Jaime Lerner is obsessed with cities. Specifically, he is obsessed with improving their sustainability through urban planning.

[Curitiba, where Jaime Lerner served three terms as mayor. Creative Commons photo by Felipe Freeze]

He transformed the city of Curitiba, Brazil while he was mayor there and now helps urban planners across the world build and improve cities.

What makes his work unique is more than just the improvements themselves; he is known for making positive changes and making them fast. In just 72 hours, he built a pedestrian mall in Curitiba as part of his overall plan to rebuild Curitiba for people, not for cars. Justin Davidson from Newsday says that, “Lerner is a longtime proponent of what might be called ‘blitz urbanism’: the rapid, workable improvement that does an end run on bureaucrats and doubters.”

One of my favorite examples of his improvements in Curitiba is the bus stops. Rather than your typical stake in the ground or even covered shelter, “boarding tubes” in Curitiba make waiting for the bus pleasant and comfortable. Riders pay at the stop and enter these above-ground tunnels through the turnstile. When the bus arrives, it pulls up to the tube, and you enter it just like getting on to a train. That sure beats running to the curb on a rainy day!

[Curitiba Bus Boarding Tube. Creative Commons photo by Sasha Aickin]

Lerner thinks that the way many environmentalists think of cities is “pessimistic.” He sees them as design puzzles with potential for great quality of life for residents. By focusing on systems from public transportation to educating children on living sustainably, he works to design Earth-friendly places to live and work. You can watch his amazing TED Talk on building sustainable cities right here! The song at the end might be a little bit cheesy if he weren’t such a likable fellow. Stick it out through the end – I promise, it’s worth it!