Saturday, February 5, 2011

Brasilia, Brazil: economic and social costs of dispersion

F. de Holanda, R. Ribeiro, V. Medeiros

Brazil’s Capital, Brasilia, is a peculiar city, for better or for worse. On the plus side, the city’s form-space configuration conveys a striking image. Its generous green areas, associated with the mild climate of Brazil’s Central Plateau, affords good bioclimatic performance. On the minus side, there are serious problems concerning low urban densities, dispersion of occupied areas with no man’s land in between, and a perverse relation between location of jobs and homes (82% of formal jobs, and 44% of total jobs concentrated in an area in which only 10% of the metropolitan population live). Socioeconomic implications of these attributes are serious. Urban infrastructure is underused, intense commuting between peripheral areas and the urban core is a daily nuisance, and urban configuration does not favor transit systems.
Not all is lost, though. New boroughs have occupied vacant land in between previously isolated urban areas. Densities are usually higher in these new projects – although sometimes too high, which implies diseconomies of scale. Some attempts at decentralising jobs have emerged but they have been too timid so far. This paper discusses the main attributes of the metropolis concerning the economics of urban sprawl besides analysing current trends vis-à-vis proposals of land use as presented in the most recent versions of the metropolitan development plan.

Brasilia, Brazil, photo by chris.diewald
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