From building opera houses with wire to mapping the connection between the automobile and your mother-in-law, Jaime Lerner delights in discovering eccentric solutions to vexing urban problems. In the process he has transformed the face of cities worldwide.
For many city governments seeking visible improvements in their congested streets, the pace of change is measured in months and years. For Jaime Lerner, it's measured in hours. As mayor of Curitiba, he transformed a gridlocked commercial artery into a spacious pedestrian mall over a long weekend, before skeptical merchants had time to finish reading their Monday papers.
Since then he's become a hero not only to his fellow Brazilians, but also to the growing ranks of municipal planners seeking greener, more sustainable cities. His dictum that "creativity starts when you cut a zero from your budget" has inspired a number of his unique solutions to urban problems, including sheltered boarding tubes to improve speed of bus transit; a garbage-for-food program allowing Curitibans to exchange bags of trash for bags of groceries; and trimming parkland grasses with herds of sheep.
In addition to serving three terms as mayor of Curitiba, Lerner has twice been elected governor of Parana State in Brazil. His revolutionary career in urban planning and architecture has not only improved cities worldwide, but has also brought him international renown. Among his many awards are the United Nations Environmental Award (1990), the Child and Peace Award from UNICEF (1996), and the 2001 World Technology Award for Transportation.
“Creativity starts when you cut a zero from your budget. If you cut two zeros, it’s much better.”
“A car is like your mother-in-law: you have to have good relationship with her, but she cannot command your life.”
“A city’s like our family portrait. We don’t rip our family portrait, even if we don’t like the nose of our uncle, because this portrait is you.”
“Every city in the world can be improved in less than three years.”