What was initially designed to be a simple experience outside the classroom to give students a closer look at real life/world problems resulted in a prize winnings of US$ 100,000 from the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award 2008. The project, “Do Cortiço da Rua Solon ao Edifício União” (“From the Solon Street Slum to the Union Building”) is a partnership between University of  São Paulo’s students and professors of architecture and urbanism and the dwellers of a dilapidated building that served as residence for 72 families (despite the precarious conditions and constant risk of eviction and fire). The initial goal of the project was to assess the local living conditions, but the relationship grew into a hands-on attempt to improve the abandoned space, through the installation of a power grid, the cleaning of the site and the improvement of the surrounding areas, as well as the provision of legal advice for the residents to ensure their right to live there. The transformation of the slum into the Union Building represents a process of local empowerment that benefits from the proactive partnership between the university, community and its civic institutions. The Urban Age Award recognizes that that take responsibility for their cities and improve the physical conditions of communities and the lives of its residents.

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