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Poor Woman's Tiny Home In Brazilian Slum Wins Architectural Prize

A Sao Paulo cleaning lady turned to a group of architects in hopes of sprucing up her ramshackle home. The result was a prize-winning revamp that challenges conventional ideas about cost and aesthetics.

Sao Paulo's Villa Matilde
Sao Paulo's Villa Matilde
Cayetana Merce

-Analysis-

SAO PAULO — Dalma works as a maid in Villa Matilde, an impoverished district of Sao Paulo, and until recently lived in a dilapidated home that was harming her health and needed drastic revamping.

She owned the tiny plot of land, where she had been living for decades. And she'd managed to stash away some savings — enough to consult an architect for help in revamping the miniscule abode. Little did she know, however, just how well the project would turn out.

The results were so good, in fact, that the tiny home won an architectural award from the BIAU (Bienal Iberoamericana de Arquitectura y Urbanismo), a Spanish government initiative. When it comes to beauty, imagination can trump big money.

The little house built for Dalma is cosy despite the visibility of its cement bricks. And its elegance stands out despite the near invisibility of the home itself, tucked away as it is between the larger ramshackle residences of her neighbors.

The house was built by the firm Terra e Tuma, experts in cement constructions, on a plot of just 4.8 by 25 meters. Key to a project of this size was the creation of a breezy, multi-use space. The architects fitted three patios into a restricted space: the front yard, which doubles as a parking space, an inside patio that pours light into the kitchen area, and the roof, where Latin Americans traditionally spend time doing anything from hanging clothes to eating. It all produces a sense of enhanced space and light.

Another benefit of the house is the positive, aesthetic effect it has on the neighborhood. The message it sends out is clear: Just because something is small and relatively inexpensive doesn't mean it can't be beautiful.

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Geopolitics

The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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