A research about Rivers and Cities

Born and raised in Blumenau, the architect Carolina Viviane Nunes, 35, grew up in a city that suffered with floods. She learned that the Itajaí-Açu River has his moods. The beauty that makes it one of the postcards of the Itajaí Valley can give way to the fury of its waters. The river that brought development to the region can also destroy.

The catastrophic consequences that struck Blumenau could be minimized, if not avoided, if the rivers were used in a more rational and sustainable way. We must relate to the river in a different way: it is not the one who needs to adapt to the development and needs of our community. We need to integrate our world into the river and into nature.

For Carolina, Urban Planning is a powerful tool to transform the society, with the redefinition of public spaces, which are the places for democracy, for civil participation, for coexistence and tolerance. A contemporary city should plan its future from its greatest heritages, making it special.

And our rivers are perfect threads of this process for the future. In this direction, Carolina went to Germany, where she lives since July of last year as researcher of the Bundeskanzler Stipendium program.
Sponsored by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the program is aimed at young leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and the United States, with the goal of building bridges between each of these countries and Germany. It is organized by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, an organization that has an annual budget of 114 million euros and has sponsored 54 Nobel laureates.

The Foundation selects profiles of excellence, based on individual candidates’ performance. Based in Munich today, Carolina says the idea of ​​her project is to rescue the relationship between rivers and cities. “I try to understand the relationship between the natural and the urban, having the public space as a point of contact. Many cities, like Blumenau, have developed along the rivers. But over time, rivers have become enemies, which is disastrous in many ways”, she explains.
She explains that Brazil is the richest country in the world in biodiversity and fresh water, and in need of social policies, working on this issue is an indispensable and urgent task. “My goal is to bring a new sustainable urban development benchmark, based on the German experience, and contribute to the qualification of Brazilian cities”, she says.

As a mentor, Carolina invited Professor Sophie Wolfrum, who is responsible for the Chair of Urban and Regional Planning at the Technical University of Munich – the great German reference in the area of ​​Architecture and Urbanism.
The challenge is to go beyond of theory and translate it into human behavior and practical action. In this way, Carolina is going out on the field, interviewing specialists, listening to people and experiencing a new urban relationship next to the rivers. She is experiencing and registering German solutions and how they were financed and implemented in a democratic and participatory way.

On her return to Brazil, the architect’s goal is to bring guidelines, adapted to the local reality. Carolina bets on new forms of participatory communication, on social media and videos. She hopes that these publications and presentations will be used to support the public power in decision making, and to raise awareness among civil society.

There is also a personal motivation in her effort: to update the vision of Germany in Blumenau. “I need to show the contemporary nation, and how the country plans its cities focused on quality of life for people”, she says. With this goal, she sends videos every week to the Legislative TV in Blumenau.

Visits with a special guide

Before settling in Munich, the architect studied in Bonn for almost three months. Taking advantage of the long days of the German summer, she visited the whole region by bicycle. After classes, it was possible to cycle along the rivers Rhine, Sieg and Ahr, and learn the relation that the local towns maintains with its waterways.

Between the cities of Bonn and Berlin, there was the Introductory Seminar, of a month. Carolina and the Bundeskanzler Stipendium research group were received at several institutions such as the Ministry of Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), Parliament, the Political Education Agency (BpB), among others.

In Munich, the agenda has been intense. The researcher has participated in the discussions at the Water Department (WWA-M). At the Bavarian Environment Ministry, she interviewed the head of the Department of Water and Soil. And the technical visits to the river Isar have been guided by the best guide: Walter Binder.

Today retired, Binder was the leader of the renaturalization projects and is a reference in the subject. It was through his material that Carolina knew, in 2004, the concept of renaturation, as a way of protecting cities from floods, recovering ecology and recovering public spaces for leisure.