Professor Jaime Lerner


You have to keep things simple, and just start working.
You have a lot of complexity-sellers in this life. We should beat them, beat them with a slipper.

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Jaime Lerner was born on 17 December 1937, is an exemplary Brazilian politician. He was the Governor of the state of Paraná, in southern Brazil. He is globally renowned as an architect and urban planner, having been Mayor of Curitiba, capital of Paraná for three tenures consecutively. In 1994, Lerner was elected Governor of Paraná, and was reelected in 1998. Lerner was born to a Jewish family originally from Poland which emigrated to Curitiba. He graduated from the Escola de Arquitetura da Universidade Federal do Paraná; (Architecture School of the Federal University of Paraná) in 1964. In 1965, he helped create the Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba (Institute of Urban Planning and Research of Curitiba) and participated in the design of the Curitiba Master Plan. Lerner led the urban revolution that made the Curitiba city renowned for urban planning, public transportation, environmental social programs, and urban projects. In 1988, Jaime Lerner announced his candidacy for Mayor of Curitiba with only 12 days remaining before the election. During his first term, Lerner implemented the Rede Integrada de Transporte (also called Bus Rapid Transit), and continued to implement a host of social, ecological, and urban reforms during his ensuing terms as Mayor. As Mayor, Lerner employed unorthodox solutions to Curitiba’s geographic challenges. Like many cities, Curitiba is bordered by floodplain. Wealthier cities in the United States, such as New Orleans and Sacramento, have built expensive and expensive-to-maintain levee systems on floodplain. In contrast, Curitiba purchased the floodplain and made parks. The city now ranks among the world leaders in per-capita park area. Curitiba had the problem of its status as a third-world city, unable to afford the tractors and petroleum to mow these parks. The innovative response was “municipal sheep” who keep the parks’ vegetation under control and whose wool funds children’s programs. Perhaps the crown jewel of Curitiba’s achievements is its Bus Rapid Transit system “Speedybus”.

Originally, the city was given federal money to build a subway (Curitiba is not a small town), but Lerner discovered that “heavy rail” like a subway costs ten times the amount for “light rail” (trolleys), which, in turn, costs ten times a bus system, even with dedicated bus ways. The “light rail” savings usually touted to sway municipal decision makers occur because even trolleys can have relatively fewer drivers than a 40-60 passenger bus. Lerner got Volvo to make 270 person Swedish articulated buses, so that the problem of a lower passenger-number-to-driver ratio was no longer an issue. When he served as Governor of Parana State, he conducted an economic and social transformation both in the urban and rural areas. His international awards include the highest United Nations Environmental Award (1990), Child and Peace Award from UNICEF (1996), the 2001 World Technology Award for Transportation, and the 2002 Sir Robert Mathew Prize for the Improvement of Quality of Human Settlements. In 2010, Lerner was nominated among the 25 most influential thinkers in the world by the Time magazine and in 2011, in recognition for his leadership, vision and contribution in the field or sustainable urban mobility, he received the Leadership in Transport Award, granted by the International Transport Forum at the OECD. He is the Founder of the Jaime Lerner Institute, an organization which endeavors to find innovative solutions for cities. At the General Assembly of the International Union of Architects in July 2002, Lerner was elected President for a period of three years. Lerner is also a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Universidade Federal do Paraná. In 2012, he received Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the Plymouth University. Recently, he has written down all of his hard-earned wisdom of five decades; Urban Acupuncture: Celebrating Pinpricks of Change that Enrich City Life.