As with all good music festivals, ACNU Congress 2010 had a suitably hectic pace. The solid bill, with its mix of headline acts and indie practitioners, suited the ‘single session’ approach. No choosing who to see, just strap yourself in and hang on!
But I’m still struggling to describe the Congress (that could be the mental equivalent of tinnitus!!). I’ve got plenty of good notes and sketches, but the pearls of wisdom, the beautiful images, the ideas, the provocation and argument are all still swirling. They’ll come to land at some point and will undoubtedly influence the way I work.
Most immediately memorable and just as useful are the conversations had around the event. These pub-based discussions connect the conference content with our own experiences.
This intersection raises important questions about ACNU. Is this an organisation for old farts? How do we younger practitioners ‘get a look in’ but honour and retain input from ACNU pioneers?
Do we engage on new fronts and who should our audience be? Are plans the most suitable tool for explaining projects to the uninitiated? Why don’t we produce useful info/tools for non-designers at the government coalface? Is the Transect scary and misunderstood? How long will it be until we have an adequate suite of good NU projects ‘on the ground’ to touch, taste and feel?
A turning point for ACNU?
These questions indicate a robust organisation in transition, and Congress 2010 may be a turning point for ACNU. But the value of the Congress theme – ‘Plans to Places’ – sits nicely in the middle of these questions.
Plans are visioning tools, but they are also design tools and evidence of thought and process. As designers we forget that plans are not always the best tool for debate – not everyone understands the 3D implications of a plan.
Conversely, the visit to Mawson Lakes generated much debate about NU form (mostly from non-designers), but with little discussion of the issues of delivering ‘place’ in such a short timeframe. But it’s these form-based delivery conversations we need to have with our audience who are reluctant to discuss plans.
So the importance of communicating our ideas in the third dimension was reaffirmed for me at ACNU. Stef Polyzoides’ diagrammatic analysis of typologies drove this home. But an equally valuable communication method was the photo-analysis of ‘what works and what doesn’t’ by AAUD. They put the ‘to’ back into Plans to Places.
Just don’t tell Peter and Clive I called them ‘old farts’!
Also in UDFQ 90: June 2010:
- Space for thought: the role of urban design on the Gallipoli Underpass
- ‘CABE DownUnder’ update
- Australia Award for Urban Design update
- Urban design – more than the ordinary and obvious!
- Fourth Australian New Urbanism Congress
- Street elevations – a critical element of the approval process?
- Inspired by the conference
- International speakers of great value
- The next conversation
- Subtropical design in South East Queensland - handbook for planners, developers and decision-makers
- Impacts of climate change on infrastructure
- Moving people – solutions for a growing Australia
- ‘Climate design’ AECOM and Professor Peter Droege
- Integrated transport?
- Sustainability and urban design
- Urban design: small is beautiful
- Conferences, etc