Category Archives: Published papers

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

The next generation Design Council

On 1 April 2011 the British Design Council merged with CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment). The merge was a result of the UK Government’s review of public bodies in a bid to cut public spending.

Just today the Design Council published on its website a joint vision it now shares CABE stating that together they will bring a stronger voice to architecture and design and endeavour to “put design at the heart of Britain’s social and economic renewal.”

Cover of the Design Council and CABE’s vision document.
Click to download a pdf

While changes take place, the next generation Design Council will no doubt continue as a source of design inspiration and knowledge around the world.

It was in 2002 that I first became aware of the Design Council. I have a particular Creative Director to thank for this because knowing of the Design Council significantly shaped my journey in design over the past 9 years.

Since 2002 I have followed the activities of the Design Council. They have been an international leader and pioneer in providing designers and design companies unprecedented opportunities to show their value and potential in a broad range of contexts.

I was so inspired by the work of the Design Council that for my final year major project in my Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication) degree at UTS (University of Technology Sydney) I created a hypothetical Design Council for Australia (or ‘DC of A’ as my friend Ben nicknamed it).

Design Council of Australia logo I developed in 2002

At the time I had a huge interest in the intersection of design and business. My hypothetical DC of A would be a body that would inform business organisations about design. In my research, I discovered that the George Bernard Shaw quote “England and America are two countries separated by a common language” could not be more accurate when trying to bring design and business together. The disciplines have very different vocabularies, and this often impedes the potential for them to work well together. The DC of A would endeavour to bridge this divide by speaking to business about the value of design.

The first step in creating a DC of A was to raise its awareness among business and the public. For my major project I created a series of billboard advertisements that played on common vocabularies of design and business. Here are some examples.


‘Zero point 2-5’ billboard was part of an awareness campaign
for the Design Council of Australia

‘The right portfolio’ billboard was part of an awareness campaign
for the Design Council of Australia

After my Bachelor of Design at UTS I went to study a Master of Business (at Sydney University). When I was at Business School I found many spaces for design but it was challenging to bridge that divide in a few essays and a dissertation. Even more challenging was to align business thinkers with design. I did end up working in the area of organisational innovation post-Masters degree, but the Design Council led me to another area that I was, and still am, keen to explore.

Since 2007 I have worked with the Design Council undertaking academic research to help understand better new areas of design, namely that of designing services in the public and social sectors. The Design Council had run the design innovation program, Dott 07 (Designs of the Time 2007), and for the past 4 years I have been looking at Dott 07 investigating what designers have been doing in the context of using design to address social, economic and environmental issues.


Today, my research and journey with design continues, raising new questions, new contexts and new insights into the potential for design. I will certainly be following the next generation of the Design Council (you can too at their website, on Twitter or Facebook) as its continues inspiring and widening the role and influence of design, not just in the UK, but also the world.

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