Interview: Humanizing cities

Por Yasmine Holanda, Revista Versar

Cities as human habitats: architect Carolina Nunes, from Blumenau, bets on knowledge to improve people’s quality of life

Carolina Nunes was recognized as a young leader in the area of architecture and urban planning. Photo: Leo Munhoz

The Brazilian architect Carolina Nunes has just returned from Germany, where she participated for one and a half year in the German Chancellor Fellowship, aimed at young leaders from the USA, Russia, India, China and Brazil and under the patronage of the German Chancellery. The research had as theme ‘Rivers and Cities’, which has everything to do with Santa Catarina. Now back to the state, she and her husband Walter Weingaertner are dedicated to the Humanität project, which seeks to raise awareness of the relationship with cities. Here’s how it was:

Tell us a little more about the research topic that you developed during the program.

I am from Blumenau, so the Itajaí-Açu river is always in our lives. At the same time that we have a caring relationship with the river, there are frequent floods. When I started studying Architecture at UFSC, we had to choose a region for a Regional Planning work. I chose the Itajaí Valley and it was a surprise. We always had the idea that, in order to prevent flooding, it would be necessary to straighten the river and to establish the banks. Then I discovered that this was already an outdated approach in Germany, that they were already renaturing the rivers. I was delighted with this concept. During the program, at one of the technical visits, I asked the director of cities of the German Technical Cooperation Agency what kind of advice he would give to Blumenau. He replied: “I recommend you to look at what we have done with our rivers. We spend a lot of money to straighten and establish banks and now we are spending even more to undo it all. ”

What is Humanität’s proposal?

It arose from a great restlessness of mine, many years ago. We do not seriously address the question we should ask all the time: how do we want to live in cities? What should our life be like in cities? I see our quality of life deteriorating and discussions get very much in the way of traffic and emergencies. Public power focuses on this, real estate development is concerned with their lots, and civil society is generally not aware of better examples. Do not know other references and models. We created Humanitat to improve the quality of life for people in the city. I believe that with technical knowledge, political will and empowered society we can make great changes. We aim to bring this knowledge and to implement the best practices of the world in Brazilian cities.

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Do we have good examples in Santa Catarina or is there still much work to be done?

Good examples we always have. But we have to focus on our potential. Nature here is fantastic and the biodiversity of the ‘Mata Atlantica’ Rain Forest is greater than that of the whole of Europe. We have tremendous landscape potential. But you have to have access. Why is there not a connected path for bicycles and pedestrians in all these hills? Look at the potential of linear parks and paths that connect the city.

And what challenges do we need to face in order to have cities more humanized?

The main challenge is the empowerment of society. No decision should come top-down, it should be discussed what society wants. Before going to Germany, I thought they had a whole set of regulations to keep the cities that way. There, I saw that they are so because society fights a lot for them to be like this.