visual Resources Collection.