Jaime Lerner is an architect, urban planner, and politician. He is one of the pioneers of sustainable development in urban planning and policy. He was born on 17th December in 1937 in Curitiba to a family of Polish immigrants.
Architect, urban planner, and politician.
He graduated from the Architecture School of the Federal University of Paraná in 1964. A year later, he co-created the Institute of Urban Planning and Research of Curitiba, also known as IPPUC. He was the mayor of Curitiba three times (1971-1975, 1979-1983, 1989-1992) and mainly thanks to him, the city earned itself the title of a ‘model green city’. During his first term, which he began when he was barely thirty years old, Lerner introduced a system of integrated public transport that is considered to be one of the most innovative in the world due to its efficiency, quality, and cost. The same kind of system was then implemented in Seoul, Los Angeles and eighty other cities around the world. Lerner often says 'If you want to help the environment, use your car less.’ In his following terms, apart from implementing urban planning solutions, Lerner introduced a number of social programmes, due to which Curitiba ranked amongst the best cities in Brazil for quality of life. He also led an urban revolution that made the city renowned for urban planning, public transportation, environmental, social programmes, and urban projects that other cities now use as examples.
Lerner was elected governor of Parana twice (first in 1994, then in 1998), and he introduced a series of socio-economic reforms which contributed to the increase of quality of life, both in urban and rural areas. He is known for being responsible for one of the biggest economic and social transformation in the history of the state. For such projects as From the Street to School (Rua para a Escola), Protecting Life (Protegendo a Vida), he received the Child and Peace Award from UNICEF. He has won numerous prizes, such as the United Nations Environmental Award (1990), World Technology Award for Transportation (2001), Sir Robert Mathew Prize for the Improvement of Quality of Human Settlements (2002). In 2010, Lerner was nominated among the 25 most influential thinkers in the world by Time magazine.
Lerner is known for his bold and quick decisions. When he decided to transform one of the city streets, rua XV de Novembro in Curitiba, into a major pedestrian street, he did so in 72 hours. ‘Changes need to be quick’, he says. When Lerner heard about a possible protest by drivers, who planned to drive through the newly pedestrianized throughfare, he enlisted hundreds of children, armed them with paintbrushes and paper, and set them to play in the street.
During his numerous public appearances, the architect has been an advocate of sustainable cities and points out that you need to pay just as much attention to housing, jobs, and leisure as you do to historic preservation and investments in public transport. ‘He is a master at noticing the obvious’, said Maí Nascimento, the author of a book about the history of Curitiba.
Nowadays, there is about 52 square metres of green space per resident, which has drastically increased since 1970, when it was about 0.5 metres per resident. This change was possible due to a campaign that encouraged people to water the plants that lined the streets. The campaign slogan was ‘We give you shade, you give us water’. ‘Thanks to this project, the people of Curitiba ensured that over a million trees were preserved,’ said Lerner.
In the 1980s, a public education programme on the separation of household waste was introduced. Children taught their parents how to separate organic and non-organic waste, Lerner reminisces. In 1991, the recycling programme reached even those living in the poorest parts of town, where trash collectors would give residents bags of groceries or transit passes in return for their garbage. ‘The favelas were becoming squeaky clean’, recalled Nireu Teixeira, Lerner’s three-time Head of Cabinet.
Jaime Lerner is the founder of the Jaime Lerner Institute and chairman of Jaime Lerner Arquitetos Associados (JLAA). He is the former president of the UIA - International Union of Architects, from 2002 to 2005. His JLAA practice develops projects for the public and private sectors for cities in Brazil and abroad, such as Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Florianópolis, Recife, Luanda (Angola), David (Panama), Durango, Oaxaca, Mazatlán (Mexico) and Santiago de Los Caballeros (Dominican Republic). Lerner received an honorary doctorate degree from the Kraków University of Technology, and the Technical University of Nova Scotia and an honorary member of the Royal Institute of Architects of Canada, American Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Author: Aleksandra Pluta, June 2015, Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska
The original Polish version is based on: