Investigating the theme Shaping Society, the 2018 Living Cities Forum invited attendees to a gathering of illustrious architects and global design thinkers. Building on the success of its inaugural 2017 program, the Forum will question the role of design in changing and bettering society. How do history, geography, climate and culture contribute to making a better city? Do generous buildings and thoughtful spaces make good citizens or encourage inclusive communities? And if not, precisely what are urban design and architecture good for?
Ryue Nishizawa is a Tokyo-based architect and the director of Office of Ryue Nishizawa, established in 1997, as well as the co-founder of SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates), established in 1995 with the architect Kazuyo Sejima. In 2010, Ryue became the youngest ever recipient of the Pritzker Prize, awarded to a living architect whose work has significantly contributed to humanity. SANAA won the Golden Lion in 2004 for the most significant work in the Ninth International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.
Carme Pinós set up her own studio in 1991 after winning international recognition for her work with Enric Miralles. Since then, she has worked on numerous projects ranging from urban refurbishments and public works to furniture design. Her sharp approach to design, anchored by a constant focus on experimentation and research, has made her work garner worldwide recognition at the same time that Barcelona architecture has cemented its own identity and reputation throughout Europe and South and North America.
In a design world often dominated by globally recognisable branded celebrities, the London-based creative collective Assemble actively resists the historical cliche of the lone genius. Established in 2010 the group has built a reputation for championing collaborative working practices, and in particular working with the public as participants in a range of ongoing design projects. Working across the fields of art, architecture and design, Assemble were the unexpected winners of the 2015 Turner Prize, Europe’s most prestigious contemporary art prize, for their on-going project Granby Four Streets, which was described by the jury as “a ground-up approach to regeneration, city planning and development in opposition to corporate gentrification." Assemble’s Jane Hall and Audrey Thomas-Hayes shared a brief overview of their methodology and the collective’s projects.
Australian-born architect, filmmaker and performer Liam Young is the founder of the urban futures think tank Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today as well as the award-winning nomadic workshop Unknown Fields Division. At the core of Young’s multidisciplinary practice is a continuous interrogation of the present realities of cities to imagine possible future urbanisms.
Saskia Sassen is a world renowned sociologist, urban thinker and keen observer of the interplay of economics and society. For over three decades her prodigious publication output has consistently countered the assumed narratives of globalisation. Most recently her writing has challenged the idea of globalisation as a placeless and monolithic phenomenon, in order to explore its specific on-ground and territorial effects. She is the author of eight books published in over 20 languages, editor or co-editor of three books, and is a prolific media commentator.
Nicholas Lobo Brennan is co-founder of Apparata Architects with Astrid Smitham. Apparata Architects is a studio for architecture, design and research. They design and construct buildings, furniture and books: tools for everyday life that open up unknown possibilities. Completed projects include the restructuring of a vacated listed Carnegie Library in Manor Park, London, into a new form of public arts and studio space. Current projects include a new artists co-housing block with workshops and public events hall. Nicholas was awarded the Swiss Art Award 2012 and his work was nominated for the 2016 Chernikov Prize. He has lectured across Europe, led a studio at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam, and has taught at ETH Zurich. He currently leads a studio at the Royal College of Art.
“The house is on fire… take what you can” is one thought offered at the opening panel of the 2018 Living Cities Forum. Spoken by speculative architect, Liam Young, this idea was one of many thrown into the Forum’s morning sessions charting perspectives on global capital, the demise of the post-war social housing contract, and the dangers of technology’s unrelenting forward march, among others. While this combination makes for an otherwise gloomy start to thinking about urban futures, don’t fret—there are solutions to the disruption that seems to define this era.
Buildings are physical frameworks for life and occupation. At best, buildings facilitate our needs, shape new experiences and provide a platform for future uses. Each panellist of the second and final discussion at the Living Cities Forum have each facilitated these needs in various forms. From creative collective Assemble’s guerilla-style urban revitalisation; to architect Carme Pinós’s refusal to build structures that only respond to egos; to the subtle, often incremental policy work of people like Nicholas Lobo Brennan; or the urbanist eight-ball of Liam Young, each speaker shared indelible insights that offered some answers to the concerns of urban life in 2018.
The Living Cities Forum 2017 brought together leading international architects and urban thinkers to consider the factors that determine a healthy and vibrant city. How does history, geography, climate and culture contribute to making a better city? What role can design professionals play in the city’s evolution, and how do designers respond to shifting political contexts, while engaging with a diversity of users? The invited speakers shared their intimate knowledge of diverse cities, from London to Hong Kong and from Barcelona to Los Angeles, offering a unique opportunity to place the debates about Melbourne’s future in the context of a global urban discussion.
What drives good urban outcomes? This is a particularly complex question in the context of post-industrial inner city areas, where conventional development models often don’t stack up. The old much-loved football stadium of Feyenoord, which no longer fulfils modern demands, is a good example, situated within Rotterdam's old port area; one of the poorest areas in the country. Gianotten will share the principles behind OMA’s ambitious plan to use a new stadium and its urban surroundings as a catalyst to revitalise a part of the city. Importantly, design is not an applied ‘layer’, but is rather the strategic driver behind the entire urban development.
Rory Hyde provided a sneak preview of his new manual of social, infrastructural, public and domestic strategies for producing diverse, open, inclusive and equitable cities. With a current working title of How to Make the Next City, his forthcoming book will include a series of real world case studies from the frontier of civic governance and design.
Cities are transformed by technology. The elevator and the steel beam helped turn the nineteenth century city into a landscape of high-rise towers, while the car allowed it to thin-out and sprawl a century later. How will today’s digital technology also transform our cities? For Dan Hill the city should’t be viewed through the binary lens of virtual space and the ‘real world’, but rather through a holistic approach to urban thinking. For Hill we have an unparalleled opportunity to transform our cities through the use of “contemporary and forthcoming technologies, allied to appropriately human-centred design and decision-making cultures.”
From a collection of historical and imagined utopias for Los Angeles—like the early 20th century Llano del Rio community to the 2013 film Her—Zeiger pairs these utopian examples with present conditions in the city that provide insight into the ideals and challenges of liveability. Each of the pairings will correspond with a particular factor of liveability, such as: housing, health, culture, infrastructure, environment.
This presentation contrasts the high-culture development of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon District with the emerging sub-cultures of Shenzhen. As curator of ‘Bring Your Own Biennale’, the 2009 Hong Kong Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Marisa Yiu explored how design can mobilise communities and create bridges between diverse user groups. Yiu now helms the Future Vision Foundation, an NGO lead by Design Trust Hong Kong and London’s Royal College of Art.
Minsuk Cho is an architect and founder of Seoul-based firm Mass Studies. Cho has been committed to the discourse of architecture through socio-cultural and urban research and mostly built works, which have been recognised globally, with representative works including the Pixel House, Missing Matrix, Bundle Matrix: S-Trenue, Ann Demeulemeester Shop, Korea Pavilion: 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and Daum Space.1, Osulloc: Tea Stone/Innisfree, Southcape: Clubhouse, and Dome-ino.
Cities such as Melbourne have the potential to be healthy, dynamic and prosperous, but they can also suffer from neglect, over-crowding and poor planning. The morning session will investigate the major factors that define and enable a city to meet the needs and aspirations of its citizens. Our three speakers will consider the role of technology and infrastructure, as well as data and demography, in understanding and designing a better city. In short, this session will look at the city from a macro perspective.
The 2017 Forum's final panel pulled the focus into the fine grain of human experience, social forms and community identity. It investigated the tensions that exist between how cities grow, adapt and change to meet new circumstances (while protecting those qualities and attributes of a city—call it the urban DNA—that are critical to its identity and social form). Viewed through the lens of how cities are experienced and inhabited, this session will posited a more personal account of what a truly “liveable” city looks like.