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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JIMENA MARTIGNONI / PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEONARDO FINOTTI

FROM THE DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Porto Alegre is the capital and largest city of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil. With a population of 1.5 million in the city and about 4.3 million in the metropolitan area, it is one of many Brazilian port cities. Although it is not directly on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, its location at the confluence of five rivers and at the northern end of Lagoa dos Patos—the largest barrier lagoon in South America—makes it a city that has an essential relationship with water. The Guaraní, the original inhabitants of the region, called the confluence of the five rivers Guaíba, which means the “meeting of the waters.” Today, the locals refer to this space as the Guaíba River or Guaíba Lake, indistinctly.

Given these watery proximities, the city historically has been affected by floods. In the early 1940s, after a devastating flood, a wall went up to cover most of the city’s edge on the river, eliminating its natural relationship with the water and the green spaces on the banks. The city’s residents, however, maintained their longtime habits around these natural areas, visiting and using them spontaneously. Walking, resting, drinking maté, and especially watching the sunset always continued for the locals, despite the site’s increasing state of official abandonment.

In 2011, during the term of Mayor José Fortunati (2010–2017), the Porto Alegre government finally decided to start a plan of restructuring and recovery of the areas above the water’s edge, with special emphasis on the areas near the historic center of the city. Construction began in 2015—major funding came from the Development Bank of Latin America—which put the administration of Fortunati’s successor, Nelson Marchezan Júnior (2017–present), in charge of completing the project. It is unusual in Latin America for two consecutive administrations to be responsible for a project’s implementation. Called Orla do Guaíba in Portuguese (coast of Guaíba), the plan includes the renovation and consolidation of the coastal areas and green spaces along the riverbank and the creation of a linear park at various levels on the edge between the city and the water—levels determined by shoreline modeling performed over the years. (more…)

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