IDEA | Australian Festival of Architecture?

Posted on 27/12/2009


After visiting the London Festival of Architecture in 2008, I was moved when returning home to suggest to colleagues in the cultural and design sectors that a growing city like Brisbane, with its burgeoning design sector and focus on urban issues and ideas, might find it useful to plant a festival of architecture/urbanism into the urban and cultural fabric. The idea was dismissed too readily for my liking. In Brisbane alone there has been some important initiatives, many too isolated or singular to really attract the attention of the public, such as public art projects, the Superstudio, the occasional lecture at the library or one of the universities, seminar series etc. Seems that the potential has already revealed itself but that it needs to be recast and considered in relation to the horizons or thresholds of climate change and population growth.

With its planning on steroids, emerging precincts, large scale gentrification, major developments, and potential climate change impacts, an event like that has the potential to engage the community in a larger conversation about what cities have becomes in the current millennium. It would certainly be a better proposition than the fragmented DA approach and the misguided masterplanning and engineering that scars our cities for decades, even centuries. Discussions about urbanism and architecture always prove to be quite popular – I recall from my involvement in the Ideas Festival that the architecture and city discussions always created a buzz, especially when dynamic thinking was applied to pressing problems such as disaster response, affordable housing, community planning and long term futuring. Seems there is scant public conversation – especially via the media – about the city as well as insufficient attempts to facilitate urban literacy and strategy. The federal government has also turned its attention to urban policy and population growth. The message is clear, we need very different kinds of cities and local planning and building regulations won’t catalyse that.

Having posted earlier about the Venice Biennale of Architecture and recently been reading about the 4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam: Open City: Designing Coexistence, it occurred to be that Australia could readily host an architecture event, potentially with a focus on the Asia Pacific region where many Australian firms are working and, more broadly, the global south, considering the important work undertaken by organisations such as Architecture without Frontiers. Given that much of this blog has highlighted research centres and innovations in urban thinking and sustainability practice, it’s not as if we don’t have the creative and intellectual capital to initiate localised and international conversations.

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