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Virtual environment hosts discussion on the future of the “real” city

07/08/2020

“There have never been so many discussions focused on architecture and urban planning.” This comment came from architect and UIA2021RIO speaker Celso Rayol Jr., during one of the many virtual conferences organised since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Interest in the issue of cities and their possible new configurations is on the rise, together with concerns about social inequality and its impact. These discussions have opened up to different actors in society: “We are forming a critical mass that could well be transformative,” he believes.

A member of the Rio de Janeiro Architecture and Urban Planning Council (CAU-RJ) and President of the Rio de Janeiro chapter of the Brazilian Association of Architecture Firms (ASBEA-RJ), Celso Rayol took part in a webinar organised by the Rio de Janeiro Commercial Association (ACRJ), together with UIA2021RIO Executive Committee President Sérgio Magalhães. Rayol believes that the changes needed in cities will take place through coordinated actions underpinned by integration linking up industry, trade, universities and government entities. “We support the plural city, which is why it is important that we do not talk only to our peers. Every citizen must feel like a co-author of the city. This is why it is important to train these citizens, opening up the discussion to everyone.”

Also a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC), he notes that there is ample academic output, but it needs dissemination: “knowledge produced in the University does not move beyond its walls, it does not reach the hands of mayors, for example.”

For Sérgio Magalhães, the pandemic has exposed the city's ailments and is prompting a certain mobilisation, but “it is necessary to endow this movement with longevity.” “Cities need sweeping transformations, and this will happen only if we work together and draw up medium and long-term plans. The city will not break away from its current situation over the short term, and there’s no way that everything done previously can be unravelled every time the hand swings by on the election clock.”

Sérgio Magalhães also took part in a virtual organised by the Rio de Janeiro State Federation of Industries (FIRJAN), together with two other architects: Washington Fajardo, a former president of the Rio World Heritage Site Institute, and Miguel Pinto Guimarães, a speaker scheduled for UIA2021RIO. Fajardo address the issue of housing, urging that, beyond housing programs, cities need “housing systems” – tools paving the way for systemic transformation. He highlighted the potential of youngsters living in poverty-stricken urban outskirts: “There is power in squatter settlements. On the outskirts of cities, we have young people who are protagonists urging improvements to the city; we need to design systems that converse with different publics.”

For Miguel Pinto Guimarães, the role of architecture today is to “fix the present”. He believes that small, location-specific and smart interventions can renew the urban fabric, while also highlighting the creativity and driving power of low-income segments of the population.

Finally, Sérgio Magalhães stress that the development of cities is what fuels national growth.”Rio de Janeiro and Brazil understand that if the city does not surmount its problems, the country cannot attain the leadership at which it is aiming.”

On July 9, 14, 16, 21 and 23 the Brazilian Architecture and Urban Planning Council joins six other entities representing students and practitioners in this field, organising a discussion cycle on the topics of Architecture and Health; Sustainable Cities; Governance and Financing; Landscape and Heritage; and Mobility and Inclusion.

Through its Sustainable Development Goals Commission, the International Union of Architects (UIA) takes part in the Urban Thinkers Campus webinar on July 11, exploring the role of architects in the construction of resilient cities.



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