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The Visible City: new voices in urban renewal 5-25 November

DESIGN Canberra is about merging architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, economic development, visual and festive arts, and natural and cultural history, to produce places where people choose to go
DESIGN Canberra is about merging architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, economic development, visual and festive arts, and natural and cultural history, to produce places where people choose to go

How can Canberra’s contemporary urban renewal efforts make visible our city’s distinctive design identity, inclusive processes and the hopes and dreams of our community?

The Visible City, a new DESIGN Canberra series of events, bring together international, inspirational and sometimes radical perspectives with contemporary case studies in urban renewal to inform and inspire decision makers and everyday citizens.

The Visible City is based on the premise that decisions made about the future of our city reflect the values of the community at a moment in time. Our cities are “a shared canvas of diverse life stories” according to Gweneth Newman Leigh, who was invited by DESIGN Canberra to conceive the context for the series, based on her extensive experience as a respected landscape architect, freelance writer and curator.

“Our plazas, parks and streets have long been the backdrop designed to facilitate people’s engagement in public life. The origins of public space date back to Ancient Greece, where gathering in the agora for public discussions and political conversations was an obligation of being a citizen.

“In the 19th century, leaders like Frederick Law Olmsted proposed that the health of a community was directly linked to the design quality of its urban spaces. Through his designs for places like Central Park, open space was proposed as a spiritual salve to society’s ills,” Newman Leigh says.

However, today’s public spaces have new and probably more complex expectations beyond their early promotion of civic engagement and healthy spirits.

Visible City

“We require our public realm to generate revenue, fight climate change, mitigate summer heat, absorb stormwater, promote democracy, welcome wildlife and support community.

The way it’s designed also requires an enormous amount of capital, time and collaboration. Embodied in these decisions are the values of a community at that point in time, made manifest in the symbolic form of its buildings and landscapes.”

Newman Leigh explains that our public spaces are a reflection of the society that creates them, which is why it’s so important for the community to contribute to debates about the future of our CBD, like The Visible City series in DESIGN Canberra.

“Canberra is a city undergoing huge transitions in its form and function. Like with many other cities around the world, the combination of an increasing population and technology innovation are making visible new patterns of use and purpose within a city’s footprint,” she says.

She’s talking about driverless cars, new models of housing and the restructuring of university campuses to accommodate online learning.

Newman Leigh is however keen for us to consider the many other processes that are not as physically obvious but still equally transformative, such as governance, advocacy, inclusion, and innovation.

“How can we make visible the many important processes and functions embodied within our cities and questioning – or celebrating – what we see? Do we agree with the values they embody? What would we change? What do the decisions we embrace now mean for the future?”

Through the establishment of the City Renewal Authority, the ACT Government has committed to delivering high quality public spaces through placemaking activities that are human-centred and reward design excellence and innovation. The DESIGN Canberra festival (5-25 November 2018) is an ideal forum to explore some of these ideas.

According to Rachael Coghlan chief executive officer of Craft ACT and artistic director of DESIGN Canberra 2018 2018, is a critical time in the development of Canberra’s city centre with the establishment of the City Renewal Authority.

“Our CBD needs energising and revitalisation to create a new standard in city living, urban quality, sustainability and resilience commensurate with Canberra as a global city of design,” Coghlan says.

“The vision of the DESIGN Canberra festival and the art of placemaking go hand-in-hand: merging architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, economic development, visual and festive arts, and natural and cultural history, to produce places where people choose to go.”

Visible City

The low down

The Visible City series includes three events, one in each week of the festival.

The first forum explores architecture as public art, an opportunity to hear from James Carpenter (an internationally renowned architect and artist who has works at the intersection of architecture, art, and design) and award-winning architect Philip Vivian.

Renewal for social inclusion is the focus for the second forum, taking up Newman Leigh’s interest in how we can we make visible the many important processes and functions embodied within our city which are not as physically obvious but still equally transformative – governance, advocacy, inclusion, innovation?

Guest speakers include Greg Grabasch, a landscape architect with a focus on community development within public and Aboriginal organisational realms, and Fiona Smith du Toit, an urban design manager and senior architect experienced in complex transport and infrastructure projects.

The City Hill Visible City forum explores community-led renewal, asking “How do we make visible – within the city centre – the hopes and dreams of the community in an ongoing and tangible way?” Guest speakers include: Anne Ouellette, Daily Tous Les Jours (Montreal), best known for work in public spaces, where passing crowds are invited to play a critical role in the transformation of their environment and their relationships; ACT Government architect Catherine Townsend; and Annalisa Rosso, freelance design journalist and independent curator based in Milan.

Visible City

Each forum will be hosted by Alex Sloan – an award-winning journalist, broadcaster and advocate for design excellence with an abiding interest in planning and architecture in the Canberra context.

The Visible City series is presented as part of the 2018 DESIGN Canberra festival. The final two events in the series have been supported by the ACT Government through the City Renewal Authority’s City Grants Program.

Details

  • Architecture as public art
    • How do we make visible Canberra’s distinct design identity within the city’s footprint?
      • Friday 9 November, 3.30-5pm
      • Venue: Vibe Hotel
        • James Carpenter, internationally renowned architect/artist who has works at the intersection of architecture, art, and design
        • Philip Vivian, design director of Bates Smart, award-winning architecture practice with studios in Sydney and Melbourne.
      • Renewal for social inclusion
        • How can we make visible the many important processes and functions embodied within our city which are not as physically obvious but still equally transformative – governance, advocacy, inclusion, innovation?
        • Thursday 15 November, 3.30-5pm
        • Venue: Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre
          • Greg Grabasch, UDLA Freemantle, landscape architect with a focus on community development initiatives within public and Aboriginal organisational realms.
          • Fiona Smith du Toit. Urban Design manager and senior architect experienced in complex transport and infrastructure projects 

The Visible City series is presented as part of the 2018 DESIGN Canberra festival. This forum is supported by the ACT Government through the City Renewal Authority’s City Grants Program.

  • Community-led renewal
    • How do we make visible – within the city centre – the hopes and dreams of the community in an ongoing and tangible way?
      • Thursday 22 November, 12.30-2pm
      • Venue: City Hill
        • Anne Ouellette, Daily tous les jours (Montreal), best known for its work in public spaces, where passing crowds are invited to play a critical role in the transformation of their environment and their relationships
        • Catherine Townsend – ACT Government Architect
        • Annalisa Rosso, freelance design journalist and independent curator based in Milan

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