It takes a lot of work to begin. You have to send letters calling upon the residents of the neighborhood. Speak with businesses to raise funds, fertilizer, or any other type of help. Knock on the Mayor’s door and ask support for transit, the seeds, and the paper work. Then it is off to join arms on an early Sunday, occupy the avenue, and plant.
Such was the work of the collective Green SP, which plans to transform São Luís Avenue into the "most floral avenue in São Paulo." On Sunday April 26, 2015, a planting effort by at least 400 people (according to the event on Facebook) planted 1,500 flower seeds in the 12 central medians of the street.
All tropical and semi-shade, the plants will draw a gradient along the avenue starting with hotter tones at the end points and continuing to cooler colors in the large central flower bed. There, at the pedestrian crossing, it is expected to be a "sensorial experience," explains the cultural engineer Tomás Tojo, founder of Green SP. "We place emphasis on the end points (with red flowers) to grab the attention of those arriving by car. Then a more gentle gradient of colors towards a strong concentration in the central median."
The project is an urban and social intervention through gardening, but it depends on the involvement of the people. "This is our objective and our ideology," said Tomás. "Through gardening, we invite the people to the road to plant, and therefore create an emotional involvement, and simultaneous consciousness with the space."
This is the main imperative of Green SP, a non-profit collective formed less than a year ago in Lapa. Last October and January 2014, the group performed gardening interventions in two neighborhood squares in the west zone of São Paulo.
The intervention project on São Luís is backed by the architects Noelia Monteiro, Ana Lucia Longato, and Desy Frezet. According to Noelia, it was important that the flowers in all of the flower beds "formed a design and maintained a continuity."
The plants currently in place, Singônio, are all green. These will be redistributed among all of the medians, with the idea to not "remove anything that already exists," said the architect.
82-year-old economist Carlos Ivan Poersch also made an appearance early Sunday morning. Coordinator of the Local Action of São Luís, a part of the NGO "Viva o Centro," it was he who invited the collective to plant on the avenue. "I’ve had the idea to improve the appearance of the avenue’s medians for awhile, and I was trying to discover how to do this without depending on the city."
The City of São Paulo, through the borough of Sé, donated a good portion of the seeds (1,300 of the 1,500), coming from the public nursery Manequinho Lopes, located in Ibirapuera Park.
In a statement, the Secretary of Boroughs informed that the borough of Sé "provided logistical support, as well as approval of the proposal and participation during the proceedings."
"This type of educational intervention is important because it stimulates active participation by the society in relation to the care of the city," said the statement.
At least 30 bags of fertilizer, as well as tools, were donated by the company Flora Morumby. Other establishments near São Luís also helped; for example, printing 800 letters to be distributed in the neighborhood. The Conjunto Zarvos building reserved 6,000 liters of water for reuse.
On the morning of April 22nd, the jeweler Nicola Panait Cambanelis, 62, who has lived facing the Avenue for 17 years, had not yet heard about the intervention taking place in his backyard. To him, the street has been "in need of reform." "My wife and I already plant roses here in Dome José Gaspar Square and no one has ever taken them. Everybody respects flowers."
Each flower bed will have a coordinator with information on how to plant and care for the species. Landlords and custodians of the neighboring buildings, as well as businesses, will also receive instructions on how to keep the garden alive.
The Secretary of Boroughs has committed to help "with the subsequent care and maintenance." But it stressed that it counts on "the participation of the community in the educational workshops, so that the maintenance and preservation is also done by the organization and local community."
Tomás believes in "a responsible occupation of the city. This is one of our priorities. That means thinking about maintenance of the gardens as a joint effort."
"It’s a question of engaging people in the project, so that they are part of the project and part of the city."
How do the street medians in your community look? Could they use an upgrade or foliage? Is there community-lead beautification in your city? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.