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26 October 2022 - 26 October 2022

6:00PM - 7:00PM

Format: Hybrid (online & in-person). Bishops Dining Room: Durham Castle

  • FREE

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Abstract: São Paulo’s Minhocão (Big Worm) is a 3.5km elevated expressway that cuts across a dense part of the central city. Opened in 1971, it was controversial from the start, and widely held responsible for the decline of the city’s historic centre in the 1970s and 1980s. However it has been gradually tamed over the years, first closed to traffic at night, and then at weekends and on holidays, becoming an impromptu, and weirdly spectacular park. Those informal closures have been accompanied by numerous architectural schemes over the years to make the Minhocão a permanent park on the lines of New York’s High Line. But the Minhocão in its present condition represents a stand-off between various interest groups, all of whom have claims on it as public space: the advocates of the park, the local residents, the 75,000 motorists who use it on weekdays, and the sizeable homeless population that lives underneath. A measure of the complexity of the Minhocão is the considerable security required at weekends to presence to keep out ‘undesirable’ elements. Often spoken of as a democratic space, the Minhocão is a space that excludes as much as it includes. This lecture explores the complex politics of the Minhocão, the nature of the different claims on it as public space, and the lessons that might be drawn from it for similar experiments elsewhere. 

About the speaker:

Richard Williams is Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. His books include The Anxious City (2004), Brazil: Modern Architectures in History (2009), Sex and Buildings (2013), The Architecture of Art History (with Mark Crinson, 2018), Why Cities Look the Way They Do (2019), Reyner Banham Revisited (2021) and The Culture Factory: Architecture and the Contemporary Art Museum (2021). He is currently researching the history of the elevated highway in São Paulo and elsewhere. 

The event is part of the Research Seminar Series organised by Durham University's Zurbarán Centre in collaboration with the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture (CVAC, Durham University) and the ARTES Iberian and Latin American Visual Culture Group.

The series provides an open forum for engaging with innovative research and exhibition projects relating to the visual arts in the Hispanic world.

The sessions usually take place on Wednesdays, 6.00-7.00 pm (UK time).

Booking is essential