How a Single Dream Made a Dream City

May 30, 2012 by Frontline Copy

by Faith Attaguile

There once was a man … who had a dream … about a city over 300 years old.

Originally a gold-mining camp run by Portuguese settlers, now it's a thriving metropolis.

But our story begins about 30 years ago when Jaime Lerner, trained in urban planning, became mayor of this old city. Knowing this was the chance of a lifetime, Mayor Lerner set about changing Curitiba from a dream ... into a dream city.

Where on earth is Curitiba?

Curitiba (sounds like “CuriCHEEba”) sits in southeastern Brazil. It’s now a cosmopolitan city with a population of around three million people.

Truth be told, Curitibans quite love their city. A recent survey found that 99% of the people of Curitiba expressed happiness and contentment with their city.

Ninety-nine percent? How can that be?

Yet it’s true. And that’s because when he became mayor of Curitiba, Jaime Lerner decided to make life better for Curitibans by putting their needs first – before profits, cars, “development” … before everything.

So he gathered around him the best transition pioneers he could find at the time and began turning his dream into reality.

Building a sustainable city

Lerner and his team said:

  • No subway? Build a flexible bus system that transports more people than a subway can … and is 100 times less costly.
  • Unusable land that floods each year? Build a series of parks and lakes in and around the city as natural flood control regulators that Curitibans can enjoy each day.
  • Poor housing built on wetlands in a sprawling slum? Involve people in the planning and building of new housing on dry land where they learn essential job skills and move into homes they’ve just helped build.

Curitiba’s transformation continued from there.

In 2010 Globe Forum, a Stockholm-based group, gave Curitiba the much-prized Globe Sustainable City Award. Curitiba won first position before other cities like Malmo (Sweden), Sydney (Australia), Murcia (Spain), Songpa (South Korea), and Stargard Szczecinski (Poland).

This award recognized Curitiba’s unique approach to sustainable urban development efforts. The jury commended Curitiba’s holistic approach to growth. They wrote, Curitiba “is well framed and managed in order to create a strong and healthy community, integrating the environmental dimension with other dimensions like intellectual, cultural, economic and social.”

What was the motivating force behind Curitiba’s transformation into a sustainable city?

A man with a dream that put people and the planet first.

Click on the video below. Meet Jaime Lerner and the people of Curitiba. Discover how they transformed their city from a world of grey to a world of green.

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The above image "Together ... we can mend the world" by Frontline Copy (Faith Attaguile) is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Feel free to share the image anywhere but please be nice and link it back here!

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