Case Study

Curitiba, Brazil: master planning and

During the second half of the twentieth century the city of Curitiba, capital of Paraná province in southern Brazil, saw its population grow from 120,000 people in 1940 to about 1.4 million with over 2.5 million in its metropolitan area today. In the early part of this period of growth Curitiba's development was guided by a master plan developed in 1943 by a French urbanist, Alfred Agache. With a population growth of 5% a year in the early 1960s, and contemporaneously with the excitement generated by the design and development of Brasilia, the municipality felt that a new plan was needed and plug-in urban design (1965-98)

organized a competition to generate ideas for what the city should be. At that time Curitiba had a population of 470,000.

The Agache plan had proposed that growth should take place in a concentric manner from the centre out. A zoning map was drawn up accordingly. In 1965 a new master plan was proposed as the result of the competition. The winning scheme of Brazilian Jorge Wilheim proposed that growth should take place in a radial, linear manner spreading out from the centre so that transportation routes could be most easily be integrated with new development

Figure 10.7 The integrated transportation network following the 1965 plan.
Figure 10.8 The integration concept.

and vice versa (see Figures 10.7 and 10.8). The Plano Diretor changed the growth pattern of Curitiba. It also focused on the promotion of industrial development and simultaneously on the enhancement of the environmental quality of the city. The implementation of this vision took place through a large number of architectural and urban design projects that were plugged into the transportation system.

The city has achieved much in improving environmental quality in a way that few, if any, cities in the economically developing world have succeeded in doing. These changes are also highly visible involving the engineering and architectural design of many elements of the city. The planning effort focused on land-use strategies and the use of non-physical design procedures to achieve physical design quality ends. These procedures included the use of the transference of development rights from historically sensitive to other areas of the city and incentives to preserve natural areas and buildings of significant cultural value. They were also designed to attract developers to build affordable housing and other amenities deemed to be in the public interest.

The programmes for building housing for low-income people were financed by the National Housing Bank but on its demise a Municipal Housing Fund was established. It is financed by taxes on real estate transfers of property, by funds from the municipal budget and by income from the sale of building incentives. These incentives allow building rights in excess of zoning regulations. Other housing projects are really sites-and-service schemes.

The most important infrastructure elements were the 'structural axes' of transportation radiating from but running tangentially to the city centre, the transfer terminals and trinary traffic system (see Figure 10.9). They have provided the armature for plugging in a broad array of urban design projects: high-density nodes, well-detailed stations and bus stops, 'lighthouses of knowledge' (libraries), 'citizenship streets' (community centres, see Figure 10.10) and the strategic locating of accessible museums, theatres, parks and recreational facilities. In addition, and symbolically most importantly, the focus of the transportation routes on the city centre enabled the core of the city to be completely revitalized and modernized through the erection of new buildings and the refurbishment of old. The location of the major transit lines on the periphery of the Central Business District (CBD) allowed the creation of what are called 'boulevards' -pedestrian streets within it. Thus associated with the transportation network were a large number of architectural, landscape architectural and urban design projects

Figure 10.9 The transportation infrastructure in Curitiba. (a) A conceptual diagram of a transfer terminal and (b) the trinary traffic system in the structural avenues.

Figure 10.9 The transportation infrastructure in Curitiba. (a) A conceptual diagram of a transfer terminal and (b) the trinary traffic system in the structural avenues.

that have transformed the city. How was this end achieved?

The Institute for Research and Urban Planning of Curitiba (IPPUC) was formed in 1966 to implement the master plan. Zoning laws were passed to increase the density in areas of the city linked to transportation and a public works programme was initiated. During the early 1970s the structural avenues were developed with Federal Government funding. The major transit line began to operate in 1974. The industrial development

Figure 10.10 A community centre - a 'citizenship street' - plugged into the transportation system.

programme was implemented through the creation of Curitiba's Industrial City (CIC). The CIC has proven to be of great economic importance to the city, contributing significantly to the city's Gross Domestic Product of $8.26 billion in 1995. Twenty per cent of the city's workers are employed there. Without the infrastructure development, the industrial development would have been impossible.

The so-called 'above-ground underground system' has attracted great international attention. The separate express bus lanes and the 'tubular stations' at each stop with platforms that enable passengers to enter a bus without climbing up steps and having already paid for the trip (see Figure 10.11) do operate much as in a subway system. The network carries 1.3 million riders a day. Paralleling the transit system is a hierarchy of roads with each level having a designated purpose. In addition to the efforts to deal with transportation is the desire to create an ecologically sound city. The area in parks has been substantially increased (from 0.5 to 52 square metres per person), over 1.5

million trees have been planted and 145 kilometres of cycle-ways have been built. Recycling programmes have been established and educational programmes increasing environmental awareness have been implemented. What, however, amongst all these activities is urban design?

The design of the transit system can be regarded as plug-in urban design and the community centres consisting of a number of buildings might be regarded as total urban designs. This type of endeavour has traditionally been called physical planning. Such an effort in Curitiba has resulted in a large number of specific design projects, which, fragments in themselves, are part of a well-coordinated larger system. A number of observers regard such work as 'urban design at the city scale'. The lessons of Curitiba do apply to many urban design projects. The question is: 'How was Curitiba's success achieved?'

A recent study (Irazâbal, in progress) suggests that there were three major contributions to the success of the 'hegemonic planning project' that was undertaken

Figure 10.11 A tubular bus station.

between 1965 and the end of the twentieth century. In the first place, the power elite rallied around specific schemes. Secondly, the media wholeheartedly supported the work and widely disseminated images of proposed schemes. Thirdly, the lower-income groups could see clear, if small, material gains. In combination these three factors proved to be powerful forces ably harnessed at the mayoral level. The leadership of Mayor Jaime Lerner was particularly important in establishing the transit system in the early 1970s and overseeing the planning process. Despite these achievements, today all is not well.

Over the last decade, the planning process in Curitiba has run into problems. The basic issue is that the citizenry has not been actively involved in the decisions that affect their lives. The middle classes have been favoured. There has been little that celebrates the plurality of views (although recently ethnic memorials have been erected in the city). Many politicians and a diversity of citizens groups are calling for change. The question now being asked is: 'How do we move ahead?' The city can rest on it laurels, but in a few years its infrastructure will start to decay and what has been achieved will be largely forgotten. New ways will have to be devised to develop the city's competitive advantage over its rivals.

Major references

Del Rio, Vicente (1992). Urban design and conflicting city images. Cities (November): 270-9. Hawken, Paul, Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins (1999). Weaving the web of solutions: the Curitiba example. In Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution. London: Earthscan, 288-308. Irazabal, Clara (in progress). The politics of development and urban design in Curitiba. In Vicente del Rio and William Siembieda, eds., Beyond Brasilia: Contemporary Urban Design in Brazil. Mello, Terezna Carvalho de and Paulo Henrique Battaglin Machado (1999). Do Desenvolvimento Urbano a Sustenabilidade: From Urban Development to Sustainability. Curitiba: IPPUC.

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