Written by Nelba Azevedo Penna

Translated by Paola Verri de Santana



Este texto tem o objetivo de abordar o meio ambiente urbano a partir de uma ótica que não se restringe à preservação/proteção da “natureza” e dos recursos ambientais, mas, considera o ambiente construído pela apropriação e produção do urbano e do ambiente.  A preocupação aqui apresentada, é vincular a problemática ambiental e urbana por intermédio das questões habitacionais, do crescimento urbano através da  expansão das periferias. A abordagem urbano ambiental, dentro de uma perspectiva integrada da complexidade social e espacial, permite ultrapassar uma análise simplesmente política do papel do Estado na reprodução e crise da cidade, para compreender a produção de relações sociais nos termos da urbanização presente e introduz a produção da degradação do meio ambiente no seio da discussão do espaço geográfico apreendido na apropriação vivida da experiência cotidiana.



Urbanização – Cidades - Meio Ambiente Urbano – Produção do Espaço - Periferia




This  text has the objective of approaching the urban environment from a point of view that is not restricted to the preservation/protection  of  “nature” and the environmental resources, but considers the environment constructed by the appropriation and production of the urban areas and the environment. The concern presented here is to entail the environmental and urban problem through the housing questions, of the urban growth through the expansion of the peripheries. The urban environmental approach, in an integrated perspective of the social and spatial complexity, allows the surpassing of a purely political analysis of the role of the State in the reproduction and crisis of the city, to comprehend the production of social relations in the terms of present urbanization and introduces the production of degradation of the environment in the core of the discussion of the geographic space apprehended in the appropriation that the every-day experience goes through.


Key words:

Urbanization – Cities – Urban Environment – Space Production – Periphery




This paper has the objective of discussing the urban environment from a point of view not limited to “nature” and environment resources preservation/protection (like protection of water sources, environmental reserve areas, etc.), but it considers the environment built by appropriation and production of the urban and the environment.  The preoccupation here presented is to link the environmental and urban problematic to intermediary housing question, related to urban growth through the expansion of peripheries. These dimensions of urban reality have been dealt with separately, leading to a dichotomy when they are approached outside of the matters related to social production of space and nature.  This study works with the urban environment issue as a product of social intervention on nature, stressing the contradictions of  production, consumption and social appropriation of space.


The urban environment approach, in an integrated perspective of social and spatial complexity, introduces the production of degradation of the environment in the core of geographic space discussion, understood in lived appropriation of everyday life experience, and not only as the environment, when it “looses its substance and meanings.” (Rodrigues, 2001: 213)


The production of the spatiality of urban society might not be understood only through economical meanings, but also by its content, as social, political and cultural production, in the present urbanization terms. What is necessary to understand is that the city is produced in relation to a complex set of social practices, which involves the city extension.  “It is order and, at the same time, violence, economical and political: exploration, expropriation and domination” (Damiani, 1999: 118)  This interpretation, about the sense of space social production, allows us to surpass a simply political analysis of State’s role in the reproduction and in the crisis of the city, to understand the production of social relationships, from its own action.


The environment, built and natural, of the city is a space that has an intentional political occupation, either by the State or by the society. What makes the space productive, valorized, is its use. Even the spaces called “empty” are full of use intentionalities, subordinated to the value interests. The use values are created according to possibilities of the realm of commodities and are, at the same time, exchange value, which are the basis of the space fragmentation process.


What makes these places an important element of analysis to understanding the production of urban space is the fact of its use, that is, the fact of they having been transformed in “used territory”, once “society does not act on nature in itself,” but from some “value given to that piece of nature – present and future value” (Santos, 1999: 18)


I – Urban Environment: the production of the city and nature


Either nature or the totality of the urban environment transform themselves in political spaces, included in strategies of occupation and city spreading. They become fragmented because they are products of social actions that articulate surrounding environment of the city for the production and reproduction of social relationships, in a functional and hierarchical way.


Valued places of the city are not only privileged by the beauty of its architecture, quality of life, technology and urban design, where aesthetic landscape architecture shifts nature, but all places are valued by the process which produces the appropriation of its space. Either peripheral places, less technically and socially skilled (that do not have yet the so-called urban consume goods: water, light, sewerage system, and telephone networks, etc.,) or environmental reserves, still recently occupied, are full of values that functionally fragment and hierarchize all their territory, in a enormous urban patch, where the urban spreading projects are located, proposing new densely built areas in the areas of environmental protection, appropriating these places to urban dwelling purposes, spreading and fragmenting the urban tissue.


The space fragmentation is defined as a social-spatial process because the “commodity space” is found in the city, submissive to exchange and speculation, producing a constant movement of attraction and repulsion of the population from the center to the periphery, which has as a result a determined morphology of the city, that is defined and valorized in a different way.  This process, which is characterized by the necessities of expansion of the capital, produces a urban space transforming its references and behaviors in relation to the city. (Carlos, 1999: 58)


Peripheral dwellings spread around the urban tissue, creating a separated environment, producing environmental degradation, because they represent the rupture and scission between the act of inhabiting and the inhabitant, that had an unit and a simultaneity replaced by an uneven mesh network.  The moment to peripheric expansion of the city became possible because there was the disappearance of perceived urban reality: meeting spaces had disappeared, because the time for meetings, of streets, squares, bars had disappeared with the escalating violence. The time spent with work rises, assuming a computer rhythm, transforming residence in dormitory.


The periphery produced in relation to a centrality (of a urban center) becomes a lived reality in the everyday life of city residents when the appropriation of a environmental reserve space settles-up to housing use, restoring its other use value different of “preservation.” The concrete fact about the use becomes a guarantee to the induction to consume “nature”, effectuated by the desire to live close to green areas, far from perturbations and urban chaos. Even the built environment differentiation activates new constructions. Therefore, the accomplishment of the use constitutes a strategy to social content transformation that expresses new spatial forms, marked by new and dynamic social practices, redefining a new morphology, characterized by the new uses, passive of being apprehended in the city’s discontinuous urban mesh, although strongly integrated.


The analysis of urban expansion and growth on environmental protected areas, of water sources and hydrographic basins,  exposes conflicts and contradictions in accomplishing this process.  The areas of environmental protection, environmental reserves, not much transformed till then by social action, and still objects of preservation policies, are in the territory as a significant given to the understanding of  the urban land fragmentation, spread and use process.


The discourse of urbanized spaces needs and the lack of widely inclusive housing policies, has a well-defined social and economical meaning and character: the urban space and nature, caught by the market, share in the value and commodity laws.  The process of urban space fragmentation happens because “the present action, the interests on part of  the territory, the greed, and even the representations assigned to this part of the territory, have a relationship with the value that is given to what is present there.” (Santos, 1999:18)


Among the relations to the production of space, the built and natural environments attain a crescent importance, highlighting nature as a resource and use value, reinforcing natural environments as a value  to the production of a new space, transforming them in areas able to be urbanized.


Thus, by private use and appropriation of the beauty of the landscape’s green, clean air, fresh water, among other values that are spatialized, being located and consisted in places of more valorization, they are produced in relation to a centrality, becoming “rare” and attaining a new meaning – potential residential spaces determine the paradox between the consume of the environment by the urban causing its degradation.


The analysis of the environmental and urban crisis, defined by depletion and pollution of the so-called natural resources, evidences even more the lack of these “natural goods”, because they are not available to all anymore, as “common goods”.  They start to be ruled by property’s laws. Elements that were natural and plentiful (clean air, sun light, abundant vegetation) starts to be defined by new economic and social conditions related to a urban centrality, capable of transforming nature as a factor of differential valorization of the places in the city, making inequalities stronger. (Santana, 1999).


In the process of the crisis of the city, nature’s elements, like water, got in the group of urban needs by consume and distribution under a new point of view – that of individual appropriation.  The water, a collective good mainly distributed by state agencies, becomes a good susceptible to be individually (or in small groups) acquired, through artesian wells construction. The production of houses also leaves the public and collective building domain (financed by BNH and FGTS till being extinct in 1986) to private, particular and bank-controlled domain – a self-built periphery is established, being closer to areas defined to environmental preservation. This new and scarce space needs to be produced, entering the circuit of social relationships reproduction, making the appropriation of natural element important to differ the quality of real estate undertakings and to make differential valorizations of the urban space.


The valorization of the space of the cities, when fragmented by real estate entrepreneurs, attain a form of a urban lot, in which access and use are subdued to the market, defined by the land private property set up. Thus, the fragmentation process will happen in the urban space as a result of conflicts between private property and the socialized production of the city, as a result of social labor. (Carlos, 1996:60)  This fragmentation, that becomes deeper as the space is divided in lots that are bought and sold in the market, results from even more strategic activities, that contribute to conceal the perception that the fragmentation process is related to strategies of policies and that of the market, of urban land as an exchange value, valuing the urban environment in a differential way.


The social, spatial and economical differentiation, which characterizes the heterogeneity of the occupation on the periphery, starts to be defined according to each social-spatial use level, and to market rules, in conformity to real estate strategies and also by the environmental degradation/conservation level, frequently replacing native vegetation by aesthetic landscape architecture.  The environmental urban crisis prints in the space the places where environmental elements show higher or lower grade of degradation, also as a form of spatial differentiation.


The peripheric settlements, condominiums or districts in environmental areas, emerge as alternatives to the “new demand” satisfaction, created in relation to spaces able to attend the needs of urban quality of life improvement, not only paying attention to environmental quality, but also economical quality, related to private property importance. The central urban forms tend to spread by reproduced patterns in areas of environmental preservation.


In this manner, the analysis of the urban space expansion process on environmentally protected areas, is not an end in itself, nor a starting point in this reflection.  It is a starting point to open up a debate about the city and to analysis its possibilities of social and spatial transformation, and to re-dimension social contents of urbanity.  The theoretical and empirical effort to understand the social practices of the production of urban space is based on the need to evaluate the processes of uneven distribution of equipment and urban and social infrastructures, to allow the well-balanced access to better life conditions in the cities, provided by a “qualitative” urban environment, and to discuss the elements that validate the sustainable city issue.


II – the urban environment


New areas of urban expansion are being built in the city’s periphery, in new and dynamic real estate market, as in areas of special natural beauty, relatively plain, easy urban occupation, good accessibility and near downtown, as well as in places lacking infrastructure and/or with high declivity. These places have special hydro value for holding innumerous river sources and dike lakes, being a fragile ecological environment, due to the easy erosion and sewerage pollution, solid residues and waste, that must obey straight norms and laws of land occupation and use, to housing purposes as well as to other types of use, pointing out different problems and the risks and vulnerabilities to which the rich and poor urban populations are exposed.


The mediation of dwelling access is set up by real estate market intermediation and happens through the exaltation of the ecological discourse, which sells the “green” as an object of desire, status and happiness. The local government in itself is caught by this discourse, when it claims for attention of the community in these areas to the importance of preservation of the environmental quality of the place.  This quality goes to the media as a differentiated event with regard to the urban chaos.


This set of new elements of transformation and change of the production of space’s rules shows new articulations around land interests, to the game of political and social articulations over the territory.  These articulations reveal the contradiction about land use and appropriation, understood, at the same time, as an exchange value (commodity) and use value. (Carlos, 2001)


The city spreads on the territory inducing changes in the expansion model of the periphery linked to the crisis of the city, to transformations on economical and political relations, which modify the life condition of the urban population, mainly with the end of SFH (Housing Financing System), since the 80s.  So, the analysis of today’s crisis of the urban system is inserted in the relationship between the State and the urban, with the loss of financing capability by the State, forcing changes in the city’s access relations, due to the possibility of self-construction in condominiums, of dwelling and urban infrastructure, strengthening private production processes of the city, setting up several orders of social, environmental and economical conflicts.


In the absence of urban policies compatible with the problematic of this new order, appears the presence of others financing goods in more feasible way, like the automobile, which is incorporated as a first necessity object, for allowing a shorter course and time for someone to have its own house (in a sense of more financing facility) and due to possibilities of self-construction in the periphery, taken in its large heterogeneity. These factors represent possibilities of production of a centrality (bridges, viaducts, enlargement of routes and opening of new streets), energy, telephone, water, etc.


The disorder in the production of space occults the order of opposition between public production and private production of the city: one is defined by another and against the other.  The immediate analysis of  disordered processes is presented as chaos. In reality, it only does not recognize the self-conditions of its own existence in the urban landscape.  This logic makes evident that urban reality had disappeared, mutilated by the logic of commodity and real estate speculation.


This strategic political order remains occulted by the analysis of the disordered city, and of the disorganized and segregating periphery. It is only before a simplified analysis of reality that the contradiction is disorder, to make the restoration of order, coherence and harmony necessary in the chaotic reality through governmental bureaucratic action. In this way, the exclusive analysis of the apparent city landscape is arbitrariness, reducing a complex and running transformation totality to one of its movements.


The local governments lose the domain over the production of the periphery because they are not able to transform orientations and conceptions adopted by the market economy, when they take to themselves the public management of the city, giving others roles, functions and conditions that make them free of market and political speculations. It opens up the pathway to creation of space occupation strategies that privileges a class. A segregated city is a result, developing a “disurbanizant and disurbanized urbanization” (Lefebvre, 1969), reinforcing the contradictions expressed on the urban environment, beyond public and private property, legal/illegal, planned/non-planned, center/periphery.


The access to the city and to the use of the city, the access to land as an exchange value are subject to power and social segregation structures. The use of space stays conditioned to political power’ structures and spheres, according to their social functionality and hierarchization. The creation of an adequate form of spatial distribution becomes necessary to keep and reproduce these relations of power in the space (defined by relations between space and power), keeping the city as a political, hierarchical and fragmented space. (Penna, 2000).


Thus, the importance of the reflection about these new processes that interfere in  the production of the urban space reveals new market tactics to private fragmentation of environmental areas, legitimated by dwelling regulations, expanding areas of  residential use with the rise of real estate offers, what allows the growth of real estate market.


The process of fragmentation constitutes the change of conceptual, political and social meaning of the produced periphery that is essential to understand its depth and influence in governmental and urban policies over the spatial form, and on urban society, as well as to distinguish the limits to its expansion.


Hence, it is necessary the intervention of the political power, and as place and environment of social relationships reproduction, to stretch out the production of urban space, by the urban policies of private property regulation, regulating the access, appropriation and use tendencies of the city space. The public power, as place and environment of social relationship reproduction, reproduce the urban space according to the social relations that support it. It intervenes to modify and transform the space with the objective to control the whole, because it modifies the relations of domain and power on the territory, to attend its purposes.


III - The urban environment production processes in Brasília


According to this analysis, the urban space is understood in a broad historical and social process, concrete and dynamic, that appears as a product of intrinsic contradictions to the conflict between the needs of the capital and the needs of the society as a whole, when the State assumes the political production of social relationships, as an articulator of the general conditions of production and reproduction of the capital, as well as a regulator of the society’s life reproduction relationships.


The analysis of the relation between urbanization, city and urban environment allows us to better understand the articulations of the urban policy for the formation of the Federal District (DF), making it necessary to explain the basis of the deployment of its land policies and its consequences for the production of urban space in Brasília. With this objective, a marketing point of view will be defined, with the goal of separating the specific problematic of the relation between urbanization, planning and environment, to compose a synthesis of this process, explaining its fundamental aspects, and to understand the current  transformations of the urban process, which happens through the following aspects:


1 – The relation between public and private property – establishes the State as the only mediator of the access to the city, with domination over the State bureaucracy, planned or not, in the territory production of the Federal District.


The implantation of a new city with well-defined political and strategic objectives of being the country’s capital and serving as an articulation element of a vast territory to the national and international capital, in a climate of modernization of the space and the society, changes significantly this territory’s categories of scale and dimension. This space, which was found in a process of relatively undefined dimensions (of big unproductive latifundiums, with low demographic density, and the presence of uninhabited lands), was increased up to a well defined dimension for the creation of the Federal District (quadrilateral of 5,800 km2), as a first phase of the process of domination and incorporation of this space to the national integration project. In the local, there was the appropriation and distribution of a space that turned restricted and well defined (socially, spatially, and politically) by the new city, which allowed a transition of land from the condition of a relatively abundant to a limited resource, which was restricted to the limits defined by the ‘Plano Piloto’. These new dimensions of the territory and the city leave the idea of big demographic vacancies behind, and will influence significantly on social, historical and political process, in which all land appropriation, both urban and rural, was produced, from the Federal District and its surroundings,


This process increasingly moves towards the absence of elements of the projected space, limited and restricted to the ‘Plano Piloto’, greatly influencing the historical and social appropriation of land that has been happening in Brasília, which tends to a growing space privatization.


This tendency to the privatization of space, due to the private appropriation, starts to reinforce a spatial concentration of the city (previously polynuclear by the public settlements) no longer within the limits established by the government, but from an amplification of the city space. The space of the capital reproduction initially happens by a great expansion of the periphery, created by the dimension and development of an speculative market over land located in the city limits planned for environmental preservation. Thus, in the development of the land appropriation in the Federal District, there was a need of transformation of the political articulations over the space, to free and expand land for the production of the urban space, gathering the interests of the capitalist market over the land, imposing a new dimension to the lack of land and dwelling, widening the city limits and amplifying the urban use areas.


This logic manifests broadly against the initial occupation of the territory in the DF, which was conceived to be a homogeneous and functional space, where the State property of land was established, as well as the planning and the parceling out to the rational and organized occupation of the city. This fact is a specific question to the Federal District, because it makes its Government the only one to organize a land bank to the management of its territory. This fact establishes that Government as the sole mediator of the access to the city and dwelling, with domination over the State bureaucracy, planned or not, in the territory production of the Federal District.


Government’s action against the territory production was characterized by the prevalence of the housing policies, legitimating, constructing and densely building the Satellite Cities and settlements in the south periphery of the Federal District, with the majority being directed to the low income population, through urban policies of territorial planning- Planídro/ 1970; PEOT/1975; PDOT/1996-97; Brasília Revisitada, among other examples – Such processes, which we will examine in the following item, will direct the housing and urban policies in the Federal District.


2 – Uniqueness of the direction of the planning and the urban and housing policy in the Federal District, based on the following aspects:


a) Settlement programs for the low income population: creating, being densely built and consolidating housing urban nucleuses, away from the ‘Plano Piloto’;


b) Bidding for the private market, of projections and areas for different uses and functions, located in diverse areas of the ‘Plano Piloto’ and Satellite Cities;


The local characteristic of the governmental actions, of expansion in the southeast and in both directions of the above mentioned urban policy, reveals the utilization of a technical rationality that fragments the space in many settlements nucleuses, habitats, separated from the central nucleus by institutional areas of occupancy control. This process consolidates the inequality as a strategy. Thus, the Federal District Government, through its institutional apparatus, directs all processes formulation and deployment of actions and policies (public and urban) for the territory management.


The public power acting in the society through centralized planning (Programs, Plans and Norms), which represents its concrete strategies of space reproduction, creates a process of centralization of the public power in the city, through the control of the social demand and the hierarchical organization of the territory (Samambaia and Setor Sudoeste). The territory management happens by means of policies and actions elaborated in the domain of a compartimentalized technocracy, centered by the government. As a consequence, this outsourcing creates a sectorial and disarticulated institutional action over the city, producing a number conflicting and ineffective laws, decrees and norms to the territory organization. It should be noted that in this process, the inconsistencies and disfunctions are always present in the conflicting governmental bureaucracy actions, which ate difficult to articulate and of low political transparency. 


Thus, in the context of the amplified reproduction of the urban system, it is necessary and central in the intervention of the DF Government in the organization of the Federal District territory, because it will be the conductor and formulator of the general and sectorial territory organization policies for the DF.


The planning and territory organization process performed by the State dissimulates the question of the political power, generating conflicts as they “produce a hierarchy of places, centered in the accumulation process” (Carlos, 1996: 49), produced by the centralization of power, which values e devaluates places within and outside of the city, because the public power produces a spatial functionality and a valorization as a result of this process, by means of planning and territory organization actions.


In this context, the process of production of the urban space of Brasília has been being carried out through the fragmentation, land parceling and selling, initially with a state driven and planned characteristic, which allowed the creation of a land market doubly oligopolized – both by the DF Government and the private market – and captured by the public power spheres, which maintain and deepen its contradictions. The Federal District Government, designed to be the owner of the urban and rural lands of the territory, realizes, through land property, the control and political power over the appropriation and use of the city, exerting its hegemonic domain over the land.


The rationality of the modern urbanism that produces the city, quantitatively and qualitatively, is dominant in the reality plan (of the spatial and social practices) as well as in the ideological (of the planned) and achieves the social and spatial totality in each of its elements, subverting it to the logic of the commodity and exchange (lot) in detriment of the use and the environmental preservation. The institutionalized space, conceived and guaranteed for the State functionality, is fragmented: once fragmented, it opens possibilities for the market to freely produce it.


This analytical rationale allows us to understand the fragmentation process as a departure from the State owned and homogeneous space, due to the vulnerability before the private agents actions, forming a new accelerated urban growth vector, unrelated to the growth axis proposed by the government in PEOT/1975 and nowadays legitimated by the PDOT/1996 (southwest axis).


This spaces of rupture from the homogenous space appeared in the places where the conditions for the private fragmentation of the urban space were installed, allowing the creation and development of a land market by means of grilagem[1], occupancy and illegal parceling of the land, both public and private, which were slowly assigned to residential use.


This process nowadays constitutes a production of a new urban space allowing a new form of private expansion of the periphery, especially a new form of private expansion of the periphery, in which the land access mediation is no longer realized through State planned intervention, but through the market.


3 – Parallelism between the territorial and environmental planning present in the government’s territory organization plans


The environmental planning in the DF was characterized by conceiving a nature that was untouchable at the same time that should be preserved, should retain the urbanistic conceptions of the ‘Plano Piloto’, creating a “green” belt, isolating the ‘Plano Piloto’ from the peripheral areas (Satellite Cities and other settlements, in which the architectural standards differ from the modernism of the ‘Plano Piloto’). The environmental planning is developed showing the environment and the city as parallels in the planning and macro-zoning of the territory, and nowadays they mix in the territory to form new uses for the “nature” in the urban mesh, different from those of preservation, to which they were restricted.


Initially the delimitation of environment protection areas became known as “sanitarian ring”, and refer to the area that surrounds the ‘Plano Piloto’, was created by two complementary territory planning instruments: 1o – Sanitation statute of DF (Law 5.027 from 14.06.66), which restricts the installation of housing nucleuses of any kind in upstream areas of the Paranoá Lake and in the proximities of the water streams of its basin, when they do not offer, at the discretion of the sanitarian authority, guarantees for a system of collection of dejection and detritus capable of avoiding the pollution and contamination of its water sources; 2o – “Plano Diretor de Água, Esgoto e Controle da Poluição – PLANIDRO” (CAESB, 1970), which defines the supply capacity and sanitary sewage for the DF. Considering its urban growth, it recommends the non-urbanization of the area located within the Paranoá basin, so that to avoid the eutrophization of the Paranoá Lake.


In reality, these vast low demographic spaces, destined to rural use and the environment protection areas, which strategically surround the ‘Plano Piloto’ (around 50% of the territory of the DF is composed of Environment Protection Areas – EPAs), are vulnerable spaces, susceptible to occupancy and fragmentation by the market. Coincidently or not, these places of public power rupture and space fragmentation are the areas where the dispossession process (initiated with the creation of the DF and the construction of the city) was not completed, which were left as private property (urban and rural) enclaves, since the beginning of the construction of the city, and/or were transformed in Environment Protection Areas that, according to the norms, could not be parceled (Penna, 2000).


When trying to plan for these areas of preservation (of untouchable nature, with a aesthetic appreciation sense and protected against the urban-industrial development) and restricted use, the public power fights against urban occupation. However, at the same time that it tries to organize the regularization of the areas already taken for habitational use, it loses the domain over these environmental areas, which formed a aesthetic periphery, because it was not capable of transforming the orientations and conceptions adopted by the free market economy, while keeping the public property in the DF to itself, attributing to this property other roles, functions, and conditions such that it would effectively become free of market speculations.


This new private expansion pattern in the periphery provokes, as a consequence, modifications in the urban form of polynuclear territorial structure, with a decrease of the interstices between urban nucleuses, with a significant alteration of the urban mesh, especially in lands situated east of the ‘Plano Piloto’ (Environmental Preservation Area of São Bartolomeu River).


Therefore, starting from this new process of urban space production, a new urban territoriality is appearing where the main tendencies of expansion and urban densely built-up, illustrate the conflict between the government and private sectors: the private parceling zone is not recognized as dynamic urbanization. On the contrary, the classification of the satellite cities Sobradinho, Planaltina and São Sebastião as “restricted growth nucleuses” tries to prevent the development of a process of parceling of the environmental protection areas that is already in an accelerated rhythm


4 – Change in the periphery expansion model, strengthening the market as an important mediator in the access to the city and the new directions of the urban mesh expansion over areas of environmental protection


The government looses its control over the production of space, which is fragmented compared to the space conceived to be homogeneous and functional, due to the formation of a heterogeneous periphery, holding not only low income families, but especially medium and high income ones, in horizontal and single-family occupations.


It is this way that the periphery in Brasília goes through the process of population “attraction”, as it produces a differential space – the private condominiums (for the medium and high income families, giving a sense of heterogeneity to this periphery’s production) that re-qualify these peripheral places, re-functionalizing them. The periphery stops being a rural or environmental protection area to be illegally transformed by the real estate market in dwelling areas, differentiating them from the periphery of the settlements carried out by the public power. The occupation, for urban purposes, of areas destined for rural use and the environmental protection, which re-functionalize the peripheral spaces with the implantation of private condominiums for higher income classes, are mainly located in the EPA of the São Bartolomeu River basin, near the Paranoá Lake and the Setor Habitacional Individual Sul – South Lake).


Regarding the formation of a speculative market, Schimdt (1985), based on the webberian theory, defines Brasília as a political center and “bureaucratic-state” city, linking it to the typically eastern city model, i.e., one which despises the economic market determinations to clarify the complex relations between the political power and the development of the social-spatial processes that contributed to the city’s implementation. According to this author, Brasília “as a representation and instrumentation of the State precedes the civil society and its crucial economic foundation, the market” (Schmidt, 1985, p. 32). The fundamental characteristic that makes the author link Brasília to the eastern city is the appearance of a city organized by political will and the formation of a society typically composed of consumers, not producers.


The author argues that Brasília was consolidated through its history, having under the domain of the State the control of the “vast fiscal resources, exactly those generated by the income of authorities and bureaucratic personnel that make the State work” (Schimdt, 1985, p. 33). Like in the eastern city, the consumerism of brasilienses (Brasília inhabitants) would be based on the income of authorities and public workers in general. The basis of these resources is the fiscal revenue, over a production that is not locally generated (taxes). Thus, capital internal saving are formed and directed to the unproductive sector, to the land investment, creating a speculative real estate market, which has as a main factor the presence of the most influential social bureaucratic group (as cited in the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission about Grilagem). In this way, the urban space is marked by the “economic parasitism” [2] and by the speculative inversion of the internal savings.


It is important to note that this analysis of the DF Government power over the organization of the city space, the growing submission of the local governments to the Union, referred to the deployment of urban policies, in the financial sphere (subventions system, landing, financing, and contributions) as well as in the formulation of general and sectorial policies: Lei Orgânica, Development Plans, Planos Diretores, among others. This factor is very significant in the DF, because the financial revenue is obtained by means of transfers made by the Federal Government. The local government is extremely dependent on these resources to make the payments because has deficits.


This fact implies in changes in the private market’s strategic and political actions, redefining the space of its actions, as well as, related to the other agents, redesigning the places in the city space, re-qualifying and highlighting them inside its own periphery, to hold the higher (medium and high) income population, opening a higher value market in the periphery. Up to the moment of formulation of policies to the regularization of the private condominiums, the periphery was restricted to the occupancy and parceling according to urban and rural public policies of the DF Government, especially to accommodate the low-income population.


The city produced by the urban use of environmental preservation areas is in conflict with the city conceived by the State project, and becomes a reality lived in the quotidian of the inhabitants of the city by attributing to nature another value, not that of preservation. The effectiveness of the urban use constitutes the strategy for the transformation of the social content, which expresses in new spatial forms. The nature as well as the totality of the urban environment, are transformed in political spaces, because they are products of the social relations that articulate a concrete city. “The intense relation between form and content, marked by new and dynamic social practices, redefine a new morphology characterized by a new pattern of territorial de-concentration, redesigning an integrated but discontinuous urban mesh, which expands intensely” (Penna, 2001).


Final considerations: the elements of a sustainable city:


According to sustainable readings of the city, the solution to the urban crisis might be thought from the sustainable development of the environment, according to which the quality of life in the cities may happen with sustainable planning and management of land use, respecting a more adequate type of land use.


Under this perspective, the cities do not seem to represent the better land use possible: vegetation devastation; drainage system; soil removal and deposited ahead by river flowing water, pollution of rivers and streams; compacted and covered with asphalt on roads – floods; pollution, contamination – of the air and soil; poverty, violence, criminality. It is a generalization of the environmental as well as social devastation.


The perspectives of solutions to confrontation of the urban and environmental crisis have already a diagnosis, as the cities do not stop to grow, mainly the big ones. As an example, the 21 Agenda has he following governmental environmental planning recommendations:


        Supply infrastructure systems, environmentally healthy, connected to water availability and quality of the air; supply drainage systems, sanitation and services and clean-up refusals, solid and hazardous waste; promote more efficient and cheap energy sources (like solar and wind); stimulate public transport; stimulate the public school system and sustainable standards of industrial development in diverse activity levels, etc.


The list of suggestions is big and well known to authorities. Many perspectives of urban problematic solutions are pointed out. The question presented here is one of a political and social decision about priorities that has to be made locally, and to formulate and develop projects in the current political, economical and cultural context. As discussed above, the difficulties related to the new extensive territoriality of the city: - loss of political domain and of financing capability of the government on the production of urban spatiality; the need of effective social use needs of city places, that transforms the periphery content into a formation; and the appropriation of environmental protection areas for urban consumption, included in the strategies of the realm of commodities.


The paradox is installed as the projects of urban development should enable to confront problems of the urban and environmental crisis, to recover the quality of life and citizenship, since not all crisis are related to the city, but they happen in the city as long as they involve the recovery of not only the environmental quality, but, mainly, the quality of life and citizenship.  “Little would be added to the environmental sustainability of a system with healthy infrastructure systems and effective sanitation services if, social and culturally, redoubts of violence, poverty and exclusion, in other words, the social insustainability of the city, are continuously created” (Ferreira e Penna, 2002, 3).



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[1] Attempt to posses another’s ownship land falsifing legal document, common in southwest of Brazil.

[2] The sector that occupies the greater number of people is the Services sector, with 53,5%, followed by Public Administration with 21,1%, Retail with 14,2%. The transformation and construction industries occupy together only 10% of the occupied people (Source: Paviani, 1997. Data of January, 1997).