Participatory Planning at Local Level, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

ParticipationThe Belo Horizonte studio is open primarily to urban planning students, but welcomes the participation of students from other disciplines: urban design, landscape architecture and architecture. Background and site presentationMost urban improvement programs and projects in developing countries have largely failed in +including; their slums into the urban fabric. Even when services have been provided, the settlement has difficulties in improving its image, and its population suffers stigmas, beyond and despite the physical improvements. This is the case of Belo Horizonte in Brazil, demographically the third largest Brazilian city (2, 23 millions).Belo Horizonte has simultaneously created an integrated, complex and efficient planning system and developed creative instruments to control and monitor its urban sprawl (Master Plan, 81 Planning Unit, Water Basin Development Plan, Regional Plans, Integrated Plans for Low Income Districts or Quality of Urban Life Index to define the channeling public investments). At the same time, participatory methods and channels have been put in place, including multiple councils and participatory budgeting mechanisms, by which communities can define their priorities for public investments to meet their immediate needs. However, with 5 millions inhabitants, the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte offers the contrasted image of most Latin American cities in which steady economic development has not improved the housing and living situation of a large portion of its population. Despite the unique effort of Belo Horizonte\’s local government in recent years, over 500 000 persons still live in slums, 230 000 do not have access to water sanitation network and 10 650 families live in risk-prone areas. The SiteThe selected site for the studio is part of the low-income district of Copacabana (50 000 inh.), one of the 81 Planning Units of the city of Belo Horizonte. The site, known as Vila Apoltnia, is approximately 70 acres of densely and mostly illegally occupied land since 1974, which currently houses 10,000 very low income people. Key questions and challenges to be addressedThe overarching question that the studio will deal with is how to physically and socially include a slum (that was gradually consolidated and improved) within its adjacent low income and medium income neighborhoods and the city as a whole. In doing so, students will address the following key issues and challenges:- The role of a professional planner in an enabling and participatory environment such as the one offered by Belo Horizonte city.- The issue of the planning process as a means to foster participation of the community as a whole, or of only some of its segments (political leaders, youth, economic actors for instance) and at the same time critically examine the nature, the limits and the benefits of community participation.- The extent to which a Local and Integrated Plan, such as that of Vila Apolonia, will be capable of bridging and linking up with the short terms expectations of poor city dwellers, that are expressed through participatory budgeting, and the long terms strategic necessities of a capital city inserted into economic dynamics at Global level.Format and working methods The ultimate objective of the studio is to update and develop the existing Local Integrated Plan of Vila Apoltnia. Students will ultimately produce one Development Plan for the Vila Apoltnia settlement and its neighboring districts that will take into account the current Integrated Local Plan, people\’s expectations, existing regional and master plans. The achievement of this goal involves the following steps:1) Analysis and research: primarily at the early stages of the studio will be a major analytical and research component to prepare for the field visit and acquire basic planning tools. Resear