Friday, October 12, 2007

SustainaBrazil is relocated !

I have been exploring Brazilian sustainable issues for a while because I think the developments in Brazil are defining for the way we design things and communities.

Gradually, however, I have come to explore issues that also have to do with design, but not necessarily to Brazil. That is why I relocated this blog and merged its content with a new blog with a wider scope: PreDesign. It explores the preconditions to design.

Please visit my new blog at and feel free to leave comments.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Blacksmith Institute

The Blacksmith Institute, an NGO that maps pollution around the world, published a list of the 10 most polluted places in the world. It is quite encouraging the Brazilian city of Cubatão, which I wrote about here and which was considered to be the most polluted city in the 80s, does not longer appear on the list.

More: Blacksmith Institute, Treehugger

Sunday, September 16, 2007

11th Hour

In addition to Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' and 'Architects for a Better World', which I wrote about before, yet another movie will is apparent. As in the previous movies, it deals about the modification of the current industrial model into a sustainable model. About 50 scientists, thinkers and leaders appear in the movie, amongst whom two people I like: Bruce Mau (MASSIVE CHANGE) and William McDonough (Cradle to Cradle).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2006: YOU

The first edition of Time Magazine in 2007 presented ‘You’ as person of the year 2006.

“…The “Great Man” theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.” He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year. (…) Look at 2006 through a different lens and you’ll see another story, one that isn’t about conflict or great men. It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes. The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. (…) The new web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon valley consultants call it Web 2.0 …”

It's all about collaboration.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Cansei – I am tired – is the name of a new movement in Brazil that came into existence on July 26th. It was initiated as a reaction to the country’s worst-ever airplane disaster of TAM flight 3054 at Congonhas Airport, São Paulo on July 17. The movement is an initiative of the Sao Paulo branch of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB-SP), the organization established by the constitution to test and certify Brazil's lawyers.

Cansei demands accountability for everything that is wrong in Brazil, from the failing air traffic control system to street children to corruption at every level to the shadow narco states in the favelas of the big cities. The movement claims not to be political. Though largely a movement of individuals the Brazilian subsidiary of Holland's Royal Philips Electronics decided to join the group on July 27. August 17 a rally will be held on the square of Sé Cathedral in the center of São Paulo, as well as at the crash site at Congonhas airport and a number of other places throughout the country.

Addition: Critics say Cansei is an elitist movement and does not represent the people. This was reflected in the little enthousiasm that was generated for the rallies as stated above. Let's see if the movement will be able to increase its supporter group.

More: Cansei, Stratfor, OAB-SP

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

City Engine

Surfing on Youtube I ran into CityEngine. It is an architectural modelling tool and a project of PhD candidate Pascal Mueller, who is research assistant at the Computer Vision Lab at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland (Einstein studied there as well).

CityEngine is software for the creative and efficient creation of digital architecture and is focused mainly on the procedural modelling of architecture. The eventual goal is to create a tool which allows efficient digital content creation of detailed large-scale 3D models for a variety of applications including urban planning, entertainment, archaeology and simulation. To do this it is essential to define the syntax and vocabulary of a design grammar for computer generated architecture. Buildings can then be generated automatically by following the given aesthetic and statutory architectural rules.

Imagine what this tool could mean to city planning. Rather than trying to plan every street and to define every parcel, we could define a number of parameters to which city (slum) dwellers would have to apply. They would be able to build their own houses, and it would mean the liberation and democratization of design. We would be able to speak of an Open Source City.

With a tool like CityEngine, the municipal urban planning department would be able to calculate possible growth patterns of the city. The model could be fed with demographic data. This way, the size of an average family could directly be translated to the size of a building and through it, to the appearance of the city. This way municipal planning departments would be able to anticipate by investing in infrastructure. This in turn would avoid traffic congestion and pollution related problems, which would significantly improve the liveability of the city.

Looking at the software of Pascal Mueller, the solution is just around the corner.

More: ETH, Pascal Mueller, CityEngine
Previous posts:
fractals, swarm theory and the end of urban planning

Friday, August 10, 2007

Brazil Network Society

Brazilians are natural networkers. Brazilians usually know where to find the people that might be able to help them, how to approach them, and how to connect with them. When Brazilians are outside of Brazil, they usually keep track of their compatriots. Not because it is a particular close group, but they need to know just in case.

Claudio Prado, coordinator of digital policy of the ministry of culture of Brazil argues this is what Brazil has been for centuries. In his words: "In a Brazilian favela, that's the way it works. You go and help your neighbor build their house. (…) That's what you do when you don't have money. You collaborate."

It is no coincidence Internet social network service Orkut is mostly a success in Brazil. Orkut was launched on January 22, 2004 by Google. It is named after its creator Orkut Büyükkökten, a Turkish software engineer who developed it as an independent project while working at Google. Orkut was designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships and is similar to Hyves, Friendster and MySpace. Orkut goes a step further by permitting the creation of easy-to-setup simple forums (called "communities") of users. Of its currently about 60.000.000 users, the number of Brazilians participating is an estimated 55 to 72 percent.
In Brazil, this collaborative aspect of society was intentionally just part of the collective subconsciousness, until it was formalized recently by the decision of the Brazilian federal government to be the first country in the world to use open source software for governmental institutions. Although this decision was partly taken on economic grounds, the real argument was the acceptation of a development model of which a large part of the population can take profit.

As it seems, this decision was nothing more than a logical step in the Brazilian tradition of collaboration.