terça-feira, 14 de janeiro de 2014

Globalização e Grandes Projetos Urbanos - Rio de Janeiro

Capa da publicação official Porto Maravilha,
edição de agosto de 2011

O artigo aqui introduzido foi escrito pelo blogueiro no ano de 2007, no âmbito de uma colaboração com a rede de pesquisa Alfa-Ibis - ligada à universidade holandesa TU Delft – da qual surgiram também o artigo "La Captura de Plusvalías en Proyectos de Accesibilidad Urbana en la Ciudad de Rio de Janeiro", escrito para a Conferencia da rede Alfa-Ibis Valparaíso 2003 (disponível neste blog pelo link http://abeiradourbanismo.blogspot.com.br/2011/11/la-captura-de-plusvalias-en-proyectos.html), e um projeto de tese de doutorado a ser brevemente publicado neste espaço.

O ineditismo deste texto é controverso. Já houve quem me dissesse tê-lo visto em uma revista internacional, que infelizmente desconheço. Tampouco o encontro na Internet. Pode ter se perdido na imensidão da China ou nunca ter sido publicado.

O leitor interessado em acessar a íntegra do texto perceberá que ele foi produzido segundo uma pauta destinada a adequá-lo a uma publicação acadêmica contendo artigos similares sobre outras grandes cidades – com destaque para o tema da reconversão urbana de antigas instalações portuárias. A parte final é uma longa descrição do projeto de revitalização do Porto do Rio – mais tarde rebatizado Porto Maravilha – baseado numa compilação de material oficial e fontes da Internet.

Meu interesse em publicá-lo em À beira do urbanismo tem uma dupla motivação: recuperar fragmentos de elaboração teórica que produzi em minha passagem relativamente curta pela administração urbanística da cidade do Rio de Janeiro para, em seguida, poder visualizá-los e compreendê-los como momentos de uma trajetória a que procuro dar continuidade como blogueiro e cidadão interessado em questões de política urbana.

Os segmentos que aparecem nesta postagem são, por esta razão, aqueles em que procuro mesclar o atendimento dos requisitos formais da publicação com comentários que expressam a minha visão, à época, de como se dava a inserção da cidade do Rio de Janeiro no circuito dos Grandes Projetos Urbanos da economia dita globalizada.

O link para acessar a íntegra deste trabalho é http://abeiradourbanismo.blogspot.com.br/2007/07/globalization-and-great-urban-projects.html.

A imagem, recolhida no saite oficial Porto Maravilha, foi acrescentada apenas para fins de ilustração. 

O autor reconhece as deficiências do inglês escrito, para as quais pede a indulgência do leitor. 


Although it has not completed a single “centrality project” – perhaps the best concept to synthesize the Large Urban Project of the globalization era – Rio de Janeiro has a long tradition of large urban works and its own history of “competitive integration” into the world market of urban goods, services and projects.  

The starting point of this process was the 1980’s idea to turn the port area into a Teleport. However, it was only during the 1993 Rio-Barcelona Seminar on Urban Strategies that it acquired a status of urban management ideal. Since then, the city had been continuously developing plans and commissioning studies and projects oriented toward the exploiting of competitive advantage, most of the time in association with international consultants in urban planning and architectural projects. The particular processes and projects will be discussed later on.
It is a generally accepted fact, if not a commonplace, that the economic globalization created by the central economic blocks, the asymmetric opening of markets and the advances in telecommunications severely impacted on urban management since the 1980s. Two remarkable characteristics of this period are, firstly, a change in the production system profile from predominantly industrial to one that can best described as “services economy”. Secondly, the debt crisis in the peripheral economies resulted in drastic reductions in public investments, which in turn affect large impact projects, particularly infrastructure and transport facilities which were so characteristic of the 1950-1980-period.
The result of these changes in urban planning culture was the emergence of the so-called “competitive city” which is able to attract to its territory investments from multinational enterprises (industrial and financial), including real estate, mega events and tourism. Traditional city centers were thought to have intangibles critical for real estate projects and related businesses, supposedly lucrative enough to pay for/finance their own infrastructure and urbanization.
This “opportunity factor” turned the revitalization of inner-city areas of major metropolises into the supreme ideal of good urban management and allowed for a particular appropriation and re-interpretation of the conservationist (architectonic, historical, cultural) and anti-functionalistic (non-segregating zoning) ideas of the 1970s and 1980s.
The main task of urban management when oriented towards and by globalization as such embraces projects aimed at the re-conversion of obsolescent industrial sites, ports, railways and other infrastructures into new business centers, industrial parks, historic-cultural tourism and gentrified housing areas, usually located in the central areas but sometimes directed to vital transport and circulation nodes of the metropolises.

In low economic growth and indebted countries and cities, these projects are presented as opportunities to alleviate the effects of public and private internal investment shortfalls: unemployment, informality, inequality and poverty. In general, these projects flourish on urban planners’ concerns as to city centers degradation on the one hand, and on economic planners’ concerns as to low economic growth, unemployment and informalization on the other, all of them allegedly inherent aspects of the global economy.

Two relevant questions emerge, then: does an urban strategy based on global market projects alleviate or aggravate Latin American urban development shortfalls? What kind of large urban projects is necessary and possible to reduce the urban development gaps in our cities?

There are currently four main characteristics of large urban projects:
  • Their objective is no longer (providing/improving) infrastructure, urbanization or the construction of large buildings, but the integral restructuring or reconstruction of whole city areas, and the creation of attractive and complete urban environments – a real estate product ready to be sold and to be consumed.
  • Large urban projects constitute an area of special regulation concerning urbanistic and/or fiscal matters in a regime of special administrative decisions.  
  • Part of public investment has a non-monetary nature in the form of land occupied by obsolescent public uses. Available studies do not clarify whether these non-monetary investments in fact represent (not so) hidden subsidies to the (new) final private product.  
  • Management of land valorization factors (legislation, localization, project based decisions, positive externalities, etc.) determines (extraordinary) profits sufficient to pay for infrastructure and urbanization costs.
We are confronted, then, with an extraordinary challenge to prevailing urbanistic knowledge, including the requirement for public managerial teams to command a complex collection of urban design techniques, land management, urban, environmental and administrative law, transport engineering, sociology, economics and project evaluation. Large urban projects could very well become a field for the development of effective and transparent techniques for public administration.

But one of the main impacts of economic globalization in the peripheral countries is the “verticalization” and loss of managerial capacity in public administration as such. The processes of negotiation and decision-making of large urban projects are, as a rule, undertaken in ever higher spheres closed to public scrutiny.

Despite the enthusiasm of investors, the hopes of urban planners for a (new) “golden age” of cities founded on the revalorization of public space, and even some success cases, it is improbable that urban development based on the global market of business centers, tourism and great events, can ever have sufficient capacity to generate important and sustainable positive effects in the life of big peripheral metropolises.

Besides the lack of adequate responses to the basic and urgent problem of housing and upgrading of poor settlements, not to say the latter’s transformation, large urban projects do not affect “systemic” problems such as the quality, efficacy and normative pertinence, the capacity to supply services to the population, the transparency and accountability in the management of projects and systems and the decentralization and effective participation of citizens in relevant decisions.


In 2003 the Rio de Janeiro strategic planning process completed 10 years.  The process was a direct consequence of the 1993 Rio-Barcelona Urban Strategies Seminar. The Rio Strategic Plan was elaborated between 1995 and 1997, assisted by Barcelonian and Brazilian consultants in urban business matters.
Between 1992 and 2002, the Plano Diretor Decenal (Ten-Years Master Plan), approved by the City Council had been in force. This plan, which reflects in the sphere of the municipality the national movement towards the Constitutional Chart of 1988, is a legal code designed to promote a new kind of urban management based on democratic values and wealth redistribution.

Although the Master Plan and the Strategic Plan are focused towards complementary aspects of urban administration – regulatory and executive – they are based on, and contain conflicting visions regarding the objectives, relevant actors and the various methods of public policies application.
The urban strategies which were in effect applied during this period, although not so much determined by the Strategic Plan were rather rooted in the premises and guidelines which brought it. These strategies can be summarized as follows:  

1.     Urban development oriented towards the city’s competitive integration into the global market of consultancy, projects, events, and urban services, including: Teleport construction; concession of Linha Amarela (Yellow Line) Urban Highway; 2004 Olympic Games campaign; strategic planning; international competition for the urban furniture concession; emblematic projects for inner-city revitalization; port revitalization; Guggenheim Museum project and the 2007 Pan-American Games campaign.

2.     Institutional and normative flexibility: Creation of a strategic plan and a political representative council as alternative to state institutions, made up of social actors with capacity for investment and opinion generation; dissolution of the existing Conselho de Politica Urbana (Urban Policy Council); reiterative application, by the Executive, of  discretionary selling of building rights named “Operações Interligadas” (Interlinked Operations).  

3.     Emblematic public investments to promote positive socio-economic and cultural effects: Favela-Bairro and Rio-Cidade programs oriented towards the valorization via urban upgrading of household economies and small enterprises at local level, in addition to meeting the strategic objective to promote the city’s image. The effects of these investments have as yet not been measured. They are, however, manifest in the good disposition of favela inhabitants towards expanding and improving their dwellings and small businesses, in the increased permanency of residents and activities alike and in increased economic activity in the targeted commercial streets in general.

4.     City marketing through “virtual projects”: Some projects are not presented as public actions designed to address basic needs, but much rather as ideas to attract investment. Project promotion as a rule occurs independently of its social legitimacy and generally precedes vulnerability studies, resource analysis and managerial structuring. Architectural image performs the double role of promotional object and feasibility test, as was the case with the publication of a recent fancy photomontage with the downtown-area projects. It is clear meanwhile that a set of “feasible buildings” does not necessarily elevate the suggestions to the level of an intelligible plan.


Present initiatives involving the municipality, the state, federal government and the private sector, can eventually and effectively lead the Porto do Rio Plan for the port area’s recuperation and revitalization to reach a new and more dynamic stage. At the same time a proper post-evaluation of the 2007 Pan-American Games can also throw (new) light on the relationship between the global entertainment/tourism/business-centers industry and urban development, so that the city can learn and effectively decide whether and how to utilize these opportunities to promote urban upgrading, understood as simultaneous physical, social and community betterment.

A (hard) lesson learnt from the Guggenheim Museum episode is that recognizing and accepting privately motivated entrepreneurship as an advantage to fuel the take-off of a large urban project does not mean that public opinion and public controls should be eclipsed behind commercial secrecy or “state reasons”.

Large urban projects offer extraordinary opportunities for the urgent building of a renewed urban planning culture involving a whole mix of interdisciplinary knowledge and techniques. But they require, above all, a truly accountable and democratic urban management practice.
Pedro Jorgensen Jr, julho de 2007