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A manifesto for Brisbane

An article of mine as published on Design Online. Challenging to write a manifesto in 300 words, but hopefully the beginning of a conversation.


Jane Jacobs wrote that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” But today’s cities need to do more than provide for everybody.

Today’s cities compete on an international stage for ideas, people and investment and no city can afford to ignore this reality. It is important to consider Brisbane’s future in this context. How is, and how will, Brisbane compete and provide for its citizens, involving them in the city making process? What’s our selling point, our niche? Do we have one, and should we have one?

According to Brisbane Marketing, Brisbane is Australia’s new world city. I’m not sure how much resonance this holds with locals, or how it stands up in the international market, or what being Australia’s new world city even means. Is it something Brisbane should aspire to? It seems to be the type of generic slogan that can be attached to any city in the world.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer an alternative. Brisbane: Make the City. Make the city your home, make your neighbourhood more beautiful, make connections, make your ideas happen, make the city you want to live in.

By encouraging making, Brisbane can become the type of city that invites people, locally and internationally, to make our city better. A city that encourages ideas, but beyond this, empowers people through good processes, to make their ideas happen. A city that is looking to its future and embraces new possibilities.

Our cities belong to us all and Jane Jacobs was right when she said cities need to be created by everybody. Brisbane: Make the City, has the power to both encourage citizens as active participants in city making, whilst attracting and inspiring innovative thinkers, do-ers and business from across the globe to a city, open for the making.

Don’t talk to me London

"The appeal of a big city is its facelessness. There are constantly so many people milling around that it’s easy to blend in and become a blank dot in the crowd. Nobody notices you in a city, because everyone’s either mucking about on their phone or imagining that they’re the star of a never-ending feature film about how brilliant everyone thinks they are. That’s the other good thing about cities. People move there because they’re ambitious, and a big part of ambition is to apparently be self-interested to the point of total blindness. It means that cities are full of the worst people alive, but at least nobody ever wants to stop and chat."

A bit of laugh, Stuart Heritage in The Guardian.

Friday Link Pack

- Some interesting reading in The Economist’s 2013 Worldwide Cost of Living Report. Australian cities continue to move up.

- City app making competition and talk by Colab founder, Bruno Aracaty

- I love what Open Plans are doing, creating open source engagement tools

- If you’re not familiar with planning in Barcelona, a brief introduction into the advantages of the Cerda block structure.

- No plans for the weekend? Start a pop up museum!

project love: a campaign to enjoy nature

This campaign by the UK’s National Trust and titled ‘Nature’s Playground’, is designed to encourage visitors to have fun. A series of nine signs were created which, at first glance, look like warnings or instructions not to do something. Light-hearted in nature, Ben Cowell, regional director at the National Trust, hopes to re-invent the organisation’s image.

The inclusion of a hashtag (#NaturesPlayground), encourages visitors to share their experiences and post pictures of their visit on social media sites.

The campaign was developed by The Click Design.

Community engagement is essential to facilitate design that responds to the needs of the community. As designers, I think this is a skill we will increasingly need to call upon. Dream Hamar is a project involving the redesign of a town square in Norway. The community engagement strategy set up the conditions to stimulate public debate and generate new ideas.

4 methods of engagement were used:

1. The physical lab - an onsite meeting place used for various events

2. Urban actions - public events in the square where citizens could experience and test ideas at their real scale

3. The academic network - involving students and faculty from various local schools and internationally 

4. A digital lab - connecting Dream Hamar to the world

Together, the outcomes of these activities helped to shape the urban design concept for the town square.

Find out more about Dream Hamar here.


Spring Forest

by Francesco Draisci

Like giant poppy flowers (3.5m), a surreal red and pink forest of thin poles topped by 100 umbrellas, marked an urban-green spot (5m x 10m) in St James’ Church Garden in Clerkenwell, offering shaded comfort, away from the city frantic pace.Symbolising urban transformation and the awakening of spring, red foam-clad scaffolding components formed a glamorous example of reversible public environment.”

(via physical-dreamscape)