Architect and urban planner Raquel Rolnik holds a professorial chair in the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo, the city where she is based. The author of several books and articles on urban and housing issues, she has over 35 years of scholarship and practical experience in planning, urban land policy and housing issues. In her career, she has held various government positions including Director of the Planning Department of São Paulo (1989-1992) and National Secretary for Urban Programs of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities (2003-2007), as well as working for NGOs, for example, as the Urban Policy Coordinator of the Polis Institute (1997-2002). From May 2008, Raquel Rolnik was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing for a six-year mandate, ending in June 2014.
In the last century, urban public space was increasingly captured by States as their private property in the name of an abstract entity called ‘all’. Especially towards the end of the century, though, political power, expressed in the democratic model in the form of States, had totally merged with economic power. The combination of both movements provoked the colonisation of public spaces as mere instruments of rent for the real state financial complex, emptying the very notion of ‘public’. For that reason, the present reclamation of public space—not as an agenda, but as an actual practice—is one of the most powerful tactics to reinvent democracy.