Brazil’s vision of an eco city: Curitiba


Architects are leading protagonists in the social and cultural life of a city. With an ambitious aim and with a pragmatism that was unique in Brazil, Curitiba, the capital city of Paraná, started to develop a vision of an eco city. This vision was to become a blueprint for sustainable development in other Latin American cities.

Just a year after the first Building Regulations were passed, Curitiba got its first public garden. The concept of building large green spaces in order to preserve nature was realized within a plan of regeneration. Brazil’s first University, the “Universidade Federal do Paraná (UFPR)” in Curitiba was founded in 1912. The 1943 “Agache urban management plan” (Donat-Alfred Agache, French architect and urban planner; 1875-1934) set down the formal goals of urban development: radial growth with zoning for residential, commercial and industrial use; restructuring of the road network in addition to sewage disposal. Large boulevards built during this period are still major streets in Curitiba include Visconde de Guarapuava, Sete de Setembro, Marechal Floriano and XV de Novembro.

Realisation of Curitiba’s vision

In the 1960s a group of architects and urban planners at UFPR submitted a proposal to the mayor of Curitiba, Ivo Arzua. The city then launched a series of public discussions on the topic “Curitiba de Amanhã” (Curitiba of Tomorrow). They followed this with a public competition which was won by Sociedade Serete de Estudos e Projetos Ltda. and Jorge Wilheim Associated Architects.

In 1965 IPPUC (Curitiba Research and Planning Consultancy) was set up to undertake the task of working out the details of the urban development plan. Today IPPUC employs 300 professionals of various disciplines and continues to develop similar international projects.

The main tenets of the Curitiba master plan from 1966 include an integrated traffic system, zoning and land use, land development, the preservation and regeneration of traditional centres of industry and the provision of services for the public. IPPUC implemented all of these and changed Curitiba in terms of design, economy, culture and community. In this way, Curitiba got its first pedestrian precint at the beginning of the 1970s which was built within 48 hours in the old town centre.

Jaime Lerner created a new axis faciong north, south, east and west using a new way of building streets in order to reduce traffic. The new Triple-Street-Design includes two antipodal one-way-roads surrounding a smaller two-lane road. Henceforward, new buildings were built at a distance of five meters to the road. 50% of the area between the buildings and the roads is a green corridor which is used to drain away rainwater.

Up to the time of the implementation of the Curitiba vision, the city had a population of 400.000. In the year 2000, the population of Curitiba grew to three million. Nonetheless, Curitiba continued with its urban development plan. International companies including Audi, Renault, Siemens, Volvo and Volkswagen have set up here within the last 40 years and work with due consideration of Curitiba’s environmental regulations.

Environmental Capital

In the 1980s Curitiba was faced with the problem of providing all sectors of a growing population with basic services. One of the outcomes from this period is the exemplary public transport system, “Rede Integrada de Transporte”, which charges a standard fare of 75 Eurocents, no matter how long the journey. At each station a number of staff deal with ticker disposal and control. Thus buses and trains can run at frequent intervals with short stops. All stations, dubbed “Estações Tubo” bu the Curitibans, are barrier-free. 85% of the Curitiba’s residents use public transport. Experts in the field are very familiar with the efficient public transport system of Curitiba. Meanwhile the “TransMilenio” in Bogotá, Columbia, is modeled on the system of Curitiba.

The public transport system was a major aim of Curitiba’s urban management plan and it was only possible with low investment costs. As both an architect and mayor, Jaime Lerner’s goal was to provide an attractive public area. 55 m2/inhabitant is Brazil’s highest green area. At the weekend, more than 150.000 residents use the 80 million square meters of parks, woods, public gardens and squares. Having both nature and city makes Curitiba worth living in. On the other hand, Curitiba benefits from its large green space in terms of drainage for rainwater. Parks in Curitiba are linear and next to rivers in the centre of the valley. They serve to protect residential areas against flooding as well as rivers against pollution. Small lakes reduce floods and help during rainy periods. Residents are very interested in the environmental plan. 2600 pupils participated in “Olha d’água”, a program asking for pro-active support in improving the quality of the water.

To finance these activities, Curitiba charges for rezoning applications. The fees collected are used specifically for social and environmental projects, enhancing the quality of life for the whole community. These days Curitiba is exemplary in the field of urban management. At the Internation Congress of urban planners in Istanbul in 1996 Curitiba was awarded the prize for the most innovative city in the world.

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credit photo: promobrasil,,,,,, wikipedia.

by Architect and Professor Silvio Parucker


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