Chair: Carmen Vidal-Hallett

The Architecture and Urbanism Committee is comprised of dedicated individuals from Chicago’s architecture, landscape architecture, and planning community. The committee embraces the new social value of land use as it studies the relationship between the natural and man made environments in North and South America.

Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism was initiated in 2005 when Carmen Vidal-Hallett traveled to Sao Paulo presenting at the time the Chicago Environmental agenda created by Mayor Daley. This committee continues to develop interest exchange with new and present POA members and it is expanding with projects and exchanges with other chapters in Brazil and the US. Most recently we have created connections with the POA Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Chapter.


In December of 2012, Antonio Augusto Verissimo, Project Coordinator at Rio de Janeiro, Secretaria de Habitacao came to Chicago to present “Morar Carioca” (see presentation here), a municipal urban plan to integrate the informal neighborhoods (favelas) in Rio de Janeiro into the formal urban fabric of the City. Mr. Verissimo presented the plan to Chicago City government agencies such as the Department of Planning and Development and the Chicago Housing Authority and many Public Housing professionals. Mr. Verissimo learned about the Chicago Public Housing innovations and planning policies. He also visited Chicago CHA affordable housing projects, “The Plant “(an aquaponics center at at Back of The Yards). Pat Natke and Carmen Vidal-Hallett coordinated his visit in Chicago.


Partners of the Americas and the United States Department of State offered a Small Business fellowship to EcoVidalDesign, Inc. President Carmen Vidal-Hallett to work on the Rio de Janeiro State Department  INEA. During her 2-month fellowship, she proposed to the Green Economy Secretary to start the  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development certification for  the first Rio de Janeiro Green District. She also learned about the environmental remediation of  “Gramacho” in Rio de Janeiro which  is one of the largest land fields  in Latin America and the subject of an Oscar nominated film titled “ Wasteland”.


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On October 28-30th, 2010 Chicago Partners of the Americas Illinois-Sao Paulo chapter presented “Real Cities: A Symposium on Brazilian Urbanism.” We welcomed some of the best architects and urban planners from Brazil including Jaime Lerner, Jorge Wilheim, Rosa Kliass, Fernanda Barbara and Marcelo Aflalo, architect and curator of the exhibit.

Among many projects, the exhibit included urban design proposals for a Sao Paulo Pinheiros river edge, a solution for a Brasilia neighborhood and alternative transportation proposals for the Rio Olympics by Jaime Lerner and Jorge Wilheim. Rosa Kliass’s work included a spectacular landscaping proposal for a former prison site in Sao Paulo and the pedestrian  urban  design for the Anhamgabau Valley in Sao Paulo. Fernanda Barbara and Fabio Valentim presented and exhibited interesting transportation projects along prominent corridors vital to Sao Paulo improving the caotic Sao Paulo traffic and transit  conditions.

On the third day, the Symposium took place at the South Side Community Arts Center on south Michigan Avenue, focusing on public housing in the U.S. and Brazil. The setting was closer to the reality of a U.S. low-income neighborhood and it gave a completely different perspective to our Brazilian guests. This third day exhibit was curated and coordinated by Drea Howenstein and Marcelo Aflalo.


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Paranapiacaba Workshop was an intense 4-day charette from March 26 to March 29th, 2010 with the local Sao Paulo   English  historic  Villa. Urban design  professionals from Sao Paulo and Illinois, academics and Municipal officials developed a  “Vision “ for the villa’s  restoration and recovery.The results included two important parts:

1) The “Big Idea” to create “Paranapiacaba West”, a green, technology-oriented town, along the railroad with an economic development model. The core of this concept is to respond to urban growth demand  with sustainable urban development reactivating the historic railroad and at the same time  generating tax increment finance to restore the historic Paranapiacaba Vila.

2) Paranapiacaba Vila Urban Development. Recommendations for the historic restoration of the villa and it’s economic development as a touristic, cultural and ecological site.

Illinois POA members|architects included: Pat Natke, Brad Lynch, Christine Smyrski, Alicia Ponce, Federico Vidargas and Carmen Vidal-Hallett. Sao Paulo POA members|architects included Mare de Campos and Lucio Fleury.


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Mare de Campos, a Brazilian architect and Sao Paulo POA member, volunteer to coordinate one of the largest projects of the sustainable architecture and urban planning committee. She prepared during 2009 the coordination  of the Paranapiacaba  Workshop including government officials, community leaders and the Sao Paulo Rail Road transportation representatives. She also contacted local historians, ecologists and preservation architects to participate in the 2010 Paranapiacaba Workshop. She visited the Villa several times and prepared a report of existing conditions for discussion with Chicago architects during her  travel grant in 2009 to Chicago.

Existing Conditions of the City of Paranciapaba, Brazil –Photography and Powerpoint

The Illinois chapter also organized a large fundraiser this year in order to fund the trip of a team of 8 Chicago architects to the Paranapiacaba Workshop in March of 2010.


2009 “Mundo Verde” Green Collar jobs debate

Green World-Mundo Verde

2009 “Mundo Verde” Green Collar jobs debate

Mundo Verde is an International symposium about sustainable initiatives and green building solutions in Chicago initiated in 2009 by Illinois POA and that has become an annual event most recently sponsored by HACIA.

Sponsors of this 2009 event included HACIAInstituto CervantesUSGBC, Spain Green  Building Council and several architecture and urban planning companies in Chicago. Several workshops and presentations took place including the USGBC LEED requirements, sustainable stormwater management practices, and an enrichment debate about green collar jobs.


During his visit to Chicago Jorge Wilheim was most impressed with the CHA transformation plan  CHANGE. He meet during his visit prominent architects Jeany Gang and Pat Natke, Principal Founder of Urban Works architecture. Her company completed several CHA  transformation developments. In 2007 the Sao Paulo chapter invited Ms. Natke to travel to Sao Paulo to share her projects and learn more about Sao Paulo  City urban changes and development.

CHANGE green buildings in Chicago from Urban Works

CHANGE green buildings in Chicago from Urban Works


Mr. Wilheim was invited to  come to Chicago hosted by POA in November of 2006 and made excellent presentations at the Chicago Architectural Foundation and the University of Illinois Architectural and Urban Planning Schools about Cities in Brazil including several of his most recent works. Mr. Wilheim was especially interested in the Chicago CHA transformation and the revitalization of Chicago’s downtown.


In 2005, the Illinois POA board invite Carmen Vidal-Hallett to make a presentation about the project “Sustainability in the Big City: What Chicago can learn from Curitiba. At the time Carmen was working at the City of Chicago Department of Planning working on the Mayor’s Green Team. Illinois POA invited Carmen to start an exchange with Sao Paulo in sustainable architecture and Urban Planning. She traveled to Sao Paulo and presented  the first  the Chicago Environmental Agenda. She also introduced to Sao Paulo professionals the US Green Building Council and the LEED certification process. Carmen learned in this trip about many green initiatives in Sao Paulo and Botucatu.

During this trip Carmen discovered  an important environmental document: Sao Paulo Comprehensive Plan 2002-2012 (Plano Diretor) by Jorge Wilheim. Mr. Wilheim was the original creator of the famous Curitiba plan in the late 1960’s and the Sao Paulo Comprehensive Plan was equally impressive.