Jaime Lerner on Sustainability in Curitiba and 'Urban Accupunture'


Brazilian site Planeta Sustentavel (Sustainable planet) has published an interview with architect Jaime Lerner, an environmental star that has turned the city of Curitiba into one of the greenest cities in the world.

With a poetical tone, Lerner takes on the meaning of sustainability, his obsession with educating children on ecological issues, and what he calls 'urban accupunture'. Interviews are in Portuguese, but we have translated his words for you. Jump to the extended to read what this visionary that is now aiming to transform the city of Luanda (in Angola) has to say (Picture: Lerner at a rapid bus station in Curitiba).

Via Planeta Sustentavel"A sustainable city is the one that integrates housing, work and leisure, while preserving its history and investing in public transportation." With this idea in mind, Jaime Lerner has turned Curitiba, capital of the Parana State in Brazil, into one of the greenest cities in the world.

Some of his ideas were to educate children on garbage separation in order for them to educate their parents, to exchange food for recovered garbage in favelas (poor settlements) in order to encourage trash separation, and to put sheep in parks for them to take care of grass and attract children.

Now on a project to revitalize the marine coast, solve the garbage management issues and transform the road system in Luanda, Angola; Lerner is constantly consulted by governments from cities around the world on environmental issues.

In these short interviews with Planeta Sustentavel where he gives short ideas of his vision, you can feel Lerner's ideology about small solutions that solve big problems.

If you feel like practicing your Portuguese, here are the interviews in video. Translation of the phrases are below each.

"Curitiba has proved that it is possible, that [becoming sustainable] can happen, and that simple solutions are possible."
"You have to understand that you are in the middle of a process, of a path [of the city], and that innovation is the first step. Then you have to give society some space for them to incorporate things, so that then you can correct those things that are not right."
"I have an obsession, which is to show and teach our city to the kids; because the more you know how something works, the more you’re going to respect it. If they know that it is better to use your car less, to separate garbage, to live nearer to the place you work or to bring the work nearer to the place you live, if they know what multi-use of things means, one way or another those things are going to contribute for the city to become more sustainable. I think this is the best way to give a significant scale answer to the problem of sustainability."


"We decided to teach kids in all schools for six months [to separate garbage], and then children taught their parents. So then we started a campaign [to encourage recycling], and Curitiba has been the city with the highest indicator or garbage separation in the world for 20 years now: 70% of the population separates garbage."

Urban accupunture

"I do urban accupunture. My intention is to encourage people to understand their city, to plan their city. However, sometimes for determinate problems it is necessary to 'stick some needles' of good local [government] action that can create new energy, which is the principle of accupunture."

Shading and fresh water

"One of our campaigns had the motto: 'city hall gives you shadow, you provide the fresh water'. So this way, we planted trees in every rue in the city and population took care of them. We lost only 5% of them."
"We arrived to the conclusion that it was better to save an existing wood than to build a new park. So we started to save existing woods with the help of families that could take care of them. Thanks to that, the green areas indicator of Curitiba went from 0,5 square meters per citizen in 1971 to 52 square meters per citizen; while the population grew three times."


"The city is usually the last refugee of solidarity. However, I think the answers to most of the people’s problems reside in our cities. So if we gave a good response and were generous with our city, we would be generous with the people living in it as well."
"A person’s dream is to be recognized in their own neighborhood, is to have a feeling of identity with its own city, and to belong to that city."
"The city is like a family portrait, and you don’t tear apart a family portrait, even if you don’t like a certain uncle’s nose. Why? because that portrait is also a picture of yourself. Cities are a collective dream."
::Planeta Sustentavel ::Jaime Lerner's website (in Portuguese)

Jaime Lerner on Sustainability in Curitiba and 'Urban Accupunture'
Brazilian site Planeta Sustentavel (Sustainable planet) has published an interview with architect Jaime Lerner, an environmental star that has turned the city of Curitiba into one of the greenest cities in the world.

Related Content on Treehugger.com