"A Convenient Truth" Chronicles Curitiba's Urban Innovations


A street in Curitiba, Brazil (photo by Jesse Fox).

When over 90% of a city's residents are happy with their city, somebody must be doing something right. In Curitiba, a quaint, mid-sized town in southern Brazil, some forty years of sensitive urban design interventions have created a city that is pleasant and sustainable, and one that has managed to avoid many of the ills that have plagued Brazilian cities.

Countless innovations can be traced back to Curitiba, and over the years the place has become something of a Mecca for architects and urban planners from all over the world. But for those who can't afford the trip to Brazil in these tough economic times, a documentary film called A Convenient Truth is the next best thing.

Curitiba's urban revolution began in 1971, when a young architect named Jaime Lerner was appointed mayor. Lerner came to the job accompanied by a team of like-minded innovators, and armed with a heap of original ideas, which he proceeded to implement one by one.

One of his first moves in office was to take the town's busiest main street and close it completely to traffic. In a lightning 3-day operation, Brazil's first pedestrian street was created. Business owners, at first irate over the change in the status quo, soon requested that additional streets be pedestrianized.

Lerner, who would serve three terms as mayor of Curitiba, went on to pioneer what is now known as Bus Rapid Transit. Lacking funds to build a subway, his team retooled the bus system to function as if it were an underground, using extended buses traveling through exclusive bus lanes.

While known mainly for its pioneering approach to transportation planning, Curitiba has also developed dozens of creative programs to address everything from recycling and affordable housing to flood prevention and growth management.

A Convenient Truth is divided into four chapters: transportation, recycling, housing and parks. Each chapter details the city's efforts to develop forward-thinking solutions to problems that affect cities throughout Latin America and beyond. Many of these ideas were in fact so successful that they later formed the basis for similar programs in cities like Sao Paulo, Bogota and New York.

Featuring interviews with Lerner and other luminaries, along with some impressive photography of the city, A Convenient Truth provides a window onto Curitiba's urban transformation.

A Convenient Truth is a one-hour DVD, with versions in English, Spanish and Portuguese, by MariaVazPhotography and Del Bello Pictures. For more info, check out www.mariavazphoto.com/curitiba.

Tags: Brazil | Documentaries | Transportation