Brasilia: A Case Study in Sociospatial Segregation




Holanda, Frederico de

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Literature in Space Syntax Theory has stressed that we must be aware of global properties of cities, for they reveal more clearly and deeply the social logic behind city space-form. Significant empirical research has demonstrated that this is basically correct. Still, the paper presents a case study that does not conform to such findings. Sociospatial segregation in the Federal District in Brazil does not relate to global properties of city space-form, but rather to local properties of building and urban configurations. Building attributes are related to: whether buildings are individual houses or flats; size of plots; whether or not apartment buildings have pilotis, underground garages, lifts or high-tech facilities (e.g. cable TV, intra-net, internet); number of stories etc. Urban attributes are related to characteristics of streets and sidewalks, availability of parking lots, green areas, and leisure facilities in the surroundings etc. In such properties we find the realization of the cornerstone of Space Syntax Theory - social order is embodied in architectural form - albeit at a very local level. Eight areas in the Federal District are discussed, from the richest to the poorest regions in the Brazilian Capital. Data from socioeconomic census sectors are used to classify family incomes in five layers. It is shown how income layers change dramatically according to building types and city local properties, quite independent of distances from the CBD and from the level of integration/segregation of lines of the Space Syntax axial map that cross the places. It is commented on how such findings are used by students in designing new boroughs, to achieve a desired balance among income layers in these areas. It is hoped that findings may support urban design and housing policies of the local government to redirect the city's configuration, away from the perverse sociospatial segregation we find today.

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