Twentieth-century urbanism and 21st-century Brazil

Carol Farias, City Organizer for Goiânia, Brazil, talks about the impact of "model city" urbanism on her city, and how a Jane's Walk informed her research on how the built environment affects its inhabitants

Carol Farias, April 2, 2014

Photos by Julia Mariano.

Our first Jane's Walk here in Goiânia, Brazil was held in December 2013 at Av. Cora Coralina, and organized by Sobreurbana, of which I am a co-founder. Seventeen people attended the walk, which lasted about an hour. At the end of the walk, we asked participants to fill out a short questionnaire with 8 questions (6 about the avenue, and 2 about the Jane's Walk). All the respondents agreed that the walk changed the way they viewed their city, and all said they would be interested in participating in other walks. Most of them even suggested routes for future walks.

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I'm doing postgraduate work in Architectonic and Urbanistic Sustainable Environment Reabilitation at the University of Brasilia, and the topic of my monograph is: "Urbanity and Legibility at Av. Cora Coralina, Goiânia-GO, Brazil, from the Jane's Walk Movement." I will use the information gathered on our Jane's Walk in my research. Here is some background on my work, and how Jane’s Walk fits into it.

Throughout the twentieth century, the theories of progressive urbanism were applied both to existing cities and in the construction of new cities. Brazil was a fertile territory for these ideas, and some cities, such as Goiânia, were built under influence of the “industrial city” and “garden city” models. South Sector, a residential district of Goiânia, was inspired by the picturesque organic design of the “garden city,” with isolated houses, green areas and culs-de-sac.

South Sector has since suffered interventions that contradict its own nature and undermine its vitality, such as the construction of Av. Cora Coralina in year 2000. Designed to relieve traffic congestion in the region, the avenue was built by cutting culs-de-sac and passing through green spaces. Bounded by closed, uniform and passive edges, it is now an unattractive place to walk or stay.

In the twentieth century, this kind of urban development prompted criticism of model-based urbanism, for ignoring the physical and cultural reality of the areas it sought to improve. After World War II, a new approach to urban design emerged, with an interdisciplinary humanistic approach, approaching urban spaces on a local scale. Since the ‘60s, authors like Jane Jacobs have raised awareness of the complexity of the relationship between city space and society.

During our Jane's Walk on Av. Cora Coralina, participants revealed that they did not feel welcome in that environment and that they believed its construction worsened the quality of the neighborhood. Starting from the user’s perception and urban design guidelines on pedestrian scale, we diagnosed the area’s problems and came up with ideas for its rehabilitation, aiming to provide attractive spaces for walking, sitting, and living.

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