One + May 2011 - (Page 58)

Blame It On Rio Last year’s World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was a success, recording the highest attendance to date for the event. BY R O B COTT E R SUN, SEA, SAND, SOCCER AND BY NIGHT, CAIPIRINHA FIRMLY IN HAND, the sensuous sounds of samba stretching throughout the city streets; it can only be Rio de Janeiro, and these are just some of the many ingredients that have led to its “Marvelous City” moniker. Set in a breathtaking bay with white beaches and iconic landmarks framing a dense city amidst lush sub-tropical vegetation, Rio is one of the world’s most instantly recognizable places. It is at the same time, however, home to an urban reality that could potentially damage its unofficial claims to be marvelous—its favelas (slums). Rio’s favelas have become so prevalent in the city’s fabric that most recent estimates suggest 20 percent of the population resides in them. Interventions such as public housing replacement programs for favela eradication or investment plans for their improvement have on various occasions been implemented in an endeavor to arrest their growth. But with the urban explosion of the latter half of the 20th century accelerated by a rural exodus, it has been impossible to resist their endurance or reduce their pervasiveness. The most momentous attempt by the Brazilian government to redirect 58 national population growth away from Rio and the overheated southeastern corner was to geographically centralize the seat of government by building an entirely new city, something enshrined in the country’s 1891 constitution. The advent of Brasilia, commissioned by President Juscelino Kubitschek and overseen by chief architect Oscar Niemeyer in a remarkable completion time of just over three years between 195660, fulfilled this desire. With the official inauguration, it also dethroned Rio’s status as capital city, one held for almost two centuries prior. Brazil’s utopian vision of its urban future was epitomized in this brave, new capital city, modernist in form and scale and a vanguard of the bossa nova mood that was sweeping the country at the time. Brasilia was a success from its inception and did, as intended, draw people away from the southeast. Over the intervening half century, however, it has become apparent that even newly built cities couldn’t satisfy the urban rush, and the situation today is more pressing than ever—recent United Nations (UN) statistics suggest that the world’s urbanized population over the next half century will mushroom at the rate of 70 million annually from 50 percent to almost 70 percent, testing the ability of cities to reduce poverty, continue to provide basic facilities and, in extreme cases, even to function. Critically, the situation in Brazil has already reached and well exceeded future projections: it is estimated that 82 percent of the Brazilian population are already urban dwellers, a staggering statistic and one that emphasizes the heightened levels of stress on Brazil’s cities. It was perhaps somewhat convenient that, just weeks before Rio could chronicle a full half century since being unseated as national capital, UN-HABITAT held its fifth session of the World Urban Forum in March 2010. “More than the event timing being convenient, it was high time for the event to be held in Latin America,” said Cecilia Martinez, then UN-HABITAT regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean but recently appointed as director for UN-HABITAT’s New York office. “The event had already taken place in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, so it was felt that it should be hosted in this sub-continent.” A bi-annual event begun in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2002 to address “rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and one+ 05.11 ALL PHOTOS UN-HABITAT

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of One + May 2011

One + May 2011
Energy of Many
Meeting Design Goes Mobile
Picking Brains
Ask the Experts
Art of Travel
Web Watch
Radical Co-creation
Engagement + Innovation = Wunderbar
Top Spots
The Business of Being Social
Safety in Numbers
Ads, Sponsors and Patrons
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
It’s Getting Better All the Time
Blame It on Rio
Ride Free
Learning How the Brain Learns
Just Face It
Becoming Mindful with Your Meetings
Group Think
The Mesh Meeting
Your Community
Making a Difference
Until We Meet Again

One + May 2011