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?
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.
Young has taught internationally at the Architectural Association, Princeton University, and now runs the groundbreaking MA in Fiction and Entertainment at Sci Arc in Los Angles. His narrative approach sits between documentary and fiction as he focuses on projects that aim to reveal the invisible connections and systems that make the modern world work. Young manages his time between exploring distant landscapes and prototyping the future worlds he extrapolates from them.
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."
Famed for their use of reconstituted materials and overlooked locations, recent and current projects from Assemble include the transformation of a series of found historic, listed and infrastructural spaces into a new public art gallery for Goldsmiths University, due to be completed in September 2018; the refurbishment of the entrance to the Seven Sisters Underground Station, requiring the production of over a thousand handmade tiles; and the refurbishment of ten derelict terrace houses in Liverpool following a twenty-year battle by local residents to save the houses from demolition.
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.
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.
Carme Pinós combines work as an architect with teaching, and is actively involved her in the development and delivery of seminars, courses and workshops worldwide. She has been guest professor at several higher education institutions, including the IUAV of Venice, Architecture Schools of Paris, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Columbia University in New York, l’Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, Accademia di Archittetura di Mendrisio in Switzerland, Universitá di Roma Tre in Italy, among others.
In 2016 she was awarded the Richard J. Neutra Medal for Professional Excellence by the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, in recognition of her career. She received the 2016 Berkeley-Rupp Architecture Professorship and Prize valuing her contribution to promoting the advancement of women in the field of architecture and her commitment to the community. In 2015 she was honoured with the Creu de Sant Jordi Medal, one of the highest civil distinctions awarded by the Catalan Government to individuals and organisations for their cultural and social services. She received the First Prize at the 2008 Spanish Biennial of Architecture, the National Award for Public Architecture by the Catalan Government in 2008, and the National Architecture Award by the High Council of Spanish Architects.
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.
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.
SANAA’s work includes the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City and the Louvre Lens, an outpost of the Musée du Louvre, in Lens, northern France. Nishizawa’s significant projects include the five-storey Garden and House in a commercial district of Tokyo and the Hiroshi Senjyu Museum in Nagano, Japan. Amongst current projects is the expansion of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
“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.
Columbia’s Saskia Sassen talks about how we can combat the rampant, invisible capital that have turned cities from habitats to sites of investment; while Liam Young, director at urban futures think-thank Tomorrow's Thoughts Today, questions the near-implicit understanding that all new technology “must” be a good thing (and how we can get agency into the equation); and creative collective Assemble tells the Forum of a new way to directly involve residents in grass-roots urban revitalisation initiatives.
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.
Other Architects’s David Neustein and Uro's Andrew Mackenzie were the moderators of this discussion.
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.
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.
Design is the catalyst
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 revitalize a part of the city. Importantly, design is not an applied ‘layer’, but is rather the strategic driver behind the entire urban development.
Panel starts at 34 minutes
Morning Session, 9.15am–12.30pm
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.
What does culture look like?
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. Focussing on Shenzhen projects, the Foundation raises funds to support young designers and researchers and connects them with key industry mentors
Rory Hyde will provide 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, this book will include a series of real world case studies from the frontier of civic governance and design.
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 recognized 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.
Active beyond his practice, he has co-curated the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale, and was the commissioner and co-curator of the Korean Pavilion for the 14th International Architecture Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia, which was awarded the Gold Lion for Best National Participation. In late 2014, PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, held their first ever architecture exhibition, highlighting his works in a solo exhibition titled "Before/After: Mass Studies Does Architecture."
‘City of People’
The afternoon session will pull the focus into the fine grain of human experience, social forms and community identity. It will investigate 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 attempt to construct a more personal account of what a truly liveable city looks like.