Thursday, April 26, 2007

Architect/Mayor/Governor Jaime Lerner of Curitiba, Brazil (2/2)

The transformation of Curitiba was initiated with the realisation of a car free city centre as an icon for the city of the human scale. It was a controversial plan because there where no precedents in Brazil. Though IPPUC initially thought of a trial period of two months, this was brought back to one month to one week because of the expected protests. Eventually the planning institute could convince the local entrepreneurs to accept a trial period of only one weekend. Prior to this weekend the street in question, Rua Quinze de Novembro, got totally refurbished, streetlights and kiosks were placed and tens of thousands of flowers were planted, an investment with which Jaime Lerner as a director of the planning institute took a big risk with which he put his career in jeopardy. The test however was successful and when the local automobile club announced a protest the following Monday, schoolchildren were mobilized for a street drawing project to stop this protest. This way, the first pedestrian zone in Brazil was a fact within 72 hours.

Actions like this are typical for the way Lerner operates, and are typed by him as ‘Acupuntura Urbana’ – Urban Acupuncture. This is a strategic intervention with quick results that generates enthusiasm and support for further developments. In other words, momentum is generated. This working method made Lerner popular during his career as an architect, but was blamed on him as being populist in is career as a politician. As a politician, he could replace binary political thinking with complementary architectural thinking. Politics became design with the idea that the same dynamics, processes, limitations and systems influence both politics and architecture. With this approach it became possible to get maximum effect with limited resources. This got compensated by mobilizing the population, which became an alternative architectural resource.

“…The city is not the problem, it is the solution…” - Jaime Lerner

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