This book does a superb job at explaining the main phases of the planning history, the connection between urban plans and public protest, and how and why street matters in Brazil. In the process, the political economy of planning, planning institutionalization, land ownership, property rights, labor, transportation, public safety, and housing get contextualized in novel ways. There is finally a fine book that connects them all.
Street Matters links urban policy and planning with street protests in Brazil. It begins with the 2013 demonstrations that ostensibly began over public transportation fare increases but quickly grew to address larger questions of inequality. This inequality is physically manifested across Brazil, most visibly in its sprawling urban favelas. The authors propose an understanding of the social and spatial dynamics at play that is based on property, labor, and security. They stitch together the history of plans for urban space with the popular protests that Brazilians organized to fight for property and land. They embed the history of civil society within the history of urban planning and its institutionalization to show how urban and regional planning played a key role in the management of the social conflicts surrounding land ownership. If urban and regional planning at times benefited the expansion of civil rights, it also often worked on behalf of class exploitation, deepening spatial inequalities and conflicts embedded in different city spaces.
Street Matters sheds welcome light on the intertwined relationships between urban inequality, popular protests, and public policy in the unique context of Brazil. Lara and Koury take us meticulously through the history of this urbanism, beginning with the issue of land in the fifteenth century to the massive street protests of 2013 and their aftermath. The book is an extremely valuable contribution toward a deeper understanding of urbanism in Brazil as well as a more general understanding of why urban inequalities continue to persist in many of our cities to this day.
Fernando Luiz Lara holds the R. G. Roessner Centennial Professorship at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, where he currently serves as director of the PhD program in architecture.