Green Cities

Curitiba bus stop

Curitiba bus stop

Dreams vs. Reality

No hope might be the best way to describe some congested cities around the world. But there may be options for improvements if people with vision are brought in.

City success story

The city of Curitiba in Brazil should get more recognition around the world. Jamie Lerner stands as something of a hero among his fellow citizens. The chief architect of the Curitiba Master Plan, he was appointed mayor during Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1971. When the nation returned to democracy, he was elected to another term. During his 12 years in office, Lerner devised many of Curitiba’s innovative, inexpensive solutions to city problems.

He looked at the challenges differently that other town planners. For instance, in the early days of the public transit system, to increase its funding and encourage ridership, he made a special city lottery, valuing bus fare as lottery tickets. He created more incentives for recycling, including exchanging bottles, cans and other recyclables for food to tackle the growing litter problem.

He did not hang around. Lerner believed in implementing plans quickly. In just 72 hours, he converted the city’s downtown into Brazil’s first pedestrian mall.

Lerner’s track record in Curitiba helped him gain the trust and confidence he needed to reach state office, and he served as governor from 1994 to 2002. Today, Lerner consults with cities around the world on their plans for addressing long-term growth and sustainability.

Many cities around the world have turned into nightmares and it is hard to see how with growing populations and pollution they can ever improve. But with vision, there is always to chance to make at least some improvements.

Jaime LernerUrban Acupuncture

By Jaime Lerner, Harvard Business Review

How can cities be more vibrant, more vivacious? How can cities be “revitalized”?

First and foremost, what brings life to a city is its people — and the better the quality of life of the city, the better it will be for its citizens and the more livable and lively it will be.

Many cities are losing the battle against degradation and violence because they settled for the view that difficulties were too big and could only be dealt with after all planning instruments and financial resources were in place.

I see cities not as problems, but as solutions. I would argue that any city, willingly, can be transformed for better in a relatively short period of time, provided that we embrace a more generous approach to them.

This perspective misses the fundamental understanding that the city is a collective dream. To build this dream is vital. Without it, there will not be the essential involvement of its inhabitants. It is crucial to project successful scenarios that can be desired by the majority of the population, to the point that they commit to it. Building this vision of the future is a process that acknowledges, welcomes and embraces the multiple visions that managers and inhabitants, planners, politicians, businesses, and civil society have of their city and sets up co-responsibility equations to make it happen. Read More at Urban Acupuncture in the Harvard Business Review.

Jaime Lerner: Sing a song of sustainable cities

Curitiba: The Smart City