Archive for the 'Urbanismo' Category

Barack Obama is creating the first Office of Urban Policy. What are the top priorities?

noviembre 13, 2008

obamaupc

White House to Establish Office of Urban Policy

By Al Kamen
The intense back-stabbing amongst Democrats for top jobs in the Obama administration assumes there are a fixed number of jobs worth having. But it’s looking likely that some extremely choice, even consequential, jobs are going to be created by the new administration.

For example, plans are underway to establish a White House Office of Urban Policy in order to better coordinate federal efforts to help America’s cities, according to Obama transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett.

“He’s going to have a White House chief of urban policy,” Jarrett told the Trotter Group, an organization of black columnists.

She declined to divulge any names of potential choices for the post. “I’m sure there are plenty of candidates. It’s a great job,” Jarrett said.

Despite the many national problems confronting the new administration, she continued, Obama remains committed to earlier pledges to establish such an office. “Because he began as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, he understands at the local level is really where you can impact change and that local government can play a vital role as we try to jump start our economy,” she said. “So having somebody in the White House, because there are so many different agencies that really can impact urban America and to have one person whose job it is to really pull all of that together, is really a critical position. And there are plenty of terrific candidates for that spot.”

The Washigton Post

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Ciudades Caribeñas: 1er. Congreso Internacional

septiembre 29, 2008

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A los Arquitectos y Arquitectas del Caribe

Este es un llamado a la solidaridad regional con una propuesta para conseguir:

LA INTEGRACION CARIBEÑA al través del análisis de LAS CIUDADES CARIBEÑAS y el estudio de su ARQUITECTURA CARIBEÑA, sus MONUMENTOS CARIBEÑOS, en fin, de toda la vasta y amplia CULTURA CARIBEÑA que recoge magníficos exponentes de GASTRONOMIA, MUSICA, VESTIMENTAS y, en definitiva, estupendos ejemplos de VIDA en comunión armónica con la naturaleza.

PRIMER CONGRESO CIUDADES DEL CARIBE

“Creo que es muy interesante establecer las bases para un acercamiento de los grupos francés, italiano, español […], ¿No cree usted?”.

Carta de Sert a Le Corbusier, 27 de julio de 1933 (Fondation Le Corbusier).

“El hecho de que el Congreso se celebre en un barco favorecerá relaciones más estrechas entre los miembros […]. Creemos que las conversaciones libres son tan fructuosas como las interminables sesiones”.

GIEDION, SIGFRIED, circular a los delegados, 16 de junio de 1933. Publicada en Parámetro, 52, pág. 18.

“Un crucero se transformó en salas para reuniones, para comisiones, para el trabajo organizativo –recuerda Le Corbusier–. Un único ruido: el chapoteo del agua contra el barco; una única atmósfera: de juventud, de fe, de modestia y conciencia profesional” .

LE CORBUSIER, “La Maison des hommes”, en Le groupe CIAM-France, Urbanisme des CIAM. La Charte d’Athènes avec un discours liminaire de Jean Giraudoux, Plon, París 1943, pág. 48; (versión castellana: Principios de urbanismo: la Carta de Atenas, Ariel, Barcelona, 1989).

“… el viaje puede considerarse como una metáfora que asume en este caso amplios

significados. En la tradición de la disciplina, el viaje no es ajeno a la ciudad del futuro. Relatar un viaje es la forma narrativa que frecuentemente utilizan los utópicos para hablar de las ciudades de sus deseos. Es justamente en el transcurso de un viaje cuando se encuentran ciudades futuras en las que un nuevo orden funcional, y también social, regula el espacio. El viaje se convierte en la representació n de un alejamiento en el tiempo y en el espacio de una situación presente, que se somete a crítica, y de la conquista de una meta auspiciada; el viaje se convierte en instrumento de exploración del mañana.”

Paola Di Biagi, Facoltà di Architettura, Università di Trieste. Los CIAM de camino a Atenas: espacio habitable y ciudad funcional.

EL GRUPO NUEVARQUITECTURA, COLECTIVO VANGUARDISTA DE REPUBLICA DOMINICANA, LE HA PROPUESTO AL ICOMOS DOMINICANO REALIZAR EN CONJUNTO UNA HOMENAJE A LAS CARTAS DE ATENAS, A LA DE 1931 (CARTA DEL RESTAURO, EN SU 77 ANIVERSARIO) Y A LA DE 1933 (CIUDAD FUNCIONAL, EN SU 75 ANIVERSARIO) .

PARA ELLO ESTA INVITANDO A LOS PRINCIPALES ARQUITECTOS RESTAURADORES Y URBANISTAS DOMINICANOS Y DEL CARIBE, PARA QUE, JUNTOS, SE ANALICEN LOS MONUMENTOS CARIBEÑOS Y LAS CIUDADES CARIBEÑAS, Y PARA QUE A LA LUZ DE LA ACTUALIDAD QUE VIVE EL MUNDO, SE DICTEN NORMAS IDEALES DE CONDUCENCIA PARA LA PRESERVACION DEL PATRIMONIO HEREDADO CARIBEÑO Y PARA QUE SE PROPUGNE POR UNA CIUDAD RECUPERABLE, PARA EL PRESENTE Y EL FUTURO, Y SE FOMENTEN NUEVOS CANONES DE DISEÑO QUE MEJOREN LAS CIRCUNSTANCIAS DEL URBANISMO ACTUAL, SOMETIDO A PRESIONES DE TODA INDOLE, Y DONDE LA SEGURIDAD CIUDADANA (contra el vandalismo, la delincuencia y la corrupción), LA ECOLOGIA URBANA (contra la contaminación en todos sus gradientes), LOS SISTEMAS DE TRANSPORTES (colectivos e individuales, terrestres, marítimos y aéreos), LA DEMOGRAFIA URBANA (crecimiento poblacional, congestionamiento habitacional, marginalidad y hacinamiento, tugurización y arrabales degradados).

Fechas                  Días                      Puertos

23 Febrero           Lunes                    La Romana

24                       Martes                     Isla Catalina

25                       Miércoles                Tórtola

26                      Jueves                      Antigua

27                      Viernes                     Santa Lucia

28                      Sábado                     Guadalupe

01 Marzo         Domingo                    Saint Marteen

02                      Lunes                       La Romana

Precios:

Para la Categoría 1        628.00 US$ (cabinas interiores)    2 cabinas asignadas (RD$ 21,666.00)

Para la Categoría 2        658.00 US$ (cabinas interiores)    3 cabinas asignadas (RD$ 22,701.00)

Para la Categoría 3        690.00 US$ (cabinas interiores)  10 cabinas asignadas (RD$ 23,805.00)

Para la Categoría 5        855.00 US$ (cabinas exteriores)   3 cabinas asignadas (RD$ 29,325.00)

Para la Categoría 7      1,030.00 US$ (cabina ext.- balcón)  2 cabinas asignadas (RD$ 35,535.00)

3er. y 4to. Pasajero       418.00 US$ ADULTO                                                 (RD$ 14,421.00)

3er. y 4to. Pasajero       295.00 US$ MENOR (de 17 años)                               (RD$ 10,177.50)

LA AGENCIA MUNDI TOURS TIENE UN ESPECIAL QUE VENCE A FIN DE MES (SOLO EN SEPTIEMBRE) PARA AHORRAR 100 US$. Y OFRECE DOS TIPOS DE CABINAS DE 660.00 Y 945.00 DEPENDIENDO SI INTERIORES, EXTERIORES y/o EXTERIORES CON BALCON. A estos precios hay que sumarles los suplementos que se detallan a continuación

IMPUESTOS DE PUERTOS p/p y x/cabina, según sea la ocupación de la misma.

1er. y 2do. Pasajero      276.00 US$ + 63.00 p/p (US $ 9.00 x día)           (RD$ 9,522.00)

3er. Y 4to. Pasajero      241.00 US$ + 28.00 p/p (US $ 4.00 x día)           (RD$ 8,314.50)

Cálculos aproximados tomando como media el valor de 34.5 RD$ (pesos) x cada 1.00 US$ (dólar)
MAS DETALLES: info@munditours. net y/o aah@codetel. net.do
PARA DETALLES DEL CONGRESO INTERNACIONAL CIUDADES CARIBEÑAS
emiliobrea@hotmail. com y/o emiliobrea@gmail. com

Vias y andenes en la administración de Enrique Peñalosa

febrero 8, 2008

+ vídeos: Peñalosa Alcalde

Jaime Lerner habla (y canta) sobre la ciudad

febrero 8, 2008

 Fuente: TED 

Entrevista con Jane Jacobs

diciembre 21, 2007

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Jane Jacobs Interviewed by Jim KunstlerFor Metropolis Magazine, March 2001

“The high density and human scale are not incompatible at all.”

Ver +

‘The Redevelopment of a City is an Art’

septiembre 2, 2007

Charles Landry, 58, is considered one of the world’s leading urban researchers and is the author of “The Creative City.” He talks to SPIEGEL about how cities can harness their inhabitants’ skills so they show up on the international radar and the German tendency to make cities too neat and tidy.

SPIEGEL: What does a city need to have for you to feel good in it?
Landry: Contradictions, most of all, a balance between chaos and order. It needs neighborhoods vibrating with energy just as much as cozy little corners and parks; well-tended, middle-class sections as well as an alternative scene; technology centers for innovative youth and social facilities for older people. In other words, it needs creativity to retain the high performers who have lived there for years as well as to attract new, interesting residents.

SPIEGEL: Can this creativity be regulated?

Landry: Not really, but it can be encouraged. The redevelopment or revitalization of a city is an art. It depends on the individual strengths of a place and the will of the leadership to bring about change. The goal is to establish a cultural infrastructure. Creativity is also needed in the administration. There is no magic formula, no 10-point plan where you can check off items and suddenly be successful.

SPIEGEL: What in particular do city officials have to take into account, and what should they focus on?

Landry: First, they must be conscious of the international competitive situation dictated by globalization. As industries migrate toward the Far East, the future of many Western cities will no longer lie in manufacturing products but ideas and patents. Young, mobile elites can choose where they want to live, and they can easily move, which means that cities are involved in a heated competition for the best people. Only the most attractive cities can benefit from this development.

SPIEGEL: But some cities just happen to be more attractive than others, perhaps because they’re on the coast or in the mountains, or their history creates a certain atmosphere.

Landry: That’s true, of course. Some remain great cities, but they shouldn’t stand still. They should move in the direction of a knowledge-oriented society. Most cities have to do something to draw attention to themselves and make their particular assets visible on the international radar. I’m not talking about developing countries, but about the United States and Europe.

SPIEGEL: Surely it’s a tall order to attract creative people when your city has a high crime rate, collapsed infrastructure and slums?

Landry: Like Detroit, an urban hell. But even in this city of the dying auto industry, there is reason to hope, if they manage to combine the creative forces of designers and other intellectual “suppliers” in other ways. All cities have one key resource: the special abilities of the people who live in them. You just have to find out what they are. In the Australian city of Adelaide, for example, which is overshadowed by Sydney and Melbourne, I discovered a number of experts in the penal system. I advised them to work with these special skills.

SPIEGEL: Which European city is the best at utilizing its particular human resources?

Landry: I like what Barcelona is doing. This city almost perfectly combines its natural advantages with cultural attractions, IT parks and first-rate educational opportunities. The same applies for Dublin, which manages to achieve a blend of complexity, tolerance and artistry and makes a point of not devoting every part of the city to the tourism industry. Sometimes creativity also means forgoing short-term profits and simply saying no.

SPIEGEL: Is multiculturalism an advantage or a drawback?

Landry: It can be both. In a city like London, the fact that cultures live together and cross-fertilize is a beautiful and natural thing. The many cultures in Amsterdam contribute to the city’s high level of craziness — something which every interesting city should offer. But sometimes immigrants can live in parallel worlds which can exclude others and not be very attractive. As far as population size goes, big is no longer important, and it can even be a drawback. In fact, the future belongs more to second-tier cities. Any place can become a world-class center today by finding an area in which it outperforms others, by thinking for the long term, by expanding its competitive abilities and by operating globally.

SPIEGEL: What do you think of German cities?

Landry: Hamburg is getting a new symbol with its new Elbe Philharmonic concert hall. Such an architecturally impressive building is built somewhere in the world maybe once every five years, if you’re lucky. Hamburg will have a new and important attraction with which it can distinguish itself from other cities. But the important thing is that activities should not just be limited to the building, but that the concert hall should symbolize a general mood of creative rejuvenation. Another thing I like about German cities — and it’s an advantage which they haven’t sufficiently exploited yet — is that they are pioneers when it comes to environmental technologies. And green solutions are becoming more and more important.

SPIEGEL: Are there things about Germany which you don’t like?
Landry: The Germans are often too bureaucratic, too fixated on rules and not risk-oriented enough. And some of their officials have the feeling that they need to make everything in the cityscape look nice and pretty as quickly as possible. That was particularly apparent in the former East Germany after reunification. Then cities sometimes get a bit too neat and tidy.

SPIEGEL: Where do you live when you’re not on the road?

Landry: I travel a lot and my job means that I’m almost always in big cities. I sometimes stay in one city for a few months for my consulting work, as I did recently in the Australian city of Perth.

SPIEGEL: But don’t you need a place that you can call home?

Landry: Yes, of course. I live not too far from London, in the countryside in Gloucestershire — in a village with just 20 houses.

Interview conducted by Erich Follath.

Architect Oscar Niemeyer wanted for project in Angola

agosto 1, 2007

Sao Paulo, Brazil, 31 July – The Angolan government has approached Oscar Niemeyer to design a new capital in the African state, the Brazilian architect has said.

Niemeyer, 99, who designed the new Brazilian capital, Brasilia, in the 1950s, told macauhub: “In reality, it was an invitation from the Angolan authorities, but there is still nothing definite.”

Besides a number of buildings in Brasilia, Niemeyer’s landmark projects include the headquarters of L’Humanité, the newspaper of the French Communist Party, besides numerous other constructions in Brazil and other countries.

His projects include the creation of the Israeli desert city of Neguev, which never left the drawing board.

Brazilian media reported last week that Niemeyer had been approached to design new Luanda, a city for 2 million people to be built on unoccupied land near the Angolan capital. The planned city will be four times larger than Brasilia, inaugurated in 1960.

Niemeyer says he has no wish to travel aboard to undertake projects, but would wait to study material in his Rio de Janeiro office, including maps, photographs and technical studies being sent to him from Angola.

“Only then would I be able to think about a sketch and the project.”

Fuente: macauhub

Medellín’s Nonconformist Mayor Turns Blight to Beauty

julio 16, 2007

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By SIMON ROMERO
MEDELLÍN, Colombia, July 11 — Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, sporting three days’ growth of beard and unruly hair nearly down to his shoulders, Sergio Fajardo looks every bit the nonconformist mathematician who spent years attaining a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.

But that was a past life for Mr. Fajardo, this city’s mayor and the son of one of its most famous architects. Now he presses forward with an unconventional political philosophy that has turned swaths of Medellín into dust-choked construction sites.

“Our most beautiful buildings,” said Mr. Fajardo, 51, “must be in our poorest areas.”

With that simple idea, Mr. Fajardo hired renowned architects to design an assemblage of luxurious libraries and other public buildings in this city’s most desperate slums. Their eccentric shapes — one resembles an immense blackened loaf of bread sliced in half — occupy areas where foot soldiers in Colombia’s cocaine wars once died by the thousands each year. But several years ago, residents here say, a tenuous peace was imposed by paramilitary drug traffickers who outfought their rivals.

Now, Medellín is no longer stymied by being described as the world’s deadliest city.

This city of about two million people had 29 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2006, down from 381 per 100,000 when killings peaked in 1991.

Elected in 2003 as an independent, and riding a growing economy and this decline in violent crime, Mr. Fajardo has turned the city into a showcase for new educational and architectural projects.

He increased city spending on education, bringing it to 40 percent of Medellín’s annual budget of $900 million, while also raising spending on public transportation and microlending projects for small businesses. Five new libraries are at the center of his social policies, but Mr. Fajardo is also building a sprawling public science center and dozens of schools, and expanding public transportation by building cable cars up into the slums on the city’s hills. He contends the poor will develop the skills they need to compete through these investments in education and new public spaces, reflecting a faith in architecture to help achieve this goal.

“Fajardo is making a long-term wager by carving out a foothold for the state in areas that were neglected for years,” said Aldo Civico, who as director for the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University has done extensive fieldwork on Medellín’s violence. “You need to start a process of transformation somewhere.”

Many parts of Medellín remain far from idyllic. Police officers toting assault rifles and wearing combat fatigues still patrol many parts of the city. Downtown, just steps away from the elegant plaza filled with voluptuous sculptures by another native son, Fernando Botero, street children sniff glue out of plastic bags and snort cocaine. Some in Medellín whisper that Diego Fernando Murillo, the paramilitary warlord known as Don Berna, still controls much of the city from his cell in nearby Itagüí prison. Others say drug traffickers launder revenues into the construction boom in high-rise apartments and malls that is accompanying the mayor’s architectural reconfiguration.

And yet Mr. Fajardo’s transformation of Medellín has captivated the city and, increasingly, other parts of Colombia. His approval ratings stand at more than 80 percent, making him the country’s most popular mayor and leading him to be widely mentioned as a potential presidential candidate after his term ends this year.

“He is carrying out a redistribution of wealth without a discourse of rage,” said Héctor Abad Faciolince, a prominent novelist and political commentator here. “If Medellín cannot take these risks, then what place can?”

President Álvaro Uribe hails from Antioquia Province, which encompasses Medellín. He and Mr. Fajardo were schooled here by Benedictine priests. But Mr. Fajardo offers a departure from the staunchly conservative policies of Mr. Uribe, the Bush administration’s closest ally in South America.

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Mr. Fajardo, for instance, favors a debate over legalizing drugs, a somewhat maverick position in a nation that is the world’s largest cocaine exporter. And some personal decisions, like choosing to live with his companion, Lucrecia Ramírez (near the home of the archbishop here), have drawn criticism from Roman Catholic leaders.

Ms. Ramírez is a psychiatrist who prefers the title of “first woman” to “first lady” and leads efforts to bar underweight models from Medellín’s fashion shows. She also challenged beauty pageants through alternative contests that reward knowledge of science, literature and business.

Not everyone in Medellín, which despite its history in the drug trade is considered one of Colombia’s most culturally conservative cities, supports the projects carried out by either Ms. Ramírez or Mr. Fajardo. Old villas and trees are falling; critics say the new commercialized look resembles Miami or Caracas.

Some take jabs at his taste for expensive public works that resemble pyramids or massive abstract cubes.

“Fajardo is our pharaoh,” said Jaime Alonso Carvajal, a member of the Environmental Collective, a group that led raucous protests over the mayor’s decision to build pastel-colored pyramids along the median of a major avenue at a cost of nearly $500,000. “He is cementing over Medellín to turn us into a dust bowl.”

Mr. Fajardo says he welcomes such protests, viewing them as part of the creation of a city in which residents can intermingle anywhere regardless of their social or economic circumstances. “It is an advance for our society that people feel safe enough to say whatever they want about me in any part of this city,” he said during an interview while strolling through central Medellín. And as for the shapes, he said: “I’m still a mathematician. I love geometric forms.”

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The pièce de résistance of Mr. Fajardo’s strategy sits on a hill in Santo Domingo Savio, a sprawling slum that is home to 170,000 people. Visitors take the metro from downtown then connect to a new cable car system that swiftly transports them up into Santo Domingo. From there, they walk through hard-edged streets until reaching the Parque Biblioteca España, designed by Giancarlo Mazzanti. There, rising from cinderblock hovels, is a hulking rectangular structure that looks not unlike some medieval citadel and includes a library, auditorium, Internet rooms, day care center and an art gallery.

It strikes those who live in its shadow variously. Yasmin Henao, 30, a maid who lives with her husband and three children in a wooden shack with a view of the library, said she was hesitant to go inside. “I saw guards at the doors,” said Ms. Henao in an interview in her home. “I don’t know if it’s a place for me.”

A short stroll away, Jaime Quizeno, a mechanic, offered another assessment as dusk began to envelope the hillside. “It looks like an enormous cloud when it is illuminated at night,” said Mr. Quizeno, 63, smiling.

“Such a beautiful thing, right here with us,” he continued. “Who could have imagined that?”

Bogota’s urban happiness movement

julio 10, 2007

From living hell to living well: A radical campaign to return streets from cars to people in Colombia’s largest city is now a model for the world

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CHARLES MONTGOMERY

On a clear, cloudless afternoon, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, leaves his office early in order to pick up his 10-year-old son from school. As usual, he wears his black leather shoes and pinstriped trousers. As usual, he is joined by his two pistol-packing bodyguards. And, as usual, he travels not in the armoured SUV typical of most public figures in Colombia, but on a knobby-tired mountain bike.

Mr. Peñalosa pedals through the streets of Santa Barbara in Bogota’s well-to-do north side. He jumps curbs and potholes, riding one-handed, weaving across the pavement, barking into his cellphone with barely a thought for the city’s notoriously aggressive drivers.

On most days, this would be a radical and perhaps suicidal act. But today is special.

Ever since citizens voted to make it an annual affair in 2000, private cars have been banned entirely from this city of nearly eight million every Feb. 1. On Dia Sin Carro, Car Free Day, the roar of traffic subsides and the toxic haze thins. Buses are jam-packed and taxis hard to come by, but hundreds of thousands of people have followed Mr. Peñalosa’s example and hit the streets under their own steam.

“This is a learning experiment! We are realizing that we can live without cars!” Mr. Peñalosa bellows as he cruises across the southbound lanes of Avenida 19, pausing on the wide, park-like median. A flock of young women rolls up the median’s bike path, shouting, “Mayor! Mayor!” though it has been six years since Mr. Peñalosa left office (consecutive terms are constitutionally banned in Bogota) and he has only just begun his campaign to regain the mayor’s seat.

Car Free Day is just one of the ways that Mr. Peñalosa helped to transform a city once infamous for narco-terrorism, pollution and chaos into a globally lauded model of livability and urban renewal. His ideas are being adopted in cities across the developing world. They are also being championed by planners and politicians in North America, where Mr. Peñalosa has reinvigorated the debate about public space once championed by Jane Jacobs.

His policies may resemble environmentalism, but they are no such thing. Rather, they were driven by his conversion to hedonics, an economic philosophy whose proponents focus on fostering not economic growth but human happiness.

Proponents of hedonics, or happiness economics, have been gaining influence. London School of Economics professor Richard Layard, who wrote the seminal Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, was an adviser to Tony Blair’s first Labour government. Prof. Layard asserts that, contrary to the guiding principle of a century of economists, income is a poor measure of happiness. Economic growth in England and the U.S. in the past half-century hasn’t measurably increased life satisfaction.

So what makes societies happy? The past decade has seen an explosion in research aiming to answer that question, and there’s good news for people in places like Bogota: Feelings of well-being are determined as much by status and social connectedness as by income. Richer people are happier than poor people, but societies with wider income gaps are less happy on the whole. People who interact more with friends, family and neighbours are happier than those who don’t.

And what makes people most unhappy? Not work, but commuting to work.

These are the concepts that guided Mr. Peñalosa’s car-bashing campaign.

“There are a few things we can agree on about happiness,” he says. “You need to fulfill your potential as a human being. You need to walk. You need to be with other people. Most of all, you need to not feel inferior. When you talk about these things, designing a city can be a very powerful means to generate happiness.”

In the mid-1990s, Bogota was, citizens recall, un enfierno – a living hell. There were 3,363 murders in 1995 and nearly 1,400 traffic deaths. The city suffered from the cumulative effects of decades of civil war, but also from explosive population growth and a dearth of planning. Wealthy residents fenced off their local public parks. Drivers appropriated sidewalk space to park cars. The air rivalled Mexico City’s for pollution. Workers from the squalid shanties on the city’s south end spent as much as four hours every day commuting to and from Bogota’s wealthy north.

In 1997, a study by the Japanese International Co-operation Agency prescribed a vast network of elevated freeways to ease Bogota’s congestion. Like cities across the Third World, Bogota was looking to North American suburbs as a development model, even though only 20 per cent of people owned cars.

The tide changed with Mr. Peñalosa’s election in 1998.

“A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can’t be both,” the new mayor announced. He shelved the highway plans and poured the billions saved into parks, schools, libraries, bike routes and the world’s longest “pedestrian freeway.”

He increased gas taxes and prohibited car owners from driving during rush hour more than three times per week. He also handed over prime space on the city’s main arteries to the Transmilenio, a bus rapid-transit system based on that of Curitiba, Brazil.

Bogotans almost impeached their new mayor. Business owners were outraged. Yet by the end of his three-year term, Mr. Peñalosa was immensely popular and his reforms were being lauded for making Bogota remarkably fairer, more tolerable and more efficient.

Moreover, by shifting the budget away from private cars, Mr. Peñalosa was able to boost school enrolment by 30 per cent, build 1,200 parks, revitalize the core of the city and provide running water to hundreds of thousands of poor.

The shift was all the more radical in that it was not motivated by the populist socialism that has swept much of Latin America. Mr. Peñalosa, the son of a Colombian politician and businessman, studied economics at North Carolina’s Duke University. His first book shouted Capitalism: The Best Option. Yet even as he worked as a business management consultant, and later an economic adviser to the Colombian government, he began having doubts.

“I realized that we in the Third World are not going to catch up to the developed countries for two or three hundred years,” he recalls. “If we defined our success just in terms of income per capita, we would have to accept ourselves as second- or third-rate societies – as a bunch of losers – which is not exactly enticing for our young people. So we are forced to find another measure of success. I think the only real obvious measure of success is happiness.”

HAPPIER TOGETHER

Mr. Peñalosa offers an eager “ Como le va?” – how’s it going – to a pair of dust-caked labourers cruising past on the bike path. He is clearly campaigning: Every commute is a chance to remind Bogotans that their bike routes were his idea, and their parks his doing. But he is also a preacher spreading the word.

“See those guys? Before, cyclists were seen as just a nuisance. They were the poorest of the poor,” he says. “Now, they have respect. So bikeways are important … [because] they show that a citizen on a $30 bike is equally important to someone driving in a $30,000 car.”

This principle of equity led him to hand road space over to public transit and pedestrian areas – a way of making private space public again.

University of British Columbia professor emeritus John Helliwell, who studies economics and human well-being, sees added value in such measures. “When you get data on people’s life satisfaction, and you try and explain the differences, the variables that jump right out at you relate to the trustworthiness of the environment that people are living in. How much can they trust strangers? How well can they trust people in the neighbourhood? How trustworthy are the police? The more positive answers people give on these questions, the happier they are,” Prof. Helliwell says.

“So what do you need to do to establish these higher levels of trust? It turns out that frequency of positive interaction is the key.”

Public spaces that bring people together in congenial activity produce happier citizens than those – like traffic jams – that spur animosity and aggression, Prof. Helliwell says.

By linking the economics of happiness to urban design, Mr. Peñalosa really does seem to have made Bogotans happier. The murder rate fell by an astounding 40 per cent during his term and has continued to fall ever since. So have the number of traffic deaths. Traffic moves three times faster now during rush hour. And the changes seem to have transformed how people feel.

“The perception of the city has changed,” says Ricardo Montezuma, an urbanist at the National University of Colombia. “Twelve years ago, 80 per cent of us were completely pessimistic about our future. Now, it’s the opposite. Most of us are optimistic,” he says, referring to Gallup polls.

“Why is this important? Because in a big way a city is really just the sum of what people think about it. The city is a subjective thing.”

Bogotans don’t give Mr. Peñalosa all the credit. Every Sunday since the 1970s, Bogota has blocked off its major roads so that citizens can jog, walk or bike in safety. These ciclovia days transform the avenidas into vast, linear parks, where more than two million Bogotans come to play, picnic, do aerobics and eat sweet arepa bread from mobile vendors. A generation has grown up knowing streets can change.

But people have changed too. Mr. Peñalosa’s unorthodox predecessor, Antanus Mockus, is credited with building a new culture of citizenship. The former philosophy professor hired mimes to make fun of bad drivers. He sent actors dressed as monks into the streets to encourage people to think about noise pollution. He gave out thousands of coloured cards – the kind referees use in soccer games – so people could express their disproval of others’ driving.

Mr. Mockus convinced Bogotans it was their duty to take care of each other. Inspired by his anti-corruption campaign and message of citizenship, 63,000 families volunteered to pay 10 per cent more than their assessed property tax. By the end of his term, tax revenues had tripled.

He had prepared Bogotans for Mr. Peñalosa’s infrastructure changes, which required people to make sacrifices for the general good.

The best place to see these ideas translated into urban design is Bogota’s hardscrabble south side, where about 80,000 migrants – mostly refugees from Colombia’s civil war – arrive seeking shelter every year. Few of the streets are paved here, but a pedestrian-only avenue intersects the red brick slums of Ciudad de Cali.

This is where 19-year-old Fabien Gonzales joins the commuting throng just after sunrise en route to his job as a cashier at the Home Center on Bogota’s north end. Mr. Gonzales takes home about $238 a month and, like most of his neighbours, uses feet, bike and bus to get to work.

He cruises down one of Mr. Peñalosa’s ciclorutas on a silver mountain bike, to the Portal de las Americas, a transportation hub linking bike paths and pedestrian roads with the Transmilenio rapid-bus network. The station is surrounded by broad plazas and lawns, where people linger over hot chocolate as the sun creeps up over the Andes.

He locks his bike and pushes onto a northbound express. “Before the Transmilenio,” he says, “I had to leave home two hours before starting work. Now, it takes me 45 minutes.”

The Transmilenio is a distillation of Mr. Peñalosa’s philosophy on well-being. It also happens to turn everything most North Americans think about transit on its head. It functions much like an urban metro, combining stylish stations, fast boarding and express routes. It moves more people than many urban rail-transit systems for a small fraction of the construction cost.

“Many cities talk about building transit. We didn’t want a transit project, but a mobility project. We wanted to move people,” says Angelica Castro Rodriguez, general manager of the public-private alliance that runs the service.

The Transmilenio also reduces Bogota’s carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 250,000 tons a year. It’s the first transport system to be accredited under Kyoto’s Clean Development Plan.

But for Mr. Peñalosa, the key is that it seizes road space from other vehicles. “We are constructing democracy with our bus system. Remember, 80 per cent of Bogotans don’t own cars. For them, every day is car-free day. This busway, unlike a subway, shows that public transport has priority over private interests.”

Every week, Bogota hosts delegations from cities around the world looking for solutions to their growing pains.

“Before Peñalosa, mayors were terrified to take on the issue of auto-dominated public space, for fear that motorists would rebel politically,” says Walter Hook of New York’s Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

“But he not only challenged auto dependency, he succeeded politically. He’s given other politicians the courage to follow. And other mayors have realized that they can’t build their way out of congestion.”

The ITDP now funds Mr. Peñalosa’s efforts to bring his post-car message around the world. Jakarta, Beijing and Mexico City have handed over road space to bus rapid-transit systems and more are being built in Delhi, Seoul and Johannesburg.

PEDESTRIAN BROADWAY?

Mr. Peñalosa’s solutions may work in the developing world, but is North America ready for his happy revolution?

Consider the advice he gave to planners in Los Angeles last year: Let traffic and congestion become so unbearable that drivers voluntarily abandon their car habits. And when Manhattan held a conference in October asking for a prescription for the gridlocked streets of New York, Mr. Peñalosa cheerily suggested banning cars entirely from Broadway.

“He got a standing ovation,” observed an astounded Deputy Borough President Rose Pierre-Louis. New York is now considering charging drivers to enter Manhattan.

Mr. Peñalosa was also given a hero’s welcome by hundreds of cheering urbanists, planners and politicians at last summer’s World Urban Forum in Vancouver. Stuart Ramsey, a B.C. transportation engineer, suggested it was because the Colombian had gone ahead and done what they had all been talking about for years.

“Bogota has demonstrated that it is possible to make dramatic change to how we move around in our cities in a very short time frame,” Mr. Ramsey said afterward. “It’s simply a matter of choosing to do so.

“We could improve our air quality and dramatically reduce our emissions any time we want. It’s easy to do. All it would take is a can of paint and you’d have dedicated bus lanes. It doesn’t require huge amounts of money. It simply requires a choice.”

The fact that the people who plan and build the world’s urban areas should applaud an attack on private cars suggests that cities may be on the verge of a massive change. Yet Mr. Peñalosa points out that North American cities may face a much bigger challenge than poor cities like Bogota. For one thing, we have already spent billions wrapping ourselves in freeways.

“Transportation is a problem that gets worse the richer societies become,” he says. “The 20th century was a disaster for cities. And the most dynamic economies produced the worst cities of all. I’m talking about the U.S. of course – Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami, cities totally dominated by private cars.”

In Canada, commuters are discovering that the highways that brought us suburbia are no longer getting us to work so quickly. From 1992 to 2005, the average commute time in Canadian cities rose to 63 minutes from 54.

This is bad news for happiness. Recent studies on life satisfaction show that commuting makes people more unhappy than anything else in life. (It is, apparently, the opposite of sex.) Commuting also happens to rob us of time for family and friends.

In a 2004 study of German commuters, psychologists found that the longer people spent getting to work, the lower their general life satisfaction tended to be. The malaise brought on by commuting was not being balanced by work satisfaction or higher income.

If commuting makes us so unhappy, why do North Americans keep buying houses in distant suburbs? Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert suggests that it is because humans are just not very good at predicting what will make us happy.

“When we make predictions about happiness, we typically fail to consider adaptation – the process by which the brain gets used to things,” explains Prof. Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness. “It is much easier to adapt to things that stay constant than to things that change.

“So we adapt quickly to the joy of a larger house in the suburbs because the house is exactly the same size every time we come in the front door. But we find it difficult to adapt to commuting by car because every day is a slightly new form of misery, with different people honking at us, different intersections jammed with accidents, different problems with weather, and so on.”

So the misery of the long commute will almost always trump the happiness of that spacious den, Prof. Gilbert says.

The only major Canadian city where commute times didn’t shoot up in the past decade was freeway-free Vancouver, where the city stopped adding road capacity in 1997 and has been aggressively “traffic-calming” ever since.

Thanks to the city’s decision to develop dense new neighbourhoods near the downtown core, almost two-thirds of journeys made around downtown are done on foot, by bike or on transit. Aside from cutting carbon emissions, this kind of commuting also boosts feelings of connectedness and public trust, according to UBC’s Prof. Helliwell.

In terms of happiness, then, Canada’s big-city mayors are on track when they press the federal government for a national transit strategy. But Bogota suggests the secret may lie not in the megaprojects favoured by ribbon-cutting politicians, but in cheaper options that move more people.

The Toronto Transit Commission wasn’t crazy about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement of an 8.7-kilometre extension of the Spadina subway line, for example, because the same $2-billion could have bought 47 km of light-rail line instead.

Still, Bogotans are not necessarily better than Canadians at predicting what will make them happy. In 1996, when traffic congestion was considered the city’s biggest problem, they voted against auto restrictions. It took courage – and, some say, arrogance – for Mr. Peñalosa to ignore the polls.

By 2001, the measures and the mayor were wildly popular. Citizens voted to ban cars entirely during rush hour by 2015. And if, as polls suggest, they re-elect Mr. Peñalosa this October, the war on cars will escalate.

“We’re lucky in the developing world,” Mr. Peñalosa says as we roll up to his son’s school. “We haven’t had the money to build all those freeways. We are growing quickly, but we still have a chance to build our cities properly, to avoid the mistakes made in North America.”

Children pour out of the school’s iron gates, Mr. Peñalosa’s own son, Martin, among them. The boy carries a helmet and wheels a miniature version of his father’s bike. The two wobble their way along Avenida 19’s cicloruta, veering into the grass on either side of the path.

The median feels like a park, filled with children, suited businessmen, fast-food cashiers, the wealthy and the poor, strolling or rolling home together. On the whole, they do seem quite happy.

The scene reflects the city, a place that is more than the sum of its concrete, more than a set of efficiencies to maximize and so much more than a machine for creating wealth. It is, Mr. Peñalosa says, a means to a way of life.

Fuente: The Globe and Mail

Dilemmas in the Evolution of the City

junio 22, 2007

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In his contribution to the Global Cities  (Tate Modern) exhibition, Rem Koolhaas outlines what we stand to lose through the regeneration of our cities.

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Fuente: bd