Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Resilient Cities at WPSC

Resilience thinking: dramatically cutting carbon in the next decades and improving liveability - were themes of Peter Newman's presentation at the World Planning Schools Congress. Human place-based development of neighbourhoods, with sustainable densities, and balancing transport with (pedestrian) liveability, also involves reducing motor use. Scores of large cities in China and India currently building metro systems are cited as an example of a transformation towards transit oriented development. Resilience as a concept comes from a new urgency towards making sustainability principles practically feasible in a shorter term future.

There are a lot of buzzwords and shorthand terms especially in these planning policy debates. However a geographically localised approach seems to be needed, analysing and agreeing with local stakeholders on the basic principles for social and environmental sustainability of a neighbourhood. Seems good in theory; how will we take up these themes in architectural and planning education and in professional development?

Talking Streets at the WPSC

'People' and 'place identity' - these have been appeared often as themes in talks here at the World Planning Schools Congress in Perth. The session into which my presentation was allocated yesterday, Urban Landscape, Morphology and Industrial Heritage, was concerned with urban landscape as a 'memory carrier' (Andreas Wesener), as a site of urban rituals (Gabriella Quintana) and as a 'place', as a meaningful space in the perceptions of diverse street users (my own paper).

How do planners and urbanists extend the range of users with whom they work? Co-location and co-operation with these more diverse 'stakeholders' would be one way for urban researchers to better embed themselves in urban analysis of place. Quintana's work in a barrio with a Catholic priest who is respected by both criminal gangs and religious parade organisers suggests an intervening agent might help. Wesener's 'empirical' work on memory with J.P Thibaud's Parcours Commentee (2001) walking interview method could be considered alongside Kuninbach's (2003) Go Along method and Sarah Pink's video interviews (2007). I am interested in accessing 'hard to reach' stakeholders. Children using inner city mixed-use streets would be an example.

Felicity Morel-Ednie Brown today talked about the pre-capitalist city that was the basis of colonial Perth in 1829 (Williamsburg was the first and Perth the last colonial capitol city) and the current search for authenticity. William Street has become the gay and lesbian sector of Perth. The notion of authenticity is problematic authentic v pastiche - sense of home (naming Padbury walk as a reference to Mr Padbury was an example of pastiche - How can we understand London Court - or Hyde Park or Kings Park or 'Swan' River or 'Perth' for that matter as any more authentic?

Cliff Hague, who wrote Place Identity, Participation and Planning - noted in the session that place is contested, there are winners and losers. Political and Market forces constantly reshape places. A paper by Dave Hedgcock, comparing Italian and Australian planning education systems, pointed out that the Italian Urbanista role lacks the professional-political independence enjoyed by the Australian City Planner role. Perth has recently published a vision for 2031 (subsequent to Weller's book Boomtown 2020). "Perth is finally becoming a city", said Antony Ednie-Brown afterwards, in a passing comment.