In the wake of Open State and FAD Festival, now is the right time to continue the conversation about what we need from our cities in the future and the people who will be making them, as part of World Town Planning Day (WPTP), to be held globally on Wednesday, November 8, in more than 30 countries.
The worldwide event, which began in 1949, has, until this year, been run by an international steering committee led by the Canadian Institute of Planning (CIP), with a new theme announced annually. This year, however, the CIP will be independently hosting a World Town Planning Day Online Conference from Monday, November 6 to Friday, November 10, which will consist of a series of online presentations showcasing innovative planning practices from Canada and around the world.
This theme of innovation is an ever-expanding, and now pervasive, concept through much of the architecture and design communities, but leads to the question: what is an innovative city?
In a similar vein to provocative and revolutionary urban activists like Jane Jacobs, who arguably saved New York and Manhattan from the big-thinking, but often destructive regeneration plans of developers such as Robert Moses, one has to ask what type of cities we need for how we live now and in the future.
As Jo Cys, Head of School at UniSA’s School of Art, Architecture and Design points out, the recently updated 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide, and the SA Government’s new Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act (2016) both “prioritise and provide for quality design practices and processes in the consultation, decision-making, planning, procurement and creation of precincts, neighbourhoods, streets, public spaces and buildings”.
“Community-focused design is clearly valued in these critical guideline and legislative documents and signal a real increase in the value placed upon design in the creation of our future urban spaces, and the sustainable development of our existing environment,” says Cys, who is keen to further develop the teaching and learning aspects of the school.
One recent innovation that has happened locally on this front is the transition of UniSA’s Urban and Regional Planning School to the City West campus, to be situated with the university’s other architecture and design programs.
The move is a ground level step towards giving students “the opportunity to study collaboratively with their peers from architecture and design programs,” says Cycs. “This will ensure that they can gain critical design awareness, capabilities and collaborative skills that will be highly professionally relevant for their future careers as planners.”
For Johannes Pieters, Program Director of Urban and Regional Planning at UniSA, who was also a judge on this year’s FORM INNOVATION AWARDS, the importance of recognising and supporting innovation locally is fundamental. “While large-scale iconic projects get a lot of attention it’s often through smaller scale projects that local planners get the opportunity to produce innovative designs and develop their engagement skills through co-design with local communities,” he says.
“While urbanisation is the key process impacting on existing cities and is driving the development of new cities all around the world each country and region faces different geographical, topographical, climate, infrastructure and economic challenges,” Pieters says. “They are coming up with ways of meeting these challenges through different urban design, governance, regulatory and market based approaches to create liveable, healthy and socially inclusive cities — we can learn from each other and help to build a body of knowledge that transcends contexts’.
Perhaps here lies the answer to a question about the future of cities, whereby we can transcend smaller siloed conceptions of city making, and move towards universally inclusive, holistic and liveable ideas that can be translated locally and authentically into our city of the future.