Mayors, policymakers, eminent scholars and authors joined side-by-side with the architects and planners of major urban regeneration projects around the globe to address the key social, spatial and economic issues underlying urban growth in South America. Focusing in-depth on the significant structural changes affecting São Paulo, Brazil's largest city and major economic powerhouse – with a growing population of over 19 million it is today the 5th largest city in the world – the Urban Age South America conference concluded a year of research into regional urban trends into the area's five fastest growing cities – São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Bogotá and Lima.
Compared to the unprecedented levels of urbanisation currently being experienced in Asia and Africa, many South American cities have consolidated their growth and settlement patterns over the last decades. From Bogotá to Curitiba, a number of South American cities demonstrate leadership in addressing environmental and social sustainability in the developing world. Others like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires tackle social exclusion and the problems associated with the widening income gap with new policies and governance structures aimed at delivering more sustainable urban environments. While the barrios and favelas continue to grow, initiatives aimed a 'retrofitting' these informal settlements are creating more inclusive and stable places for people to live.
The Urban Age South America conference offered a mirror to reflect on these issues with the world’s leading experts of urban change. The impact of ever-increasing sprawl on energy consumption and pollution, the exponential increase in car ownership and the debilitating effect of uncontrolled growth on basic urban infrastructure – such as public transport, water and sewer systems – were analysed in the context of emerging governance structures, a growing service economy and new forms of political engagement.
The Urban Age South America was organised in association with the State of São Paulo, the Municipality of São Paulo, the University of São Paulo and Centro de Estudo de Politica e Economia do Setor Publico at the Foundation Getulio Vargas. Earlier this year, workshops in São Paulo and London with international and local urban experts analysed the core themes of social exclusion and urban violence, public transport and mobility, and the relationship between urban growth and infrastructure provision.
In parallel to these activities, the second annual Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award identified initiatives in the São Paulo Metropolitan Region encouraging people to take responsibility for their cities and improve the lives of urban citizens. The winner of the US$100,000 award was announced on 3 December 2008 at a reception at the Palácio dos Bandeirantes for the State of São Paulo.