Sunday, August 22, 2010

Visit to Curitiba Part II

In the 2006 book titled Revolutionary Wealth written by the futurists/writers Alvin & Heidi Toffler, there is a passage about a street in Curitiba.

“One midnight we accompanied its former mayor, Jaime Lerner, an urban planner by training, on a visit to its ‘24 Hour Street’, a block glistening with new coffee shops and restaurants jammed with young couples who smile, wave and call out ‘Jaime!’ The next street was designed to house twenty-four-hour professional services – doctors, dentists and lawyers. The next one was planned to hold twenty-four-municipal offices where individuals can get permits or licenses and take care of other city business at any hour.”

I was sorry that I didn’t visit the area described on my 2001 Curitiba trip and only saw the photographs. I read that the ex-mayor got the hint for the 24 Hour Street when he visited Sannomiya, Kobe. I recently asked my Facebook friend in Curitiba how is the street now and the answer was not something I expected. Currently the street is closed until further notice. It seems the plan highly acclaimed as futuristic by Tofflers encountered some glitches. However, my friend emphasized that Curitiba was the first Brazilian city where trucks started picking up house garbage for recycling at least twice a week. I read in a book the initial incentive used by the city was aimed at students. In exchange for bringing in house recyclables, they were offered either stationary or lunch coupons. When the roads were open only for pedestrian traffic, shop owners were against the city ordinance. When business picked up from foot traffic, they hailed the ordinance.

According to history, Jaime Lerner, a Curitiba native and student civil engineer, won the city master plan contest in 1964, in which he was deeply involved. Upon his graduation, he lead the Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba (IPPUC), the official organization to promote city master plans, including zoning, traffic controls, road management, public services,…, etc. Lerner served as Mayor for three terms before being elected to State Governor of Parana. Lerner was succeeded by a number of Japanese Nisei Brazilians who served as mayor, as well as IPPUC director, like Lerner, including Cassio Taniguchi. Their continuous and cumulative endeavors for the past 40 years made Curitiba a vanguard of modern city urbanization.

Lerner was honored as a keynote speaker at the world’s architect UIA Conference in Chicago in 1992. What made the mayor/governor and his followers achieve so much success? I believe their fresh foresight, relentless entrepreneurship and follow-through as a team were the reasons and I salute them.

While in Curitba, I visited, as a plant lover, most of the urban and suburban parks, Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden, 240 square kilometers), Opera de Arame (Wire Opera House built on two former quarries, 235 square kilometers), Parque Tangua, Bosque Alemano, the German woods and Parque Tingui, the Ukranian Immigration memorial and of course, Praca do Japao. This is why I missed visiting the 24 hour street downtown.

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