Jaime Lerner, architect and planner, was a three-term
mayor of Curitiba (1971-1992) before becoming a two-term governor of Parana. His leadership and passion were fundamental to the 'smart growth' of Curitiba, the city where
he lives and is seen as an inspiring father-figure.
When he took office the city coffers had no wiggle room
for "living out dreams." But he said that "creativity starts when you cut a zero from your budget-- two zeros are even better."
Visiting consultants and planning experts explained how
etraordinarily complicated it would be to achieve his agenda for improvements. Lerner didn't see it that way-- he called them
'complexity sellers.' To him, problems had built-in solutions and he was eager to dive in. He would say: "Innovation
is not planning-- it's starting."
A vital first move-- which he says took about 36 hours-- was closing many central street
to cars and giving pedestrians full throttle.
He attracted investment that made Curitiba an industrial
hub that in turn raised wages and the housing affordability index. He pushed to include urban citizenship and sustainability
in school curricula. For example, he said that if children were taught to separate recyclables that they would
in turn teach their parents (it must have worked, because Curitiba recyles at a 70-percent rate-- the highest in the world).
He often spoke in parables that the average person understood.
He sold efficient mobility in a simple way. He would say "an automobile is like a mother-in-law. You need a good relationship
but you don't let it run your life." People got it. He 'metronized' the bus system. Lots of people kept heir cars but took
the bus in most situations and took pride in their transit. No graffiti. And by the way, the bus system is non-subsidized.
It's so popular it pays for itself.
He attracted top park planners and botanists and residents
took pride in their garden parks. He reinvented urban space by pushing for multi-use buildings and multi-connected transit
systems. He opened the doors for top architects-- calling their work "acupuncture for the urban imagination."
Lerner is a top draw at planning conferences and is still
leading the charge for urban citizenship. For him, the three main issues for discussion are mobility, sustainability,
and identity. And... he is overseeing his design for a realignment of mass transit and new illuminated stations in Rio