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by Laurent GUERBY Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 06:57:04 AM EST

Since we now have to talk about things that do work, how about reading Curitiba: A Global Model For Development:


The first time I went there, I had never heard of Curitiba. I had no idea that its bus system was the best on Earth or that a municipal shepherd and his flock of 30 sheep trimmed the grass in its vast parks. It was just a midsize Brazilian city where an airline schedule forced me to spend the night midway through a long South American reporting trip. I reached my hotel, took a nap, and then went out in the early evening for a walk--warily, because I had just come from crime-soaked Rio. [...]

The impossible?

"It was a horrible risk-he could easily have been fired," said Oswaldo Alves, who helped with the work. But by midday Monday, the same storeowners who had been threatening legal action were petitioning the mayor to extend the mall. The next weekend, when offended members of the local automobile club threatened to "reclaim" the street by driving their cars down it, Lerner didn't call out the police. Instead, he had city workers lay down strips of paper the length of the mall. When the auto club arrived, its members found dozens of children sitting in the former street painting pictures. The transformation of Curitiba had begun.

Cheapness is one of the three cardinal dictates of Curitiban planning. Many of the city's buildings are "recycled." The planning headquarters is in an old furniture factory; the gunpowder depot became a furniture factory; a glue plant was turned into the children's center. An old trolley stationed on the Rua Quinze has become a free babysitting center where shoppers can park their kids for a few hours. The city's parks provide the best example of brilliance on the cheap. When Lerner took office for the first time in 1971, the only park in Curitiba was smack downtown - the Passeio Publico, a cozy zoo and playground with a moat for paddleboats and a canopy of old and beautiful ipé trees, which blossom blue in the spring. "In that first term, we wanted to develop a lot of squares and plazas," recalls Alves. "We picked one plot, we built a lot of walls, and we planted a lot of trees. And then we realized this was very expensive."

Promoted and extra quote added by Colman


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To learn from Curitiba, the rest of the world would have to break some longstanding habits. And the hardest habit to break, in fact, may be what Lerner calls the "syndrome of tragedy, of feeling like we're terminal patients." Many cities have "a lot of people who are specialists in proving change is not possible. What I try to explain to them when I go visit is that it takes the same energy to say why something can't be done as to figure out how to do it."

I may cry.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 05:55:43 AM EST
Many thanks for this story!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 08:09:47 AM EST
The houses are all smaller than most Americans would want to live in, but they all say something about the people who built them. "It's a house built out of love," says the housing chief. "And because of that, people won't leave it behind. They're going to consolidate their lives there, become part of the city."

yup, tears are appropriate...

is planet mayor a future job description?

red ken should meet this guy...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 08:26:03 AM EST
hilarious ironies dept:

england suffers water shortages.

why not make recreational lake/reservoirs and catch the rain as well as the wind?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 08:51:59 AM EST
Wow !!!

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 09:48:11 AM EST
..a nd live soon in the best city in the world.

SO As you may guess we love to live them....

We have to increase somehow the wealth in some areas of the Barcelona surroundings...other than that...

the best.. green-left.. as much as it can be.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 10:46:35 AM EST
Have a look at our "Envisioning a Sustainable and Desirable America" at http://www.uvm.edu/giee/ESDA. Much of it is typical academic blah-blah, but there are some good ideas and not American if not for the title.

(posted also in the original "things that do work" thread - apologies if inappropriate).

by gongo on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 12:56:49 PM EST
One thing to notice about Curitiba -- and it's a story I have known for many years and hugged close, metaphorically, as living proof that Another World Is Possible -- is the emphasis on cheap and simple.  The money was simply not there to support a subculture of professional civic planners, "traffic engineers," "New Urbanist Experts," consultants, focus groups, 20 year plans, and grandiose visions imposed top-down onto the city by managers and technocrats who themselves never use public space and see the project mostly as a careerist opportunity.  

Instead, with a shoestring budget and a minimal bureaucracy, common sense was allowed to prevail in the service of amenity and safety for common people.  Curitiba is a sterling example of human-scale design -- an antihubristic (might almost say Tuftean) vision of planning and city management.  Jane Jacobs must have loved it, though I don't recollect off hand whether she wrote about it.  I hazard a guess that if vast pots of money had been available, the design process would have skewed immediately towards a ponderous top-heavy management structure and dysfunctional grandiosity or Taylorist authoritarianism.  A big chunk of money's like a fresh kill, it attracts opportunistic scavengers until there are enough to eat it all.

Also the number of affluent/privileged people (those who opposed closing the streets to cars) was relatively few, whereas the number of pedestrians and bus riders, cyclists etc. was relatively large.  The relative "poverty" of Curitiba actually worked in favour of sane and sustainable planning, as the Veblenesque wasteful display behaviour of the elite was not vulgarised and therefore a democratic majority could see the advantages of frugality, humility, and common sense.

Curitiba is part of my personal vision for a post-Peak social order that could work well and be quite livable and pleasant...  I could live there.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 03:13:57 PM EST
One thing to note is that the mayor had direct expertise on the project since he is an architect by training, so that removes a lot of the "consultant" stuff.

Another thing is that I assume local, simple, low tech, reliable plans are always very hard to sell in front of over "seen on TV", complex, "high-tech" and unreliable ones. But of course once you get one of such plan sold, all other looks quickly quite silly.

My experience in creating software anyway :).

by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Jun 2nd, 2006 at 06:18:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FANTASTIC!  Thanks so much for posting this.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 09:33:20 PM EST


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