PAradise garden

Giovana Schluter

2015 - Ongoing


Paradise Garden, located 60 miles away from São Paulo, is one of many gated communities in the Brazilian Southeast. A house in such a development is the standard investment for upper middle class families who, running away from cities that are considered to be failed, wish to return to “a simple life” in the countryside. Gated communities became common around Brazil’s major cities in the 1970’s — along with the first shopping malls —, and haven’t stopped spreading ever since. Just in the year of 2012, the number of land allotments (largely dedicated to gated communities) in the State of São Paulo increased 27%. As similiar as the Brazilian variety might be to American suburbs, here a new element was made ubiquitous - the imperative desire to keep strangers out using heavily enforced walls and checkpoints. In Paradise Garden, guards carry guns and wear bullet proof vests. Residents are biometrically identified, and visitors need to be authorized and present a photo ID. In Brazil’s profoundly stratified society, violence is an endemic phenomenon as well as the object of a widespread social paranoia. Fear feeds the growth of such housing developments, that attract equals and leave any unpleasantness on the other side of the walls, existing in absolute disconnection to anything that is around it. What happens inside is a strange detachment between elements — everything is in its proper place, and yet, houses and shrubs, roads and even people seem somewhat surreal. This work intends to remove the veil of exoticism that covers the visual common sense about Brazil and to examine the brutality of the no-places contemporary architecture and urban planning have generated.

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  • Paradise Garden is a gated community located in Indaiatuba, 60 miles away from Sao Paulo. Surrounded by a wall aproximately 2.5 miles long, the community is secured by armed private guards, barbed wire and electric fences. Aproximately 1,500 people live in the 260 houses within the walls of Paradise Garden.

  • Giovanna lives in Paradise Garden and goes to elementary school one mile away, at Colégio Objetivo, part of a chain of private schools in Brazil, where she is driven to and from everyday.

  • Most houses in Paradise Garden have elaborate leisure facilities and are, at the same time, fairly closed off from the roads. These spaces are usually built towards the inside of the block and walls keep neighbors and strangers out.

  • My mother, Karine Schluter, has been living in Paradise Garden for the past 2 years. She's a well known OB-GYN in the town, and enjoys her spacious comfortable home, but often gets restless with the isolation.

  • Detail of the garage fo a residence in Paradise Garden.

  • An overview of Paradise Garden just before a late afternoon storm.

  • The two tennis courts in Paradise Garden are available to all residents everyday until 10pm.

  • Francisco and Mário are two of 30-member security staff. They all wear bullet proof vests and carry hand guns at all times. They work 12-hours shifts every other day. Most of them have other jobs they work on their off days, sometimes even as security guards at other gated communities.

  • The 2,5 -mile wall that surrounds Paradise Garden is equipped with electric fences, barbed wire, motion sensors that sound an alarm if triggered, not to speak of the security cameras that are omnipresent.

  • In Brazilian cities, children of upper middle class families are rarely ever allowed to walk the streets on their own. In gated communities, though, parents feel comfortable letting kids move freely within the walls.

  • Detail of Kenia's home. Kenia, a chemical engineer, used to live in Sao Paulo, capital, in a highly secured building in Morumbi, a neighborhood that borders with Brazil's biggest favela. After being robbed a couple of times and feeling burned out by the city's constant and intense traffic, Kenia decided to move to Paradise Garden looking for what she considers a simpler life. Nowadays, she says, she'll only go to Sao Paulo if she is on board of her armored car.

  • Bruna Castro is one of the gatekeepers in Paradise Garden. Her job consists of monitoring every single visitor that enters the community. The gatehouse works like a checkpoint. Every driver needs to register showing a photo ID and having a picture taken. The entrance needs to be authorized by a resident.

  • While there are certain rules that regulate the aesthetic unity of the gated community, there is no specific style they should follow. The architectureal styles can be a bit erratic, and often refer to foreign places. Similarly, the streets in the gated community are named after italian cities. In Brazil, it's common for upper class housing developments to be named after foreign countries, cities or cultural references.

  • Maria Lúcia has one of the most impressive houses in Paradise Garden. The project was largely inspired by a house located in Malibu, CA, she saw in an achitecture magazine. Maria Lúcia belongs to the high society of the town of Indaituba and is a well known figure.

  • Flora Schluter Hasche, my half sister, lives with my mother in Paradise Garden. "I like living here because I get to ride my scooter and play with my friends on the street", she says when asked about what she thinks of the gated community. Flora goes to a private school in a neighboring town. She rides a school van that picks her up everyday at 5:30 am and drops her off at 2 pm.

  • A recently installed doll house in Paradise Garden's playground.

  • Gloria Esperanza is a Colombian woman who moved to Brazil after getting married to a Brazilian man. Esperanza is a devout catholic and spends her time looking after Tiago, her 13 year-old son, taking care of her adopted pets, and, around the holidays season, knocking on doors to raise donations for a holiday bonus for the community's 40 employees.

  • Detail from the living room of Gloria Esperanza.

  • Women who work as maids in the gated community can be seen early in the morning on weekdays coming in by foot, saying hello to the guards who secure the so called "service entrance", which is separate and concealed from the visitor's entrance.

  • Detail in the home of Rita Salles, an interior designer. She moved with her family to Paradise Garden looking for a safer place than Sao Bernardo do Campo, town in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo, where she has been robbed and felt in danger.