Malin Björklund; Gustaf Nyman , pp. 120. DSN/School of Planning and Media Design, 2012.
This master thesis, entitled, “Public Parks and the Right to the City” aims to study the relationship between the concept of the right to the city and public space through studying five public parks in the city of Manaus, Amazonas. In the international public debates on urban poverty and social difficulties, the term “(the) Right to the City”, is used as a cry for action and in Brazil, the term serves a special role as being a part of the national planning legislation called, City Statute. The right to the city is a broad term, used by many different actors in the public debates. The concept has its origin from the works of French Marxist philosophe Henri Lefebvre. His ideas were based on the argument that the city is an oeuvre in which all of its inhabitants have a right to. Lefebvre’s ideas are radical and aims to redefine the basis of citizenship and challenging the role of capitalism. The term is also widely used by organizations like UN and NGO’s, as well as many small social movements.
In four of the parks, a questionnaire was handed out to the visitors and observations were implemented in two of the most frequently visited parks. Another questionnaire was handed out to people outside of parks to evaluate why people don’t visit the parks. We also did interviews with the park-staff of each park and planners working in different ways with planning and public parks in Manaus. The results showed that public parks holds a kind of social and educational function, while also being used as a planning tool to prohibit the spread of informal settlements. The right to the city in a Brazilian context basically means that decision-making were decentralized to the municipalities, and, according to the interviewees, it have little impact on the actual work for planners. The results also showed that the rules in the parks and the feeling of insecurity prohibits visitors from representing themselves in the public space, and hence cannot produce the space. Overall, this study showed, on several points, that the concept of the right to the city is not put into practice in the case of public parks in Manaus.
A conclusion we could make from the study is that the use of the term “Right to the City” is significantly different between UN, NGO’s, social movements, Brazilian City Statute and the original concept of Lefebvre. As the concept becomes a fuzzy umbrella-term for social-urban-change, the original term loses its power and meaning. In a world where more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, Lefebvre’s ideas of the right to the city is still highly relevant. But the term needs to be used as it was intended to be: as a set of radical ideas that promotes a completely different kind of city and society. This is not how the term is used in the legal statute and public debate in Brazil, and that is reflected through the use of its public spaces in the city of Manaus.