Current Issue #488

FAD: A Better City with Charles Wolfe

FAD: A Better City with Charles Wolfe

Author of Seeing the Better City , Seattle urbanist and lawyer Charles Wolfe will host two events about observing and exploring cities.

What was the catalyst to forming the Seeing Better Cities Group?
I wanted to create a means to implement the core principles of Seeing the Better City as set out in the book and recent articles: going beyond urban observation for observation’s sake and translating our visual sense in an empowering way to policy, plans and regulations. I could not easily do so under the umbrella of my American law practice. It has borne fruit by forging some relationships with Australian cities and universities and an opportunity in Sweden later in the year.

To you, how important are urban diaries to improving the conversation around growing and evolving cities?
Very; fundamentally; critically. Urban diaries are a scalable tool for learning to see and talk about what we like and don’t like. They go beyond mere words. They are  empowering and don’t need to be directed by professionals.

Have real world observations been lost somewhat when it comes to urban planning? Absolutely. To achieve the cities we want, we have to know what they will look like. When we focus on studies, metrics and apps, we forget they are the means to an end. Seeing is elemental, and photographs have the ability to both inspire and provide data. Consider my book cover. It’s both a coffee table photo of the Paris Opera and a photo eligible for data mining to determine how happy people are on Avenue de l’Opera!

What conversations do you want to start or contribute to when you’re in Adelaide?
It is an honour to come to Adelaide after writing about Picture Adelaide many times. I want to help people learn how to recognise the best and worst of urban change, to be able to talk about it in a civil manner and to use their interest and aptitude not just to engage in vitriol-based battles of yes and no, but to better contribute to how their city evolves. This includes not just citizens but professionals and elected officials as well. I like a conversation which includes, “let me show you what I mean”.

Charles Wolfe

Seeing the Better City
Friday, October 6 – 10am
Open State Hub, Victoria Square

Exploring the City
Saturday, October 7 – 10am
Open State Hub, Victoria Square


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