WHO WE ARE
URBEM, the Institute of Urbanism and Studies for the Metropolis, is a “do-tank”, a center of action, that aims to conceive and implement urban development projects in the city of São Paulo and other cities.
URBEM’s focus is to structure projects that create a better urban fabric, in undertakings that allow for the generation of both economic and social value. URBEM was created as a third sector organization with the objective of finding a common ground between government, private sector, and civil society.
URBEM catalyzes actions and projects to make cities flourish - cities that are prosperous, sustainable, safe and inclusive. Cities with life and ample opportunities for work, housing, learning, culture and entertainment.
Two facts and three assumptions drive URBEM’s projects and actions in its native São Paulo.
The first fact is that São Paulo’s urban fabric is marked by great spatial asymmetries. The city presents an enormous housing deficit in places where jobs are available (and vice versa), it lacks quality public spaces and green areas, its sidewalks are inadequate, and chaos plagues its urban landscape.
As a result of this territorial (dis)organization, the city experiences a suboptimal capacity of value generation (which is detrimental to markets and society at large), low mobility, and social as well as territorial injustice. The urban chaos has been aggravated by the growing supply of public housing in distant suburban areas of the city, and by the consolidation of ghettos – walled communities of rich or poor. São Paulo faces issues with crime, low social cohesiveness, and economic inefficiency – an environment that is not conducive to innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, or the attraction of the world’s best talents.
Second, among megacities, São Paulo is the one with the largest stock of underused and underpopulated areas in central regions of the city. URBEM believes that these areas represent a unique and historical opportunity for making our city more just, more valuable, more efficient, and more beautiful. Though we face enormous challenges as a society, the possibilities of promoting change to reinvent the city are also immense, as a result of the growing public awareness and the emergence of a modern regulatory framework that will allow for the development of projects in the scale that is required for this historical task ahead of the city.
Departing from the reality given by these two facts, our work is grounded on the three following assumptions:
1- São Paulo finds itself at a crossroads. Either we seize this opportunity NOW to transform these vast central areas into more functional and inclusive territory, rich in infrastructure, with sound architecture and collective goods; or we leave them as an urban no man’s land, unregulated, unplanned, and fragmented in a suboptimal way, with poor real estate development, insufficient mobility, and vast pockets of poverty - a pattern of territorial organization that is only contributing to more crime, social exclusion, limited value generation, and inefficiency.
2- Any viable and sustainable urban development plan requires the convergence of three powers – political, market, and social forces. A better city, with more green and public spaces, more mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods, improved transportation and less car-dependence can only be achieved with a convergence between the forces of government, economy, and civil society. In every project structured by our team, strong emphasis is given to promoting a concert of interests among economic, political and societal stakeholders.
3- The generation of public value is not at odds with the generation of economic value. On the contrary, a city with parks, decent sidewalks, as well as adequate urban landscape and infrastructure will be able to generate more real estate value and, more importantly, will be capable of attracting the best talents and become a global center of innovation. With this in mind, URBEM’s projects aim at promoting spatial justice at the limits of all available sources of capital.
These are the drivers of URBEM’s mission. We wish to act now, to promote convergence among the aforementioned forces, in order to transform São Paulo and other cities into a better urban environment through the inception and implementation of impact projects. Rather than exacerbating social isolation and car-dependent and traffic-heavy urban life by following the old paradigms, URBEM wants to contribute to the correction of spatial imbalances by fostering more compact cities, better distributed, with improved transportation, and more mixed-use, mixed-income areas.
The engagement of URBEM with São Paulo is focused on structuring projects both in large privately owned areas and in public calls for large-scale urban interventions. URBEM participated in the Casa Paulista and Arco Tietê projects, promoted respectively by the state and municipal governments. URBEM ranked first in both public calls. URBEM makes urban interventions viable, conceptually and pragmatically, by modelling and designing projects that consider economic viability, sound legal and regulatory structures, in favor of a more humane, more efficient, and more attractive city. As a result of our actions in São Paulo, URBEM has also been involved in projects in other Brazilian and foreign cities.