PLACED | Architectus Think Tank

Posted on 27/03/2009



A project that I have admired since I first heard of it is the Think Tank on Retrofitting Cities for Climate Change. The architectural and urban design company Architectus coordinated and hosted the Think Tank in Sydney in April 2008. It’s a compelling example of industry and design leadership in response to climate and environmental change. Director of Architectus and Convenor of the Think Tank, Caroline Stalker, has produced a comprehensive publication and often speaks about the initiative at seminars. I heard Stalker speak at a Property Council seminar addressing development, property and climate change late last year. At this event, and despite the self-confessed ‘climate sceptic’, I was surprised to learn how responsive this industry was being to climate issues.

The Architectus Think Tank involved more than 40 Australian prominent urban designers, architects and planners working in an immersive and interdisciplinary solutions -finding environment for two days. In her introduction, Stalker said that “various scenarios were considered and solutions offered to deal with the implications of climate change in ourt cites”. Engagement of planning, design and engineering practitioners, while not the whole picture (or system), are necessary to reducing the vulnerability of our cities.

Stalker observed that “despite the strategic importance of adapting our cities there is a notable absence of specific ideas about how planning and design should contribute. Indeed this was the primary context for ‘Retrofitting Cities for Climate Change’ think tank, as Architectus perceives an urgent need for revised design and planning policies. How will these changes impact society? What can the city-makers of this generation do to minimise the risks of the well-being of future generations?”

Here are a few points from the keynote presenters during the Think Tank:

  • Lindsay Johnson, Convenor of the Architecture Foundation of Australia and Conjoint Professor for the University of Newcastle, presented a case for urban densification and called for radical ideas for new residential typologies that could be located over transport arteries, such as the “living bridge”.
  • David Fullbrook, Managing Director of eCubed Building Workshop, advocated ‘cradle to cradle’ (William McDonough) as a means for approaching retrofitting, regenerating and employing new building infill, noting that technology will change over time but that the underlying environmental strategies need to be sound.
  • George Cole, Primary Analyst for Kinesis, discussed the Climate and Environment chapter of the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030. It calls for a reimagination of the way we produce and use energy in the urban environment. A major component of this is the creation of a network of ‘green transformers’.

The publication also documents the scenarios that were workshopped in small groups. These scenarios were actual development projects/sites located in different contexts from urban fringe to coastal edge, each presenting a diverse range of innovative approaches to defence, density, connection, greening, retrofit and energy.

Architectus has kindly given PlaceBlog permission to post the PDF of the publication documenting outcomes from the Think Tank.

If you have difficulty downloading, then please contact Jeff Drabant at Architectus to request a copy of the publication.

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