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For the past eight months, Tony de Marco has been documenting the systematic removal of all advertising in the city of São Paulo. Since 1st January 2007 São Paulo has been living under the new ‘clean city’ law, this bans all advertising: no billboards, no fliers, no neon signs, no electronic panels – a blank city. After many years of battling with advertisers to reduce the visual pollution, the City Council decided in September 2006, with a vote of 45 to 1 in favour, to ban all forms of advertising in the city. As Larry Rohter from the International Herald Tribune puts it: ‘[the city has] press[ed] the “delete all” button and offers its residents unimpeded views of their surroundings’.
The ban enraged advertisers, who cited a loss of jobs, a lack of freedom of speech and a reduction in revenue for the city, as reasons for the ban to be rejected. So far, the local residents and visitors to the city have welcomed the new law.
Excitingly, a new city seems to be emerging from behind the advertising. The siting of billboards generally went unregulated, and many poor people readily accepted cash to have a poster site in their gardens or even in front of their homes. “Last week, on my way to work, I ‘discovered’ a house,” says Gustavo Piqueira, who runs the studio Rex Design in São Paulo. “It had been covered by a big billboard for years so I never even knew what it looked like.”
São Paulo may today look bleak, and somewhat eerie, as the advertising is removed leaving only the structures on which they were placed. But this is only the beginning of its transformation, as Roberto Tripoli, president of the City Council was quoted in saying, “what we are aiming for is a complete change of culture.” An interesting experiment to keep an eye on.
Further information at: International Herald Tribune