Typing Utopia

An excerpt from the article on São Paulo highlighted in last Friday's Weekend Reading post:

But while the city of enlightened tropical urbanism – housing blocks with masses suspended over open breezeways, free-form plantings, walls of vertical wood blinds, beautiful decorative ceramic brises-soleil and elaborate mosaics – is occasionally visible [in São Paulo], it was overtaken by incremental failures to live up to the promise. The sunny future imagined in the 1950s succumbed to the repression of the 1960s and ’70s and the economic disasters and neo-liberalism that followed. Today the disparity between inconceivably rich and unimaginably poor is creating a new cityscape. A simmering low-grade siege mentality has become an everyday fact of life, and as a result the city is gradually obscuring its confidence behind multiple layers of improvised urban fortification and strategies of avoidance. Sampa is increasingly segmented, festooned with surveillance cameras and a boggling variety of gates, barriers, photoelectric tripwires and enclosures defended by an army of private security guards. If left unchecked, warns Brazilian anthropologist Teresa P.R. Caldeira, this metastasizing de facto topography of exclusion and suspicion will lead inevitably to the implosion of modern public life and the values of civil society.

This evolving mess, which nobody planned and no one wants, is the crux of Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain’s Utopia font. Trained as graphic designers and practising as artists, the duo have created a pictographic alphabet (which can be downloaded from their website4) in which the upper case is represented by silhouetted glyphs of Niemeyer or Niemeyeresque architectural icons and the lower case by some of the more grimly prosaic elements of contemporary Sampa. Using the font, typing even the most harmless text can become an exercise in creating unintended disorder and blight. In the end, the reality of the street scrimmage between public and private trumps the best intentions of any planner.

Welcome to CyberSampa:

Detani Colain

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