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09 / 09 / 2004
Jaime Lerner (Architect): “The city is not a problem, rather it contains a solution for everything”

The Dialogue “Cities and Citizenships in the 21st Century” this morning analyzed the relationship between urban living and the authorities

The city planner and Brazilian architect, Jaime Lerner, explained that projects are carried out "when there is political will, a common vision and most importantly when a shared responsibility equation is organized". For Lerner "the city is a structure that functions between human settlement areas and economic activity". Lerner thinks that the problem lies in the fact that "most countries have assigned more importance to economic activity than to the people". For that reason, Lerner said "that the city is not a problem but a solution because in the city are the answers to everything: to work, the house, the transport".

Lerner was optimistic, saying that "any city can make great advances in city planning matters in less than two years". For Lerner the speed of projects is important.

In relation to the transport, Lerner said that "you can’t have everything: metro, cars, buses, especially when they fight for the same space". "The car is like our mechanical mother-in-law: we must have a good relationship with it but we cannot allow it to rule our lives", added Lerner. The Brazilian declared ironically "that I am not against cars, in fact, my best friend has one".

In order to be able to carry out a project quickly, Lerner explained that "it is important to propose a scenario, an idea that the majority understand as desirable, and understanding it as desirable will help its accomplishment". "It is necessary to propose a scenario or else priorities will not exist in the city".

Lerner made reference to the former president of Portugal, Mario Soares, who said that, "it is necessary to globalize solidarity". For Lerner "it is necessary to see the cities as refuges of solidarity".

With respect to costs and economic policies, Lerner said that, "to take care of people and their needs costs nothing in comparison with what it means to the worldwide casino of financial speculation". Lerner added that, "the informal sector must be integrated into the formal one".

Lerner concluded by affirming that, "people do not know their cities, something that does not happen in Barcelona". "With its beauty this city can make great contributions for everyone in the world", was Lerner’s opinion.

The Italian architect, Maurizio Marcelloni, explained in his talk that, "the crisis of urban planning is a crisis of the political powers". Marcelloni said that, "there is a direct correlation between the physical city and the political city".

Marcelloni said that, "just as before, when the city was organized and was dynamic, nowadays both concepts are superimposed and they do not enter into the traditional dynamics of government". The Italian architect said in this respect that, "there is a fragmentation of power and a long time is needed to be able to modify these dynamics". Marcelloni thinks that this causes uncertainty and instability in the institutions.

The professor of the University of Sapienza has spoken of an urban plan that is being carried out in the city of Rome and that is based on "an overall plan and different projects that are being adapted to it". Marcelloni said that "in Rome there is a strong link between neighboring municipalities: it has not been possible to engage in a dialogue to create a higher government authority, but there is the political tendency to take on this issue".

For Marcelloni the problem is that "the formal political apparatus is in crisis, and the city has to incorporate innovative bodies in the decision-making process". In addition, "this new need is raised at the micro and macro levels of urban government”.

For Marcelloni "there is a new informal policy that is emerging and that will be the base of this micro dimension". For him, "the present policy does not assume the city to be a place of conflict and tries to avoid it".

Marcelloni thinks that "the power of the city planner is important because mayors have preferred to deal directly in architecture". For Marcelloni "there is certain resistance to innovation on the part of the state and the bureaucracy".