Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

NOTES | What we’re up to

Even though the holiday season is upon us, we’re busy setting ourselves up for the year ahead and catching up with the mountain of reading material that’s accumulated on our desks. Among those is the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Communities National Framework. This important document, developed with significant input from industry and government, outlines principles for sustainable communities in Australia. This framework represents a shift from sustainability as a design and material concern in the built environment to a social and cultural one. The GBCA defines a sustainable community as one which “embodies the principles of sustainable development, respectiving ecological limits and natural resource constraints, encouraging prosperity and wellbeing while optimising the conditions for human development.” A scoping paper for the next stage of the project, Green Star – Communities rating tool that assesses sustainable communities against best practice sustainable benchmarks, is also available online. See the GBCA’s website for more information.

A commitment to social and cultural sustainability is embedded in our enterprise and we work significantly in community and cultural planning and development to enhance wellbeing and place making. We recently participated in the Tipping Point public event, where concerns about art and climate change were presented and discussed in a cultural context. John is presently visiting the UDA at Oonoonba, Townsville, to undertake a site visit and stakeholder consultation to scope some of the integrated cultural and public art opportunities for the development. Articulating a sense of place, connecting with the landscape and heritage, and exploring community identity through integrated design and engagement processes is integral to community wellbeing. The site is textured by a rich mix of Indigenous, agricultural, scientific, natural and military history.

We’ve just returned from a holiday/study trip to Istanbul, Turkey, where we, as cultural tourists, enjoyed the offerings of the European Capital of Culture program (see video below for a brief introduction) and returned with masses of reading material and experiences. We sought out a range of arts, heritage and urban projects where we could learn about how cultural engagements were impacting how the city was imagined, discussed and, ultimately, planned. Arts and culture are playing a significant role in the city’s renewal and Linda will be writing a series of articles and essays about our learnings and observations. Along with the widespread restoration works on many historic buildings, one of the projects that stood out for us was the History and Destruction in Istanbul – Ghost Buildings/İstanbul’da  Tarih ve Yıkım – Hayalet Yapılar project. This dynamic and diverse project was comprised of exhibition, multimedia, site specific installations and a catalogue exploring histories of urban destruction as catalysts for reimagining the potential of heritage sites, recontextualising them in memory and restitching them back into the contemporary urban fabric.

We travelled to Istanbul via Singapore and noted that the ‘urban museum/gallery’ is well placed in both cities. Singapore has established a city gallery – where exhibitions of architecture and urbanism are presented along with future development plans such as Marina Bay – and Istanbul will be launching a similar initiative in the future. During another study trip to the UK, where Linda participated in a CABE Urban Design Summer School, we noted the striking Urbis centre in Manchester, which was at the time presenting exhibitions about urban gardens and manga as well as workshops on seed bombing and guerilla gardening. In Brisbane, where there seems to be resistance in the community about urban reform and change in the face of growth, we noted that this type of culturally based approach to and well established form/trope of engagement with communicating about the changing urban agenda might have a role to play.

Finally, we encourage you to read and comment on the Australian Government’s Our Cities – building a productive, sustainable and liveable future discussion paper as the basis for a national urban policy to be released next year. The paper is available online and open for consultation until 1 March 2011.

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