Category Archives: Environment

Speculative scenarios for Australia’s urban future

Last night I attended the Sydney Design festival event, Designing Urban Futures, both a short film and talk on speculative scenarios for Australia’s urban future.

Photography by John Gollings  from the film, NOW and WHEN

The short film is titled, NOW and WHEN: Australian Urbanism, and presents 17 provocative and evocative scenarios for Australia’s future natural and build environment. The film was part of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010 and between 2 July and 25 September this year it will be playing (admission is free) at the Object Gallery (417 Bourke Street, Surry Hills). The film was created with 3D film technology, using projected photography and computer generated simulations, so the film experience is amazing. But equally as incredible are the speculative scenarios which are both alluring and also alarming. Here are some brief synopsis (from the NOW and WHEN pamphlet) of a few of these scenarios:

The Oceanic City
Built on biomimetic practices, is a floating group of mobile and modular ‘pods’ inspired by the separate organisms found in a bluebottle. The city of Siph sits safely under the water and rises to the surface when the weather permits to soak up the sunshine and provides power and photosynthesis. Ocean current, tides, waves and winds provide natural energy. Most importantly, the mobile nature of the city allows it to respond and change in harmony with the surrounding natural environment.

Film by: Arup

Image from The Oceanic City

Terra Form Australis
Proposes an Australia in which a vast larger population is accommodate on the continent. Through massive terra-intervention, a channel that allows seawater to flood the low-lying areas of the interior alleviates limited to urban growth and permits new sustainable cities to be built. Powered by 100% renewable energy, these new cities are in balance with native biodiversity – as well as being globally networked, diverse, and inclusive

Film by: HASSELL, Holopoint and The Environment Institute

Image from Terra Form Australis

Fear Free City
Is a city in which inhabitants no longer fear stepping from the private to the public realm. Movement is not limited to the ground level but rather pervades the volume through multi-level public spaces and visible links across and between all levels. Rather then ‘escaping’ from the city to the suburbs, this vision wants to liberate people from the fear of the city by offering infinite possibilities of urban choice.

Film by: Justyna Karakiewicz, Tom Kvan and Steve Hatzellis, Melbourne School of Design

Image from Fear Free City

After the film, a short talk was give by Arup’s Tim Jarvis, a well-known polar explorer, environmentalist and member of Arup’s sustainability team. He discussed our current global predicament in terms of sustainability highlighting the three most critical global issues of today as water, food and loss of biodiversity. He also spoke at length about urbanism and the impact this will have by 2050 when 75% of the 9 billion people who will live on earth, will live in cities.

To deal with these situations we have to move toward smarter uses of our natural resources, more intelligent thinking and solutions. Tim spoke of some exemplar models that already exist such as urban farming, renewable energy technology and last year’s appointment of a Commissioner for Integrated Design in South Australia. A role in state government which has a:

“key objective… to advocate the value of design and assume a whole of government (local and state) approach in advocating for, and advising on, ways to achieve excellence in the designed environment through an intelligent investment approach.

This kind of role (I hope) will inject more design thinking at a policy level to address the complexity and scale of problems requiring multiple stakeholder involvement, connection of systems and relationships, considered decisions for our artificial and built environment and also exploring, prototyping and implementing sustainable solutions for Australia’s future.

This is what I see the relevance of Dott 07 (my PhD case study) to be here in Australia. As exemplary models for sustainability in areas such as urban farming, reducing carbon consumption and increasing mobility (without putting more vehicles on the road) among other things. But I’ll have to write about those another day, for another post.

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Filed under Environment, Published papers, Sydney and Australia