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Integration of a Favela: Vila Apolonia, Belo Horizonte
Urban Planning /Design
Vila Apolonia is located in Bairro Leblon, a neighborhood in the region of Venda Nova in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. As the first planned city in Brazil, Belo Horizonte became the capital of Minas Gerais in 1897. The city's growth has been especially intense in the past 20 years, and now has surpassed its planned capacity, and faces a number of infrastructure, housing, and inequity problems. Yet, Belo Horizonte remains progressive, being the first to incorporate the Housing Participatory Budgeting (OPH) component with the Participatory Budgeting process, where citizens vote on the allocation of the city's spending on public projects.


VILA APOLONIA

Vila Apolonia is a favela, or shantytown, that occupies an approximate area of 24 hectares. Located in the hillsides, the Vila and its crooked alleys are inserted into a regularized grid of heterogeneous urban context of middle and working class neighborhoods. Vila Apolonia is classified as an "urban zone where the promotion of structural improvements is of interest and priority to the community and city," and "where occupation is discouraged due to harsh topographic conditions, deficiency of infrastructure and road systems." The goal of this studio is the social, physical, and economic integration of Vila Apolonia with its surrounding neighborhoods.


ANALYSIS

Analysis After reviewing the background analysis given by the government, the team visited Vila Apolonia, meeting with community members, the city officials, experts, and academics in the field to capture the concerns and opportunities for the favela's future development. The process included interviews with community focus groups, mediating dialogue between city officials and the community, creating an integration plan for the Vila, and presenting the ideas to the community and government for feedback. Analysis included a survey of physical, social, and economic constraints and opportunities, an inventory of potential places for redevelopment, current interaction patterns on various spatial scales, and flow systems of people, vehicles, water, food distribution, and other goods.


INTEGRATION PLAN

Our studies and observations revealed that current interactions existed outside of Vila Apolonia, with community members venturing out to surrounding neighborhoods and downtown Belo Horizonte for their daily needs, community amenities, schools, jobs, and recreation. Outsiders, however, remained outside of the Vila, probably due to the perceived danger and the lack of amenities within the favela. To create true integration requires equal flows out and into Vila Apolonia, not just an outflow. Hence, the plan proposes a regional center within the center of the Vila along an existing thoroughfare Rua Vitoria da Conquista. It aims to create an environment that balances the inflow and outflow of people, traffic, and goods into and out of Vila Apolonia, removing the perceived favela boundary and creating a new experience of the favela as a thriving community and not a slum, while fixing as many infrastructure problems as possible.