10 Feb

The Municipal Airport of Afuá: an element of community and a physical divider of the city

Afuá is located in one of the islands comprising the huge archipelago of Marajó, State of Pará. With a population of riparian traditions, the city that grew on the banks of the Amazon River is known by the elevations of dwellings and stilts tours, in addition to the close relationship of the community with the tidal cycle of the river, which is the main means of connection with other localities of the region. However, this is not the only way the city interacts with other surrounding areas. The Municipal Airport of Afuá, known as Edmundo de Souza Pinheiro Airport, represents an important symbol not only of locomotion, but also of social use as a place for sports and recreation, in addition to being a hallmark physically dividing the municipality downtown and periphery, which makes it peculiar among the uses of airports in general and an element of clear value.

Diagram of airport location and surroundings.

According to Ashford (1996), the term airport is defined as an area with the infrastructure and services required for aircraft landing and takeoff. The Airport of Afuá goes beyond such definition, in the opinion of English architect Lord Norman Foster, when he said that the airport is like the entry ports of medieval cities, that is a local point of exchange, trading and knowledge of other races and cultures (FOSTER apud PARADA, 2009). In Afuá, the relations observed at the airport are directed to a space for local socializing, mainly as regards the practice of sports in summertime, when the runway is always dry, and people use it for walking and jogging and improvise some small soccer fields. During the winter the runway is also used, although it is sometimes partially submerged, and children play in shallow water and race aircrafts landing or taking off.

In addition, architect Cristina Mehrtens (2001) states that “both at the airport and in the city, the main reason for existence lies in people’s need to be together in order to conduct their lives. Cities may seem irrational, chaotic and disordered, but it is exactly those characteristics that enable certain places to become a place for community and spontaneous interactions.” In Afuá, the airport is seen as a hallmark of great significance because it refers to the memory of the community, consolidates an identity to the city, directs the history of regional development and, in addition, enables a spontaneous and collective relation of socializing uncommon to most airports.

Airport of Afuá building to the left and the runway to the right.

Another particular feature of the airport of Afuá is its location in the city’s urban center, functioning as a physical element dividing the city into two distinct areas: downtown and periphery. The former is locally called by the name of the city itself, Afuá, and concentrates most of the commercial area, the main urban infrastructure (schools, hospital, precinct, squares, etc.), the majestic Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, evidencing the population’s intense religious affectivity, important public buildings such as the townhouse and departments, in addition to the oldest homes. On the other hand, Afuá periphery, although located a few meters from downtown, is known in the community by the name of Capim Marinho, and houses some important places such as the soccer stadium and the cemetery (whose graves curiously face the Marajózinho River, an affluent of the Amazon River). Due to the recent growth of that area of the city, most of the Afuá population currently lives in Capim Marinho.

Images of the Afuá cemetery in relation to the river.

People flow in Afuá to the left and the channel entering Capim Marinho to the right.

Although it is located in the city’s urban center, a decision condemned by major urban planning experts, the Municipal Airport of Afuá turns such hindrance into one of its main characteristics: not only it divides the municipality into two distinct areas, but it also greatly influences local habits. Thus, the airport is totally connected with the city and closely related to Afuá’s urban fabric. One may say therefore that the airport, as well as the Bicitaxi (taxi-bike), the Shrimp Festival, Círio de Nossa Senhora da Conceição (candle celebration), is also a hallmark inherent to the city and an important symbol of the Afuá culture.

Bibliographical References

ASHFORD, Norman et al. Airport operations. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.

FOSTER apud PARADA, Sergio Roberto. Aeroporto de Brasília, uma questão de arquitetura. 2009. Available at: www.iabdf.org.br/AEROPORTO_DE_BRASILIA_UMA_QUESTAO_DE_ARQUITETURA.pdf

MEHRTENS, Cristina – O aeroporto Nacional de Washington: um conto sobre aeroportos e arquitetos. 2001. Available at: http://www.vitruvius.com.br/revistas/read/arquitextos/02.014/865

leave your comment

* Your comment

nine + 7 =