Curitiba: City with a Soul

"There is little in the architecture of a city that is more beautifully designed than a tree". With a site name like ours, how could we not admire the author of such words. Jaime Lerner was a young architect in the 60's, who agitated against the malls and highways being built in the city of Curitiba, Brazil. In 1971 he became Mayor (and later a Governor) and made such radical and progressive urban planning changes that the world is making tracks to his city to learn from the lessons. Not only does he hug trees (giving away 1.5 million for the citizens to plant) but he embraces transport reform with a fervour, having approved over 150 km of bike paths. And his bus system soon became so popular that commuters left their cars at home and boarded the buses in droves. How's about a 50 fold increase over the past 20 years?The buses account for 55% of the city's transport demand. People still have their cars, but use 30% less petrol than 8 comparable Brazilian cities. Some of these buses carry 270 passengers each, at the same speed of a metro or subway rail system, but at 1/80 of the construction cost. Curitiba's mould-breaking elevated access platforms load pasengers onto in 1/8th of the time of previous systems.

Other initiatives include gardens tended by street kids and parklands by teenagers, with park lawns mowed by sheep, with attendant shepherds. Handicapped people work in recycling centres sorting bottles from cans, while recycled styrofoam is shredded to make insulated quilts and comforters for the poor. Not everything in this bold experiment at humanising the urban environment has worked out perfectly, but you don't make a omlette without breaking a few eggs along the way. But it sure has been inspiring for so many people, not least of all, the residents of Curitiba, 98% of whom are happy with their city.

Just a small selection of the many sites offering more info.
- ::Horizions Solutions
- ::Demographica (a 350MB PDF)
- ::Context Institute
- ::Sustainable Communities Centre
- ::Global Ideas Bank
- ::Light Rail Now (who, as you might expect, have a different view of things, given Curitiba's extensive use of buses.)