Shaping Cities: The Design Imperative

The 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Joining us at the conference as a keynote speaker is Ms Caroline Stalker,Design Director Urban and Principal, ARUP Australasia (QLD) who will present on ‘Shaping Cities: The Design Imperative’.

Caroline’s Bio

Ms Caroline Stalker

Caroline is a highly skilled designer, communicator and leader of teams for complex urban design and master planning projects. Her career spans 30 years and a range of project types, including new communities, urban regeneration around transport hubs, city and town centres, universities, public spaces, public buildings, mixed use and multi-residential buildings. Throughout her career Caroline has demonstrated a sustained commitment to enhancing people’s connection to the natural world and each other through design, and an outstanding ability to take an holistic approach to the complex design problems of cities. This has been recognised over the years through numerous architecture and planning awards. Caroline is an Adjunct Professor, School of Design, QUT Creative Industries, and has served on and chaired awards juries in both architecture and urban design, and held advisory roles for government.

Abstract

The vast majority of Australians live in places that are untouched by the hands of architects, urban designers, or landscape architects.  Following a childhood in Australia’s great laboratory of urban ideas, Canberra, the idea that the city is shaped by intelligent acts of design seemed the norm to me – until we moved to Brisbane in the late 70s.  Sitting tidily at the opposite end of the city design spectrum from Canberra, late 20th century Brisbane, like other Australian cities, was growing at pace, shaped by the twin forces of escalating private car ownership and use and unshaped urban expansion.   The imperative for design in these two examples represent two extremes: the ‘top down’ design-led city vs the un-designed city of laissez faire individualism.  Each instance paints a different role for design and the designer; prime author or minor player on individual sites.

These days we talk about city design as a collaborative act, a complex deliberative democracy where disciplines and stakeholders sit alongside one another. This more civilised response to urban complexity brings with it important opportunities for integration, multi-disciplinary and multi stakeholder engagement.  The role of design and designer is to provide a platform for this collaboration.  However, reflecting on 30 years of design practice, the great majority of work has also required applying clear and strong design thinking to retrofit ad hoc urban development that doesn’t work well as an urban environment.  The driving imperative here is to structure unstructured settings, provide the unifying community glue of public realm where there is none, and create a distinct whole place for people out of fragments of land so that people can occupy the resulting spaces in new ways.  It’s always collaborative, it’s always complex.  But the collaboration has always needed filtering through a powerful design framework that orchestrates the pieces and the complexity. Without strong design thinking as a platform for bringing together the collaborative effort, the ‘whole place’ puzzle remains unsolved.

As the 21st century unfolds, we have a new raft of megatrends that are shaping cities, while we are still dealing with the legacy issues of 20th century urbanism.  These include the emergence of the digital disruption in transport, retail and work practices, and changes in urban energy systems and our changing urban demographics.  These shifts all demand new thinking, new approaches, new policies to response.  Increasing complexity demands more collaboration, more integrated layers of expertise.  With these demands comes an even greater need for the organising and humanising layer of strong design in shaping cities.

The paper will present project examples from Arup’s global portfolio to illustrate design imperatives in contemporary city making.

For more information on and to join us at the 2018 International Urban Design Conference, please visit the conference website at urbandesignaustralia.com.au

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