- Beyond Brasilia - Contemporary Urban Design in Brazil   click here to open paper content622 kb
by    del Rio, Vicente | vdelrion@calpoly.edu   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
Findings of a research on contemporary urban design in Brazil that assessed fourteen original case studies by researchers in several major cities. Urban design as an expression of public policies for a better public realm.
This paper discusses the findings of a research on contemporary urban design in Brazil and its contribution to the shaping of cities and the survival of the public realm. Concentrating on the years after the country´s return to democracy in the 1980s, the research shows how urban design consolidated as public policy in major cities, particularly after the approval of the 1988 National Constitution which institutionalized an agenda for urban development. The research period is marked by an increase in community participation and in more democratic city management processes.

Researchers in several cities contributed with fifteen case-studies assessing the practice of urban design, its role in social and economic development, and in shaping public realm. As expected, modernism continues to influence professional practice, and the study demonstrates how easy modernist spaces generate spatial and social segregation. Our studies also reveal the pressures for privatization of public spaces and the increase in gated communities, inherent contradictions of a free-market global economy and the increase in urban crime rates.

Nevertheless, the research revealed a significant increase in public actions towards a better quality of urban life and in projects strengthening the public realm. Three major trends in Brazilian urban design were identified: a) late-modernism, b) revitalization, c) social inclusion. Besides the famous planning experiences in Curitiba, urban design advanced through projects such as Rio de Janeiro´s Cultural Corridor (revitalization of downtown´s historical fabric) and Favela-Bairro (slum upgrading), Salvador´s renovation in the Pelourinho, Porto Alegre´s Navegantes shopping district (conversion of a historic industrial district), and Belem´s riverfront renovation. The cultural permanence of modernism is revealed through practices in Brasilia and Săo Paulo, and in the design for Palmas new state capital city.

Brazilian urban design has made significant advances in generating public spaces that are livable, attractive, and responsive to participation and community needs. In the quest toward democracy, urban design as public policy is fundamental for a truly pluralistic and culture-specific usage of the public realm.
Contemporary urban design; Brazil; public realm
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