Experiential Learning   |   Global Experiences   |   News   |   Undergraduate

Tracking change in the public spaces of Brazil

Last summer, Architecture major Mariya Lupandina (Class of 2018) and International Affairs major Joaquin Diaz (Class of 2018) went to Brazil to conduct a research project. This project was part of the Scholar’s Independent Research Fellowship (SIRFs), a grant available to students who are part of the University Scholars Program.

For the grant, students can work alone or in a small group. They submit a full proposal for any research idea that interests them. The projects are then reviewed and selected by the faculty fellows of the Scholars Program. Mariya and Joaquin produced a video and publication of their research.

Mariya recently shared more details on the trip, the project and what they set out to achieve:

Tell us about the project and where it took you:

This was a summer research project. We travelled to Brazil in August, and spent almost the whole month working on our video while traveling between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Prior to departure, we spent much of the summer researching Brazilian urbanism and the history of public space in that country.

Why urbanism with video?

Joaquin and I  are both sophomores. I am an Architecture major, with an Urban Studies minor and Joaquin is an International Affairs major, with a minor in Film Art.  Video allowed us to illustrate our research in a more comprehensive way.

How did you come to work on this together?

We came to work together because, via the University Scholar program,  we discovered our joint interest in pursuing some sort of undergraduate research. Our chosen fields of study inspire curiosity about how the distribution of people by economic and cultural class generate different spatial logics and how these logics, manifested in the built environment, affect quality of life.

We also worked closely with Dr. Thomas Vicino, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science and is affiliated with the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern. He was a 2014 U.S. Fulbright Core Scholar studying Brazilian urbanism in Belo Horizonte. His extensive knowledge of the issues challenging Brazilian cities was a great resource and we are very thankful for his help.

What drew you to this topic?

Focusing on urban public space in Brazil’s major cities was very topical, considering the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the approaching 2016 Summer Olympics, and the federal elections held in October, 2014. The combination of these events landed Brazil a spot on the world stage exposing both its virtues and problems for everyone to see and scrutinize. Brazil is an emerging world power with great economic disparity. This  is a condition that is currently become more prevalent in the nations of the world (such as India or China). We wanted to study Brazil to capture it as it changed. As a rapidly growing and urbanizing nation, changes to Brazil’s urbanity and public space are happening in real time.  Our reasearch was a snapshot of this progression.

Historically, public spaces (plazas, parks, and streets) were essential to Brazil as a symbol of national unity, social rights, and democracy. As public spaces in Brazil’s largest metro areas become more scarce, we wonder if Brazil’s identity will shift.

What was completing this research project like for you both and do you think you will undertake further investigation on this topic?

Conducting research in Brazil was a positive and productive way to end the summer. Brazil is a vibrant and friendly country and we learned a significant amount outside our research topic by just being there. Our points of view were greatly expanded, in terms of our perception of what architecture is or what defines a dwelling.

Working independently on a current issue was a big learning opportunity and a challenge.  Being completely self directed was at times intimidating but also exciting and fruitful.

Sao Rio: Vulnerable Spaces / Publication