Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Laboratory of Violence

This Der Spiegel item is on Sao Paolo, but it got me thinking about Dubai.


Violence works like a centrifuge. It separates out the various elements of society. Giant metropolises like Sao Paolo split up into different social strata -- they develop a criminal underworld that forms a society of its own, replicating the state system. One layer above this criminal underworld is the middle class, a thin segment of society that does everything it can to close itself off, and above the middle class is the segment of the rich and the super-rich. It's only logical that millionaires should seek safety even higher up, by stepping into helicopters.

Or, into artificial cities. Across from Daslu there used to be a small mountain on the west bank of the Rio Pinheiros. Now there's a hole in the ground, and inside, an army of construction workers in yellow helmets feed the hole with tons of concrete and core wire. If investors have their way, a total of €640 million ($813 million) will disappear into the pit, which is Brazil's most expensive real estate project -- a fortress for the upper classes.

This will be a new Sao Paolo, a Sao Paolo from the fourth dimension, which will avoid contact with the rest of the city. The plan is for an enormous residential, shopping and office complex with nine skyscrapers, surrounded by palm trees and parks, equipped with eight cinemas and the largest sports complex in South America. Only those with an anuual income of €150,000 ($190,000) or more will be allowed to purchase an apartment there. The smallest will have an area of 240 square meters (2,583 square feet), the largest, 780 square meters (8,396 square feet). This real estate project is a bid to escape the penetrating power of the PCC.

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