IDEAS | The Responsive City

Posted on 26/06/2009


On this grey and brittle Saturday morning, I decided to listen to some of the podcasts of Melbourne Festival of Ideas presentations and sessions. In a session titled, The Responsive City, Professor Tom Kvan, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University Of Melbourne, posed a range of propositions and possibilities for rethinking and remaking our cities and suburbs. Kvan’s presentation pressed the urgency of the need for change. It’s not just about energy and carbon, but also social and community dynamics. Sustainability is not just for now, it is for and into the future. Our cities are predominantly based on mid 19th century attitudes, ideas and social constructs. He argues that these ideas and constructs are not those for or of the future. In so saying, Kvan says there are two questions we need to ask and answer again: how we live and how we finance it. In order to respond to such questions, there is a need to consider how the professions and systems that are responsible for the city interact and respond.

He concluded his presentation with four questions warranting ongoing consideration and reframing:

  1. Can we envisage a city in which the aspirations of a lifestyle engaged with the outdoors catering to the full range of family activities for all age groups can be reconciled with our desperate need for a substantially reduced carbon footprint?
  2. Are the suburbs consigned, at best, to be the commutable sin of the 20th century or have they an urban future?
  3. Can we conceive of cities that are productive and responsive rather than consuming and static?
  4. What modes of transport underpin these cities?
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