The Curitiba Experiment

Grafite em Curitiba - Fernando Rosa - 1-18-2013 -

Grafite em Curitiba (Photo: Fernando Rosa, January 18, 2013)

How would cities look if urban planners, not politicians, were in charge?

Recycle City: The Road to Curitiba (New York Times, May 20, 2007)

Planning from the Outside

The long history of the city of Curitiba, in southern Brazil, demonstrates that it is perhaps the most heavily planned city in the western hemisphere. The layout of the original town, like many such colonial developments in the Americas, had been heavily influenced by the Laws of the Indies — a set of precepts from the 16th Century that dictated much of the governance of Spanish and Portuguese land holdings; which included rules for town planning. And, though Brazil gained independence from Portugal in the 1820’s it’s various cities were still governed by many of the land use laws inherited from its former European ruler. Continue reading


Overlooking the potential effects of national policy.

Warren - Wikipedia, 04/09/2014

Warren – Wikipedia, 04/09/2014

When the history of Idaho is counted and retold, there are some elements that are hardly ever missed. The Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark, Native American tribal affiliations, immigrant settlements – all of these tend to be covered and recalled without much under-representation. Another of these historic staples is Idaho’s mining industry. What do perhaps get overlooked, perhaps if only in the context of building and sustaining communities, are the national policies that affect economic efforts in the states. Idaho is no stranger to this. Limitation Order L-208 in 1942 is an example of how a national policy, and perhaps international war and conflict, can disintegrate a burgeoning town or settlement overnight. We should look at the histories of places like Warren, Idaho if we intend to learn a thing or two about planning for unexpected change in economies and policies. Building resiliency into communities should include not under-estimating the impacts of national interests and policy decisions. Continue reading

Victor Gruen, ahead of his time


Victor Gruen, accessed 1/30/2014,

Victor Davd Gruen was a native Austrian, who immigrated to the United States in 1938 under increasing pressures from the Nazis. He is best know for being the man behind the creation, and ultimately the proliferation of the shopping mall. His history is an interesting story, including impersonating a Nazi official. There is a lot of information about how Vctor Gruen became a planner, moved to the United States, and impacted the development of cities. More interesting than that is his legacy; he is a man that was highly sought after for his designs and later vilified for the outcome of his projects. The shopping mall has come to represent some of the least attractive characteristics of modern society, especially in the United States. Consumerism, large corporations overtaking small business, and the proliferation of automobiles are all brought to one location, the mall. Continue reading

China’s green loops city: A loopy idea?

Its the Loops that make it a city

The City of Hengyang, the second largest city in the Hunan Province, straddles the Xiang River and boasts a thriving community of 7,141,162 citizens covering just over 5,899 square miles of land that still has a significant amount of underdeveloped or pristine land. Hengyang, like most cities in China is faced with the growing need to modernize and expand its economic base, but unlike most cities where this expansion has resulted in serious environmental and economic issues, Hengyang is determined to move forward in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner.

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Greening of our rooftops

When planners are discussing sustainability, the topic of green roofs may pop up… the possibilities and challenges. If your first thought of green roofs are lawns on top of buildings, keep in mind that they can range from sparse installations with a couple inches of dirt and ground cover, to roofs with many feet of soil and mature trees. While some green roofs use plants that do not require irrigation, the basic idea is to load dirt, plants, and water on top of a building. Done well, there are many benefits. Done poorly, they can be expensive mistakes. Continue reading

Gondolas to the rescue

Could gondolas be part of the solution to alleviating urban congestion? Urban gondolas are one of the fastest growing transportation methods in the world, according to Steven Dale of the Gondola Project. Much of the appeal comes from low-cost construction and the ability to use air space rather than scarce ground space. Many cities adopting this technology are in developing nations, likely due to the technology’s relatively low cost and quick installation. Continue reading

Global container architecture

The year 2011 was devastating for New Zealand. On both February 22 and June 13, magnitude 6.3 earthquakes struck Christchurch, the country’s second largest city. In addition to destruction of infrastructure, loss of life, and interruption of services, the central business district was ravaged. With an economy partly based on tourism, the local government and residents were justifiably concerned. Continue reading