Living Cities Forum 2019: Future Needs

The Living Cities Forum 2019 will be divided into two main sessions—titled Tomorrow’s city and Latent conditions— engaging speakers in individual presentations followed by panel discussions and audience Q&A, providing the local design community an opportunity to connect with international thought leadership.    

Please be advised session details may change. Sign up to our newsletter for all the latest on the Living Cities Forum.

Living Cities Forum Sydney is supported by Create NSW. Deputy Secretary Alex O’Mara commented: “We’re delighted to be involved in such a forward-thinking forum with such fantastic speakers on living cities, great design and public spaces. The approach aligns with the approach in our Cultural Infrastructure Plan 2025+ to deliver new opportunities for cultural participation across the State."

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Tuesday 28 May 2019

7.45 - 8.30


Doors open for registration and light refreshment service until commencement of Session One.

8.30 - 12.15

Session One: Tomorrow’s City

Glenn Murcutt AO in conversation with architect and educator Shelley Penn; presentations by Christopher Hawthorne, and Rachaporn Choochuey, followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A moderated by Andrew Mackenzie. The session will include a morning tea break with refreshments served.

Australia’s population is both growing and ageing, the climate is deteriorating, there’s increasing pressure on resources and we are left to contend with existing buildings and infrastructure. If design is about solving problems, then the problem-riddled current era should be a golden age for design.

Of course, design processes of all types and scales are themselves under duress. The accelerated pace of political cycles, global warming, migration and communication contribute to the perception of a much more unstable and dynamic world. Designers are now asked to provide answers before the question has even been formulated.

What is clear is that we can no longer design for the challenges of the present. Tomorrow’s realities are today’s design problems. We can’t just talk about making a more walkable city, for example, without also thinking about mitigating extreme heatwaves, capturing and conserving water and balancing density with overcrowding.

In session one, three unique and very different design experts will present postcards from tomorrow’s city. We’ll hear from Australia’s most esteemed architect about leaving a legacy in main cities and regional towns, explore informality, reuse and resilience with a rising star of Thai architecture, and learn about LA’s plans to renew its river from the city’s first chief design officer. This session will reframe tomorrow’s complications and constraints as opportunities for creativity, collectivity and innovation.

12.15 - 1.00

Lunch Break

Participants are welcome to stay inside the venue for a light lunch provided, or step out and return for Session Two.

1.00 - 4.30

Session Two: Latent Conditions

Presentations by Mabel O. Wilson, Adrian Lahoud and Catherine Mosbach, followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A, moderated by Prof Francesca Hughes. The session will include an afternoon tea break with refreshments served.

The landscape of the future is under our feet. In a very literal sense, whether we keep fossil fuels in the ground or extract them, care for or neglect soil and groundwater, and reduce or increase our built footprint will in large part determine our future. Moreover, any plans for the future must straddle the uneven terrain—potholed with race, class, wealth and wellbeing disparities—that is the legacy of colonialism. 

If we sift this complex surface for clues, might we find that the injustices of the past inform our blueprints for an equitable future? And if we look carefully enough, will we also see the outline of an expanded form of design engagement that transcends objects, boundaries, disciplines and ideologies?

In session two, three broad-thinking practitioners will take us on a guided tour of the immediate future. We will observe the residue of labor practices, industrial processes and legal frameworks in the world around us, while also glimpsing the possibilities for radical new ways of understanding and organising our environment that are latent in these very same conditions. Our intrepid guides will be an architect and teacher whose X-ray like research reveals architecture’s inbuilt inequities, a landscape architect who makes visible hidden and temporal layers of occupation, and an academic and curator on a global mission to decolonise design.

4.30 - 6.00

Post-Forum Hospitality

Participants are invited to stay and debrief with hospitality served. 


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Satellite Events—Sydney

Wednesday 29 May: Mabel O. Wilson lecture presented by UTS, 6pm. Learn more.



The Living Cities Forum acknowledges that we gather in Melbourne on the lands of the Kulin Nations, and in Sydney we acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation upon whose ancestral lands our forum is staged. We would also like to pay respect to Elders past, present, and emerging, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for these lands.

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