Curitiba Brazil is best known for its innovative urban planning practices from the 1970’s, including its famous Bus Rapid Transit system that functions as an “above ground subway.” Jaime Lerner is the former mayor of Curitiba responsible for most of these innovative elements. During this first two terms, 1971–75 & 1979–84, his strategy was to implement many individuals projects separately at a very quick pace. The wire operate house is one of his famous examples of a project that was went from an idea to complete in a few months. He calls this approach urban acupuncture – “When a small intervention can provide a new energy to the city.”
In the past forty years however, the bus system and other elements of this world famous planned city have been been tested and are now aging. I had the opportunity to study urban planning in Curitiba during the Summer of 2007 and learned that many famous elements of the city have remained unchanged since their implementation, such as the BRT that was in need of new routes and signage to meet the changing demands of residents. During this trip my classmates and I dub this city a “Disneyland for Planners” because there were so many examples of sustainable practices and creative uses of space, however we had the feeling that many of these places, such as the pedestrian street for shopping downtown, were installed without the approval of the residents or business owners. Although they function well now, at the time some of Jaime Lerner’s projects that were built they neglected to involve public opinion during their planning phases.
Today however Curitiba is still praised as a model sustainable city and in fact it won the Global Sustainable City Award 2010. Curitiba is also hosting a few World Cup matches in 2014, leading planners to realize that they need to improve the city’s infrastructure to be able to handle the huge influx of football fans. CNN also featured a story on Curitiba after it was awarded the Global Sustainable City Award in 2010. See the video below for a profile of the city and interviews with Jaime Lerner and current planners. Also to learn more about Jaime Lerner’s current projects with his private architecture firm see this interview with him from the Dirt.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this sustainable city plans for the future especially in with the upcoming World Cup.
Photo Credits: 2007 Melissa Reese