Comparatives approaches on urban planning cities’ history in minas gerais, brazil : tHeories and metodologies to analysis Fabio Jose Martins de Lima – ufjf

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Comparatives approaches on urban planning cities’ history in minas gerais, brazil : tHeories and metodologies to analysis

Fabio Jose Martins de Lima – UFJF

Address: Vereador Jose Gasparette, 400 | Juiz de Fora . Brazil | CEP 36035790



The recurrence to the theories and methodologies for understanding the history of urbanism and urban planning related to the ideals and practices on cities leads to a specific vision of the urban planning history in particular to address the problems of cities. This approach with a comparative perspective of analysis is important to understanding the cities’ development processes, in terms of bases for interventions on actuality. At the same time allows the understanding of the complexity that is part of the urban planning cities’ history. After all, what theories and methodologies underlying these processes? Different aspects appear in the planning of new towns and in the proposals for the transformation of existing cities. In these processes, profissional trajectories of planners who have worked in government agencies, educational institutions and private companies. We intend to expose some of the institutionalization process of urban planning as a strategy for the organization of cities between the 1930 and 1980 in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The attention on the issue of new cities and the actions proposed to existing tissues, with particular interest to planners involved and the mechanisms for the institutionalization of planning.

The paper presents the developments of the research aimed to understanding the history of urbanism and urban planning in Minas Gerais, on the one hand, focusing theories and methodologies on the studies with historical investigation enfasis and on the other hand, approaches on the cities development process and the technicians trajectories related to urban planning. The intention of this studies, as a continuation and extension of erlier works, is the expansion of references in terms of urban planning thoughts and practices, in addition to thinking about currently town planning proposals. The proposal of comparatives approaches is placed on this path both in terms of urban planning thoughts and town planning practices. This approache focuses in particular on the issue of new towns and the town planning proposals for existing tissues beyond the interest on academic and professional planners trajectories. Between 1930 and 1980, planned proposals have been implemented, even though they have remained more like idealizations by the incomplete aspect of its materialization. These town planning propositions were linked with personal academic educational trajectories and professional practices. Thus, different generations of planners have sought solutions to urban problems, linked to government agencies in private sector or even in higher education institutions.1

Issues were addressed in different interventions, expansion plans and proposals for the creation of new towns. Different aspects of modern urbanism attend, in many cases, combined simultaneously. As for the proposed equipment stood a modern language, embodied by the parties adopted and created large public spaces, the plans set inspirations revealed in other models, like the garden-city ideas, and the road system adapted to the implantation sites as a major aspects. Furthermore, the proposed interventions, particularly those involving the insertion of objects large urban occurred in structures already established. In this sense, it appears that the modernization of cities, in many cases, was implemented through a disconnected urban planning thought. However, is not possible to disregard the impact of these interventions on urban every day lifes and the meaning of city grouth, specially on small and middle towns. The new towns concepts embedded in these propositions became part of citizens every day lifes and linked to the managers official discours about urban problems. After all, through this interventions there was a change in the cities view panorama with a new language to buildings and another character of its publics spaces, which increased the space of the traditional street and changed the logic fragmented of city grouth. 2

The comparative studies of this issue related to the history of urbanism and urban planning, focus, then, concepts, themes and methodologies. At first the interest on methodological approaches engendered, beyond the understanding of the specifics in terms of subjects and timeline listed. This analysis intents to understand research sources, actually urban problems, in addition to personal trajectories involved. To this trajectories the references listed added to the planners’ biographies. On the one hand, we have texts that discuss proposals and plans of new towns, also interventions in existing cities. On the other hand, understanding the role of planners, ie, their professional and academic experiences, with particular attention to the theories of urbanism developed in their own town planning thought. Importantly, we consider the approach on the plans and proposals developed in the past - applied to reality or not - only as references to the current urban policies, understanding that the past keeps his peculiarities and distinctions in relation to the urban complexity nowadays. In other words the understanding over the past is just to conceptually support the current town planning interventions and to thinking about the future of the cities.

Through the history of cities

The recurrence to the history of cities for the study of biographies composed of life trajectories closely linked to the ideals and practices on cities allows a specific vision of urban planners, particularly focused on the urban problems. Such an historical approach has been important to the understanding of urban planning thoughts and practices in Minas Gerais, Brazil, for an understanding about planners vision, particularly the strategies to problems facing urban planning. At the same time, allows a comprehension about the complexity that is part of the historical process of growth cities. It is worth mentioning that "... the use of biography reveals itself as a strong narrative expedient: to suggest a unity and at the same time, emphasize the dissolution of coherent identity of a person in the relationship established with the group to which it belongs, or even what this represents in terms of practice or social circle (and cultural). The reconstruction of the life of an individual interest as a study of a network of personal relationships, or also only as restitution about lines of planning thoughts that circulate around the character and interfere with your stance. In short, this approach is put forward as a pretext for the simultaneous construction of many more stories and intellectual trajectories irreducible to a single record. "3 In this way, successive approximations on the object of study have allowed substantial discussions on the theories of urbanism and urban planning.

In this sense, the notion of successives approaches on certain historical horizons, in a chronological perspective, stands in an essential way to search the specificies of the thematics involved. The questions focused on several moments that characterize the cities growth should be thought in the context of space and time in which they are linked. The crucial question to study the history of cities that arises in the beginning, according to Zucconi, is to interrogate "... where and when?". And also according to Calabi should be considered "... a series of tools and strategies of interpretation" in the duration of time in his own chronology, with the aim of understanding the specific moments of change.4 The time, considered as a source of change and permanence, as well. For the history of cities, and in particular to the history of urbanism, this stands as a key variable and a major theoretical issue, each moment can be understood as the synthesis of the times that it converges. 5

The focus on specific horizons as part of a historical perspective of non linear analysis, ie, the facts do not think a timeline linked in an evolutionary way. At the same time, we do not intent to exhaust the possibilities of approaching the topic and related issues. We are aware of our own limitations and difficulties. What is sought is an interpretation, as a particular focus, as a contribution that is not exhausted in the approach on certain processes. Similarly, we not intent to search a remote start to this historical urban processes, ie, to search an original point so far in the relation with the phenomenon studied. In other words, the arises is not the search of origins, on the contrary, what is sought is the theoretical foundation, which translates in terms of a systematic understanding of the data contained in the sources used. On the other hand, the ending point of historical events should be considered, even with the approaches with certain interval on the history of cities. 6 Should be considered also the continuities and changes resulting from the process of growth cities without thinking about cause and effect relationships. This approach also considers the background analysis as a tool for historical knowledge, some more specific, others more general, with its possible consequences. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the study on the process of growth cities and the personals planners trajectories do not intents to search solutions to the current urban problems, on the contrary, the aims is to comprehend what was done and thought to the cities. If the urban problems remain today, this is another issues to be thought facing the current systems. What was planned and materialized remains as a reference but we don’t forgot that the complexity of the urban problems is another.

Thus, the perspective of comparative approachs to focus on the history of cities and in particular on the history of urbanism is placed in a relevant way in order to continue studies on the growth cities process and planners trajectories, particularly in Minas Gerais. Note that references to the related studies to this thematics in Brazil, always had a strong appeal on the Italian theorists such as Bruno Zevi, Carlo Aymonino, Leonardo Benevolo and Manfredo Tafuri. In continuation of this school, we highlight the work of Bernardo Secchi, Donatella Calabi and Guido Zucconi, using various methodologies for studying processes of cities growth. Such studies will enable the basis for comparative approachs of the history of urbanism and urban planning in Minas Gerais, in addition to allowing the construction of biographies of planners.

Urban planning in minas gerais, braZil : THEORETICAL approaches of engineErs, architects and others planners7

The urban planning proposals developed to the cities in Minas Gerais, Brazil, reveal multiple and diverse paths taken. Translations and appropriations of urban theories used in proposals as a result of cultural exchanges and artistic itineraries of study, teaching and research, both in terms of the coming of foreign professionals, and in terms of the brazilians’ pathway abroad. These routes provided a theoretical and practice complementation to the technicians on urban problems. Issues relating to current urban problems is tied initially to the tradition connected with the work of sanitary engineering. In the late nineteenth century, in terms of theoretical references, the technicians were aware with the scientific progress with the apprehension to the foreign examples as the old cities of Europe’s interventions. The experience of the engineer toward the resolution of urban problems began in the State of Minas Gerais, triggered by the process for building the new capital. In this process, the role of engineers was predominant, which remained in the following decades, both the proposals for cities, as in the academic dialogues to teaching about urban planning theories.

The new Capital of Belo Horizonte, a new planned city will become a reference in regard to the town planning in practice, even with the difficulties encountered along the way. Thus, the modern capital planned in the late nineteenth century, by a technical committee represented an important achievement. The avenues and streets designed as boulevards radiating modernity aspired that this conjugate in terms of straight paths drawn on two overlapping squares and shifted to 45 degrees. Parks, squares and gardens amounted to this ideology, composed according to the rules of modern urban thinking for a healthy and beautiful city. The process initiated for the construction of Belo Horizonte also reveals the gap between ideal and real. At the time of its inception, December 12, 1897, while the first favela came in the back of Central Station, fainted in the new city, like a real construction site unfinished. In the years that followed, the growth predicted by the center to the periphery, as was convenient, neither occurred. Despite these deviations related to the idealized plan, Belo Horizonte in 1930 reached the proper position of political and administrative center of the state. During this period, the impossibility of the planned development of the city revealed by a rapid expansion of the city, imposed the emergence of a more critical with respect to the plan, and new training opportunities and new forums where the city is being discussed and reaffirmed. 8

While discussing the directions for urban development, a wider view, consolidates the process of renewal of the city in search of a "modern style". Intensify, then discussions on urban problems, since the first decade of the twentieth century, no longer limited to the issues presented in the new capital. The internalization of urban planning, as well as its institutional construction in the state occur, depending on the impact of own urban practices implemented in Belo Horizonte. This search for an internalization of technical work, however, revealed in previous periods, particularly in the field of sanitation, with the actions triggered by the Committee on Municipal Improvements, linked to the Department of Agriculture of the State.9 This committee developed, then, numerous proposals for assistance for small and medium-sized towns in the state. The call for a hygienic environment has revealed a transfer of different ideologies, after all. The examples from concrete achievements, such as the city of Pasadena in the United States, refer to the concept of garden city.

In 30 years, the urban planning thought and the town planning practices related to the field of urbanism, linked so far to the actions of engineers become of interest to other professionals. Increasingly, architects will divide and even compete with the engineers that always determined the urban problems themes, responsibility for the uncontrolled growth of the cities. It is the time that architects realize more clearly that also represents the profession to these assignments related to urban problems. Thus, different points show up and expand the possibilities for addressing the challenges posed by cities. Other topics will also be discussed, such as zoning, traffic and urban traffic, the town planning legislation and leisure, among others. At the same time, extend the possibilities of vocational training with the founding of the School of Architecture of Belo Horizonte in 1930 by a group of architects, with the collaboration of artists, lawyers, engineers and doctors. These professionals have a prominent role, either individually, or in association, putting into practice certain principles related to urban planning theories, with affiliations to a greater or lesser degree, the ideas spread by the Modern Movement. In 1948, the installation of the Course of Urbanism at the School of Architecture at University of Minas Gerais, aimed at training professional planners. The course had a duration of two years and enabled the systematic study of theories for intervention on the cities, plus series of conferences, as taught by french urban planner Gaston Bardet, for four months.10

During this period the town planning proposals developed for Minas Gerais, were designed according to the rules of urbanism - this as a field of knowledge, as a discipline dedicated to the rational organization of cities. So we have proposed to the cities in the state, beyond what was proposed for the Capital itself. These proposals involve graphics boards designed by technicians and memorials, these guidelines with the thought to urban planning theories. The intense movement of ideas, from international conferences and exhibitions, as well as through publications, contributed greatly to that new translations to widen their view of the idealizations to the cities. Therefore, we have work done by engineers and architects, among others. The professional career included performances of these technicians linked to government institutions, as well as work linked to private, and academic performances in educational institutions. At the municipal level, the technicians will join technical committees, as was the case with the Technical Advisory Committee of Belo Horizonte, established in 1934. Activities will also be developed with technical advice to municipalities. Under the state government urban planning proposals was linked in government programs that include public policies applied on the capital, as well small and middle towns in the state.

The internalization of the shares on the cities will be accompanied by an institutional organization in the sphere of state. In February 1932 was published Decree No. 5366, which traced the outlines of what would become the Department of Municipal Administration, an agency designed to provide technical, financial and administrative municipalities. In the State Constitution of July 30, 1935, in Title VI Of The City, particularly in Article 66 endorsed the proposition of the Federal Constitution to provide that "... the law will establish a technical advisory body that, upon request of the municipality, provide assistance to local government, including as regards the organization of your finances. " And in 1936, through Law 183/1936, created the Department of Assistance to Municipalities as a body subordinate to the Secretary of the Interior, replacing the Department of Municipal Administration.11 Thus, from sections as the Division of Municipal Affairs and Inspection of Sanitary Engineering was heading the composition of multidisciplinary teams to implement urban plans.

From the year 1940, calls for a modern city - in a sense related to the Modern Movement - would reach a larger number of cities. In the proposals developed for the cities, we see the assimilation of certain principles related to the thought of Le Corbusier and ideas spread through the International Congresses of Modern Architecture - CIAM's, along with other urban aspects - such as the garden city ideals in terms of assemblage of buildings and their integration into the urban environment. These proposed interventions, studies on how they were permeated with research materials and construction techniques. Also finds a new conception of public space in which to integrate the building with the city's largest, surrounded by artistic inserts and landscape - sculptures, murals and tiles are pooled with different species of plants, which increased the limited space and defined in the traditional city street. Despite the impact on the modernization of cities, most of these interventions - with the exception of proposals for new cities - were not linked to the overall planning of urban development.

The planner view toward the city and its region would come with the proper magnifying the complexity of urban problems. In Belo Horizonte, the proposal to create a Service Plan, came in 1951. In the late 1950s, the uncontrolled growth of Belo Horizonte, characterizing a metropolisation process, imposed the need to others town planning strategies, beyond the limited vision of engineers and architects. So interdisciplinary studies, as that developed by “Sociedade para a Analise Grafica e Mecanografica aplicada aos Complexos Sociais” – SAGMACS, to Belo Horizonte was important to the comprehension of the urban planning theories applied. This study was commissioned by the city in 1958. The research on the urban structure of Belo Horizonte was used for the reasoning of the Master Plan developed by the same SAGMACS in 1961. These SAGMACS’ studies herald a new phase in Belo Horizonte, with the final insertion of the regional dimension to solving urban problems. And this view of understanding is also designed for other small and middle towns in the state. The planning activities will also be institutionalized through government agencies.

In the 1960s, the problems were equated state considering the planning regions defined by the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica - IBGE. The vast territory comprising the state, then the following regions, namely the Zona da Mata Mineira, the Zona Sul, the Zona Metalúrgica, the Rio Doce, the Alto São Francisco, the Médio São Francisco, the Triângulo Mineiro, the Mucuri, the Alto Paranaíba, the Campos das Vertentes, the Alto Jequitinhonha, the Médio Jequitinhonha, the Zona de Itacambira, the Paracatu and the Zona de Montes Claros. Already in the 1990s, the subdivision of the State and Mesoregions Microregions (IBGE), sought to preserve the regional identity, which was created in the process of growth of cities and small and middle towns over time. Thus, 12 regions were defined, some have remained with the same name, namely the Zona da Mata Mineira, the Zona Sul/Sudoeste de Minas, the Campo das Vertentes, the Vale do Rio Doce, the Oeste de Minas, the Metropolitana de Belo Horizonte, the Triângulo/Alto Paranaíba, the Noroeste de Minas, the Norte de Minas, the Jequitinhonha, the Vale do Mucuri and the Central Mineira.12

Also in 1969, creating the João Pinheiro Foundation, had the role of providing a specific agency planning linked to the state government, facing the demands of cities of the State of Minas Gerais. In Belo Horizonte, the matter shall be dealt with under the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte - RMBH, with strategies for the political management, public policies of metropolitan problems. In the 70s, through the elaboration Joao Pinheiro Foundation Plan Metropolitan Belo Horizonte - PLAMBEL was an important moment for the region. Later we will have other planning agencies established as the Department of Metropolitan Affairs, in 1980 and the Assembly of the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte – AMBEL in the 1990s. It is worth stressing that the institutionalization of metropolitan areas in the country was triggered by the federal government in the late 1960s. At this point, regarding the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte, we have the development of the Integrated Development Plan for the future RMBH. The perspective of integrated development was placed as the most suitable for the demands placed by the municipalities. The institution of PLAMBEL, came in 1975, and aimed to provide an entity for planning and technical support to local councils. This planning approach considering the RMBH, however, despite the many proposals and projects developed, was not continued. The organs were extinct - the PLAMBEL in 1996 - and the prospect of metropolitan planning was aborted in the 1990s.

The table above, with regard to RMBH, reveals, in fact, a process in which arises the impossibility of achieving the planning in the metropolitan scale, which remains today. To further aggravate this situation, the municipal autonomy advocated by the Federal Constitution of 1988 reinforced the individualistic aspect of municipal administrations. In this sense, the establishment of public policies to cope with urban issues, expressed in Articles 182 and 183, with the definition of the obligation to develop master plans for municipalities. In 2001, anothe law the Estatuto das Cidades came regulate such items with specific guidelines in order to contribute to a more efficient and effective in the context of decentralization and participation of civil society. Thus, in Chapter III, concerning the Master Plan, the Staff notes that "... the Urban property performs its social function when it meets the fundamental requirements of the city's organization expressed in the Master Plan, ensuring the fulfillment of citizens' needs for quality of life, social justice and development of economic activities (...) "13. This law also defined a period of five years, starting in October 2001, for municipalities to prepare their master plans. This condition led to different situations with different degrees of participation. Many other municipalities have yet to initiate the process for the preparation of their master plans. This then is the dimension that arises today.

Written with funds from a grant from CAPES, CNPq, FAPEMIG and Min Culture and Min Cidades

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FABIO JOSE MARTINS DE LIMA is an architect and professor at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), Brazil. He has been researching the cities’ history formation with concern about the cultural heritage since 1994; he has worked on issues related to the memory of the cities in Minas Gerais, Brazil. From 2011 to 2012 he has developed a postdoc stage at Università IUAV di Venezia, sponsored by capes with the research “Prospettiva di analisi comparativa e metodologie per la comprensione della storia dell'urbanistica e della pianificazione urbana in minas gerais: Traiettorie accademiche e professionali degli urbanisti italiani. La visione dell'urbanistica di Duilio Torres”. This research approach was orienteded by the IUAV’ Professors Donatella Calabi and Guido Zucconi linked on the activities of the CNPq research brazilian group “Urbanismo em Minas Gerais” based on UFJF with support of CAPES, CNPQ, FAPEMIG, “Min Cultura” and “Min Cidades”.


jose gasparette, 400 | juiz de fora | brazil

tel +553291994433 

1 The continuation of this research is linked on a concluded technical post doctoral stage in 2011 to 2012 with CAPES/Brasil support in the Università IUAV di Venezia (IUAV), with the supervision of Professors Donatella Calabi and Guido Zucconi. In Brazil, the research is linked to the network research group Urbanismobr with the group Urbanismo no Brasil 1900-1965 and also the colaboration on the research group História da Cidade e do Urbanismo, in addition the coordination of research group Urbanismo em Minas Gerais, in the “ Departamento de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Faculdade de Engenharia da UFJF “ .

2 About urban planning proposals in Minas Gerais see the paper: LIMA, F. J. M. ; PORTES, R. V. R. . Urbanismo em Minas Gerais: pensamento e práticas urbanísticas relacionados ao ideário do Movimento Moderno (1930-1965). Cadernos PPG-AU/FAUFBA, Salvador, v. 2005, p. 103-120, 2005.

3 CALABI, D. Parigi anni venti : Marcel pöete e le origini della storia urbana. Venezia: Marsilio editori, 1997, p.10.

4 See, among others: ZUCCONI, G. and CALABI, D., lecture notes of IUAV courses on Storia della Città.

5 FERNANDES, A. & GOMES, M. A. A. de F. A pesquisa recente em história urbana no Brasil: percursos e questões. In: PADILHA, N. (org.). Cidade e Urbanismo: história, teorias e práticas. Salvador: Mestrado em Arquitetura e Urbanismo da FAUFBa, 1998, pp.13-28.

6 On the sense of the long duration time, particularly, mentioned by Fernand Braudel, the endless time as expanding or stagnation force and also decline. See: BRAUDEL, F. Reflexões sobre a história. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1992, p. 332. And see also: FERNANDES & GOMES, op cit., p.23.

7 The approach outlined for the urban planning research of Minas Gerais in Brazil was structured in the research " Urbanismo em Minas Gerais : Olhares de engenheiros, arquitetos, geógrafos e outros planejadores. Interlocuções nacionais e internacionais e Itinerários para a institucionalização do urbanismo e do planejamento urbano em Minas Gerais (1930-1980) ", which has the technical support of architects and students linked to the research group “Urbanismomg/UFJF”.

8 GOMES, M. A. A. de F. & LIMA, F. J. M. de. Pensamento e prática urbanística em Belo Horizonte: 1895-1961. In: LEME, M. C. da S. (org.). Urbanismo no Brasil: 1895-1965. São Paulo: Studio Nobel; FAUUSP; FUPAM, 1999, p.122.

9 This Commitee was created by the law “Decreto nº 3.195, de 17 de junho de 1911, see: NEVES, Lourenço Baeta. Comissão de Melhoramentos Municipaes (Relatorio). Belo Horizonte: Imprensa Oficial do Estado de Minas, 1914.

10 About the School of Architecture and the role of architects in this period see: GOMES, M. A. A. de F. & LIMA, F. J. M. de. Pensamento e prática urbanística em Belo Horizonte: 1895-1961. In: LEME, M. C. da S. (org.). Urbanismo no Brasil: 1895-1965, op. cit., 1999, p.126.

11 See: BROWNE, G. Modernização Administrativa dos Municípios Mineiros: o Papel do Departamento da Administração Municipal. In: XI SEMINÁRIO DE HISTÓRIA DA CIDADE E DO URBANISMO. Vitoria. Anais... 2010.

12 See: DINIZ, A. M. A. & BATELLA, W. B. O Estado de Minas Gerais e suas Regiões: um resgate histórico das principais propostas oficiais de regionalização. SOCIEDADE & NATUREZA, Uberlândia, 17 (33): p.73

13 BRASIL. Estatuto da Cidade. Lei nº 10.257, de 10 de julho de 2001.

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