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Urban Innovations in Latin America

Course Description

It is easy to assume that innovations in Urban Planning can only happen in a developed country and that developing countries could not possible achieve it due to lack of resources or lack of capacity to implement policies. But over the last two decades, some Latin American cities have proved this assumption wrong; its leaders have implemented a series of innovative policies and transformed their cities and the quality of life of its citizens.

In this class, we will study Latin American cities that exemplified these innovative policies. We will look at: the Brazilian city of Curitiba, which developed an ingenious bus system (bus rapid transit or BRT) expanded its system of natural preserves, and implemented interesting policies of recycling; Bogotá, Colombia, which created a civic culture, recuperated public spaces, and reduced the use of the auto by implementing a BRT and a large net of bicycle paths; Medellin, Colombia, where the leadership focused on the education of the poor, and built and revitalized a series of high quality libraries, schools, and training centers in the poorest neighborhoods; Santiago, Chile with an interesting case of social housing build through a process of public participation of its final users; and finally, Mexico City, which built on federal budgeting reforms to increase social housing for low-income residents.

In all of these cases we will discuss the leaders’ profile, the policies implemented, the innovative side of each policy and the urban, social, and economic context in which these transformations occurred.