talks@swissnex: Urban innovation will come from Latin America

São Paulo, February, 10, 2016

Latin America is the most urbanized continent in the world and the place to think of when it comes to urban innovation. That is the view of the Austrian Swiss-based professor Hubert Klumpner, a leading architect and urbanism thinker, Dean D´Arch at ETH-Zurich and Chair at the Urban-Think Tank (U-TT). At the beginning of February 2017, Klumpner joined swissnex Brazil in São Paulo for an evening of conversation about the paths to a more sustainable urbanization concept. 

Innovation will happen for Latin American cities by necessity. According to Klumpner, they haven´t been planned for people, instead experienced unorganized and exponential growth. Therefore, they face the challenge of having to rethink their urbanization models  – a process that, in Klumpner´s point of view, opens a lot of space for innovation.

As an example, he cites the favelas in Brazil, pioneer places of modern urbanization for their special characteristics of strong density and integration. “Cities have to be a mixture of languages and cultures”, says Klumpner. That is why a favela, with its wide open diversity, carries more potential for innovation, in his opinion, than the idealized “smart cities” of the future.  “If a city would work by itself, it would be a very boring place”, says Klumpner, referring to the concept of places intelligent enough to function on collecting data and using it to calculate its own systems.

While 50% of the worldwide population live in cities, in Brazil this number is 85%. When it comes to energy consumption, 80% of it is in cities. That is one of the reasons why Klumpner believes that mayors of metropolis should be considered more important than presidents in the world today.

After living and working in Venezuela for many year, Klumpner now has his eyes turned to São Paulo, more specifically to the favela of Paraisópolis, where Urban Think-Tank has the Grotão Project – an award winning vertical dance and music school for the community. The project was developed after a series of interviews with the local dwellers, when the architects discovered the need for a new practice and performance center for a local music organization.

“You need to understand how a place really works – what is the territory´s culture, their values, interests and their local dynamics”, concludes Klumpner.

More pictures from the event at Flickr