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Six questions about…Curitiba

Paola Jacomel works in the iF design office in Hamburg, answering questions from all over the world about the iF WORLD DESIGN GUIDE and helping designers, companies and organizations to present themselves on the WDG. We spoke with her about Curitiba, which is our very first Design City — as well as her hometown.

Curitiba -- that sounds like a small town in the middle of nowhere. So what's Curitiba actually, and how did it get to be an iF Design City?

Paola: Actually, there are about two million people living in Curitiba, so I wouldn't say it's exactly small. It's the capital of Paraná and the largest city in the South Region of Brazil.

It is a UNESCO City of Design, the first in South America to bear that title.

If you had to describe the city in three words, what would they be?

Paola: I would say sustainability, culture, and cold.

  • Sustainability: The city leads South America as far as eco-friendly initiatives go, even placing 3rd worldwide in a list of "15 Green Cities".
  • Culture: the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, the Guaíra Theater and the Curitiba Music Workshop are very impressive projects.
  • Cold: Even if it's warmer than much of Northern Europe, it's still pretty cold for Brazil!


OK, I'm convinced. Let's say I hop in a plane tomorrow and fly to Curitiba: what should I expect when I get there?

Paola: For a city in Brazil, I think it's probably not what you expect at the first moment. There are very many parks in the city, which is very different than São Paulo. There are no beaches — which is not like Rio de Janeiro, of course. But as you get to know the city you might be really impressed.

It's also very multicultural. Because of the history of immigration, there are people from very different backgrounds You can go to a church mass in Polish, for example.

Speaking of Sundays, there's a big arts and crafts fair every Sunday. The Feirinha do Largo da Ordem is popular with tourists, but also with native Curitibans.

You mentioned the green spaces in Curitiba. Do you have a favorite park?

Paola: I love the Tanguá Park. It was built on the site of an old quarry. There's an impressive cliff and water everywhere.

What about the architecture?

Paola: Well, Curitiba's former mayor, Jaime Lerner, is a famous architect. And the Oscar Niemeyer Museum is amazing. The style of architecture in Curitiba is quite mixed, which is different than most of Europe.

What can we learn from Curitiba in terms of design?

Paola: Curitiba is a small city with large ambitions: even if the numbers will never match São Paulo, Curitiba is a good mix of large and small. And what the city does do, it does very well.

So I guess what design can learn is: it's not always about the biggest or most! Small or medium-sized can be really great, too.

Thank you, Paola!

Paola: You're welcome!