Project is an artist-led progressive cultural platform focused on how people live and work in, share and survive the contemporary city with the Center of São Paulo as our outlook. It gets its name from the ubiquitous lunch counters—convivial, fluorescent-lit, open-walled, laborious, points of commerce—that populate almost every street corner. (a.k.a. Associação Espaço Cultural Lanchonete) is a group of 20+ people—artists and others—who care about the Center of São Paulo. It attempts to pilot an atypical organizational form, a cluster of associated people and organizations working together who share some basic values and aspirations for the city. We observe that the right to the city is not a static thing and may never be fully experienced without new, incremental, and outside-the-box approaches…some of which can be learned about and shared through hosting people from other places and backgrounds (See: artist engagement).

Our focus includes the relationship between urban and rural, the Center and the Periphery, and the historic migratory flows on which São Paulo, Brazil’s epicenter of business and trade—and one of the largest cities in the world—has grown to prominence. We are interested precisely in the differential between a city’s power and that of its people. We are equally interested in common ground and counter narratives. Through its site-specificity, retains a point of reference for understanding other cities and contexts. is both a physical space and an association; a restaurant and a platform; a business-as-Trojan-Horse.

Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and professor of architecture at the University of São Paulo says that one new development she sees in the social movements of São Paulo is the active role of cultural agents. While there is no standard definition for a platform, it is fair to say that cultural agents are a highly visible, catalytic part of progressive, urban processes (including actions, campaigns, interventions, etc.) that can be called platforms.   For a platform is a ‘durable container’ for the mixing of a range of ideas and issues from the community, which cut across and connect areas of daily life, and cannot be fully defined (with all topics) before it opens itself as an accessible process that citizens can enter, join, modify, and define.  Take for example a focus on water in São Paulo by a local group comprised of artists, curators, architects, activists and urbanists hosted at KUNSTHALLE São Paulo.

Given the form of the container—a typical lunch counter—the issues of food sovereignty, urban gardening, ecosystems,and labor conditions of food workers, and as well as access to vocational training in the restaurant industry are all necessary to consider as we aspire to use locally-grown produce and example just labor practices. To this end we are partnering with Cidades Sem Fome (urban gardening) and GastroMotiva (culinary training). Through their combined expertise, the day-to-day operations of the lanchonete are fully planned, and we begin to see a growing collaboration that may result in integrated training programs to be offered at the lanchonete or elsewhere.  While operating a popular restaurant places a particular focus on food, nutrition, and hospitality, these limited topics provide the ballast for understanding and discussing the cumulative causality of class and labor on urban, daily life in the surging city. as playful license borrows from Brazil’s rich food culture, e.g. feira (periodic street market), feijoada (traditional lunches), prato feito (blue plate special), lanches (popular snacks), hotdog and dessert carts (that pre-date the corporate food cart hype); as well as highlighting the food of ethnic enclaves and/or regional representation in different parts of São Paulo (e.g. Acarajé or Maniçoba coming from the Northeast), while also looking for profound connections to the places we are invited to visit outside of Brazil (See: artist engagement).

As explained above, the food (of it) is both actual and somewhat of a trope.  While we love food and understand its relation to rights, labor and daily life, we also want to be careful in how we deploy and encourage its discourse.  We know that foodie trends are easily subsumed or co-opted by the narrative of our ‘hungry’ market, and regularly a part of pricing people out of neighborhoods where they have made their homes at the micro-level while agro-politics at the macro-level is the staging ground for colonization 2.0.  Therefore, we are very cautious in how we make our food.


We say artist engagement, but that is somehow limiting. Below you will see the work of researchers, chefs, activists, artists, activists, students, professors, architects, gardeners, urban planners, curators, journalists and social movements. As a major component, the project invites a group of international artists to reside in – and thus develop a relationship with – the Center of São Paulo, its citizens, institutions, issues and patterns. can best be described as a ‘platform’ or ‘container’. While the team is primarily focused on building and maintaining a durable container, citizens can put ideas, projects, issues and concerns in the container.  We support artistic production and other collaborations that ‘come into’ the container.  As for international guest artists, each residency will be tailored to their ideas/concepts, project support needs, desired modes of engagement and collaboration, as well as where they will live and be embedded into the cityscape.  Additionally regularly participates in international events and networks on the themes we care about, e.g. São Paulo X Architecture Biennial, Chobi Mela Photography Festival, Modes of Democracy @ DOX Center for Contemporary Art, Gdynia Design Days, San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial, MAS Global Network, The Nature of Cities, Cities for People, and the World Policy Institute’s Arts-Policy Nexus.

These modes of engagement offer members of (Associação Espaço Cultural Lanchonete) opportunities to share what we’re making in São Paulo with people in other countries, and investigate commonalities and differences, as well as shared histories as is the case with our project at the 2015 Bamako Encounters. Event participation by can be by one person (member) or more, and will likely occasion a new relationship that evolves into an exchange. It is quite common that the guests we host in the Center of São Paulo are working on similar endeavors in their own cities/countries, and the cultural event or topical conference is often a point of introduction.  You can view our early outings here.


Ghawazee Coletivo de Ação

Ghawazee is a transdisciplinary performance action collective, made up of women with different artistic backgrounds, which investigates the expressions of the feminine through artistic actions presented in public spaces. The collective is searching for the creation of an experimental language practice that forges a temporary, transgressive disruptions in the order of everyday life through artistic actions, intended mostly for the local, found and unforeseen public.


Leandro Viana

Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Leandro Viana is a freelance photographer based in New York City. After breaking into the field through fashion, editorial, and advertising photography, most notably at DPZ, one of Brazil’s leading advertising agencies, Leandro began documenting social issues such as immigration, refugees, and human rights (See: projects within the project).


Jakub Szczęsny

Jakub Szczęsny is a co-founder of Centrala, a design platform from Warsaw, Poland. He operates globally with both architectural and artistic assignments, one of which takes place in frame of the project in São João Occupation in São Paulo’s downtown. His project of writer’s studio named Keret House was included in the permanent collection of MoMA in 2013.

Through a community organizing approach, learns about and amplifies citizen endeavors, and seeks to add value through artist engagement, e.g. artist residency embedded in community settings and presentation of collaborative works through conferences, publications and exhibitions, as well as a range of interventions borrowed from other fields such as mapping, town hall meetings, banquets and community media.


A series of portraits

A series of portraits was taken by Leandro Viana in a studio improvised on the first floor of Occupation São João (a.k.a. Centro Cultural São João) in the Center. Leandro’s photographs portray community members (of the 67 families) who overtook the derelict former Hotel Columbia Palace to live close to their jobs in the convenience of downtown. The people we see in Leandro’s portraits made this space anew. They are maids, security officers, kindergarten teachers, street workers, and students. As much as they can, they repair it, build new additions, and take care of it. The same happens in housing occupations throughout the city, where both residential and commercial spaces often remain empty in central areas due to limited urban policies, which do not incentivize landowners to rent properties at incrementally-adjusted rates and even make it easier to build new structures in lieu of renovating older ones.


Nowhere Kitchen

Led by Joseph Michael Patricio, Nowhere Kitchen is a research process that derives ways of learning (by doing) from cooking practices. It explores various social forms based on cooking with what is there as a ritualistic point of departure. By itself, it is liquid and can assume the form of and intervene with the contexts it inhabits.  During his March 2015 residency with, Joseph (a.k.a. Pepe Dayaw) conjured Nowhere Kitchen in two cultural spaces in the Center of São Paulo—Phosphorus and the São João Cultural Center.


  • Isabel Gandía

    Isabel Gandía, Programs Coordinator/ Administration Isabel Gandía was born and raised  in San Juan, Puerto Rico and has been living in New York for the past five years. Isabel has a bachelor degree in Fine Arts and masters in Arts and Cultural Management from Pratt Institute, NY. She balances her life between working on sets within the wardrobe department for film and television, coordinating art projects and documenting travels and music. Organized, creative and problem solving. Culture lover, tree hugger and people person.

  • Lorena Vicini​

    Lorena Vicini​ works in institutional relation​s; she is a ​b​ook editor and cultural producer in São Paulo. Her company, Prova3 Agência de Conteúdo specializes in the development of educational and cultural content​. ​She is responsible for the coordination of the project Episodes of the South for the Goethe-Institut, which explores different ways to see the world while asking the question ‘What is the global south?’.  For she is responsible for public relations and communications with Brazilians and international partners​. ​Lorena loves carnival and produces  the Bloco João Capota na Alves in São Paulo.

  • Daniel Lühmann

    Daniel Lühmann is getting closer to his thirties and works mainly with translation, editing, and all that is written; among the authors translated into Portuguese by him are Emmanuel Carrère, Philip K. Dick and Georges Perec. He is also entering the field of contemporary dance with videos and other materials related to such domain.

  • Thiago Carrapatoso

    Thiago Carrapatoso is a journalist, specialist in Communication, Arts, and Technology and holds a MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS) at Bard College (NY). He is a collaborator of the BaixoCentro Movement in São Paulo, Brazil, which tries to reclaim the streets from a civil society perspective. Thiago is the Executive Coordinator of the Digital Program at the Municipal Theater (São Paulo), and along with the REPEP group, helping create a methodology to use heritage education against gentrification.

  • Thiago de Paula Souza

    Thiago de Paula Souza was born in São Paulo and raised between the crazy megalopolis and its outskirts. He holds an undergraduate degree in Social Sciences and works as an educator at Museu Afro Brasil, in São Paulo. Thiago is interested in anthropology and education, and researches fields related to racial issues in Brazil, African diaspora and contemporary African migrations.

  • Thiago Correia Gonçalves

    Thiago Correia Gonçalves (*1983, Brazil) lives and works in São Paulo and New York. He studied Cinema at FAAP(SP-BR) and Architecture at the Escola da Cidade (SP-BR) and Architectural Association (LDN-UK). Among the institutions where he has shown his works are: Niklas Schechinger Gallery (2014), Hamburg (GER); Vitrina, MASP (2014); Memorial da América Latina (2014); Centro Cultural São Paulo (2013), all in Sao Paulo; Casa de Cultura Mário Quintana (2013) and Galeria Península (2014) in Porto Alegre (BR); and Dox Center in Prague (CZK).

  • Adham Bakry

    Adham Bakry is a graphic designer, illustrator and photographer, and has a BA in architecture. He recently had an exhibition of his photography entitled ‘ Maat el Kalam’ at the Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cairo. Adham is always looking for new challenges – artistic and otherwise – for example, he enjoys riding his bike around Cairo. ||

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    Todd Lanier Lester

    He has worked in leadership, advocacy, and strategic planning roles at Global Arts Corps, Reporters sans frontiers, and Astraea Lesbian Justice Foundation.  He founded freeDimensional, a network that helps artists in danger by providing safe haven in participating artist residencies.  Todd is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute where he directs the Arts-Policy Nexus; a co-curator for the Arts & Society Team of Cities for People in Canada; and serves as a board member for arts, rights and literary organizations in India, Mexico, Brazil, and the US.  artist.roundtable (A.RT) is a collaborative methodology that he is co-making with a broad group of artists and non-artists.

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    Raphael Daibert

    Currently cultural and art producer for Project and is conducting a research on African immigrants living in the São Paulo housing occupations for Goethe-Institut’s Episodes of the South program.

  • GastroMotiva

    GastroMotiva is a social organization that believes in the power and responsibility of gastronomy as a transformation agent, capable of reducing inequalities and transforming places and lives. It operates in Brazil and spreads its philosophy around the world.

  • Cities Without Hunger

    Cities Without Hunger is a non-governmental organization (NGO) which has set up sustainable agrarian projects based on organ- ic farming in São Paulo. The aim is to help and teach people to manage their own business and become financially independent, as well as to improve the diets of adults and children. Additionally, the Small Family Farms Project has been set up in Rio Grande do Sul to train farmers in multiple cropping as an alternative to monoculture and help them starting new businesses in organic farming.

  • Casa das Caldeiras

    Casa das Caldeiras, a former industrial building listed as heritage since 1986, opens its doors on Sunday afternoons with the project TODODOMINGO, offering music shows, performances, exhibitions, workshops, lectures, cultural and artistic activities to the general public. The place also works as headquarters of a cultural association involved in promoting its occupation, as well as the mobilization of artistic, cultural, and social energies.

  • Residency Unlimited

    Residency Unlimited (RU) supports the creation, presentation and dissemination of contemporary art through its unique residency program and year-round public programs. RU forges strategic partnerships with collaborating institutions to offer customized support meeting the individual needs of participating artists and curators.

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    The Occupation São João

    Additionally, the space also has a library, courtyard and a playroom for children. A partnership between and Occupation São João began with a three-week residency for Polish architect Jakub Szczęsny. During his residency, a multi-year collaboration was planned. Jakub’s drawings hint at the brainstorming that filled those three weeks in March 2014 (See: projects within the project).ão-João/490900594319238?ref=br_tf

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    Founded in 2012, PIVÔ is a non-profit cultural organization that operates as a platform for exchange programs and artistic experi- mentation with the objective of proposing critical questioning of the fields of art, architecture, urban planning and other contemporary manifestations.  PIVÔ is a member of the Circuito Centro (


  • 27/11/2016 - 21:16

    Developing identities to improve collectivity

    Faced with chaotic and uneven processes of gentrification, today São Paulo has a serious housing deficit: the city lacks 200,000 accommodation spaces for its citizens and has a chronic lack of access to social housing facilities. Ocupação São João is an example of this reality, the occupation of an abandoned hotel being carried out in […]

  • 31/08/2016 - 23:14

    2016.5 – on ATAQUE! is an artist-led progressive cultural platform focused on how people live and work in, share and survive the contemporary city with the Center of São Paulo as our outlook. It gets its name from the ubiquitous lunch counters—convivial, fluorescent-lit, open-walled, laborious, points of commerce—that populate almost every street corner.  In my last blog, I wrote […]

  • 01/06/2016 - 11:23

    2016.4 – on Queer City is an artist-led progressive cultural platform focused on how people live and work in, share and survive the contemporary city with the Center of São Paulo as our outlook. It gets its name from the ubiquitous lunch counters—convivial, fluorescent-lit, open-walled, laborious, points of commerce—that populate almost every street corner. While the platform is quite flexible, accommodating artist […]

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