Brainstorming

The largest creativity and design festival in this part of the world, Semi-Permanent, returns to Sydney.

As part of this year’s Semi-Permanent festival, an Audi-sponsored panel sought to inspire an audience of change makers to consider what it will take to design and create a city of the future.

31 May, 2022


A partner of the three day event, Audi hosted a discussion panel entitled ‘Future State: City Utopia’ 

It’s a meeting of minds – the largest and longest-running creativity and design festival in the southern hemisphere. Semi Permanent, aims to connect world-class talent and global brands with creative audiences through keynote talks, panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, installations, performances and retail pop-ups. And this year did not disappoint. 

Among a stellar line-up of forward-thinking creatives, Audi held an exclusive and informative panel titled ‘Future State: City Utopia’ which discussed the roadmap for urban centres of the future from a sustainability perspective. Host Noelle Faulkner was joined on stage by director/writer/producer/presenter Damon Gameau, Deputy Chairwoman of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council Yvonne Weldon, artist and architect Chris Fox, and Group CEO of Right-Angle Studio Barrie Barton. 

Planning, designing, and building a city of the future, a utopia – which will ultimately look different to everyone – is no easy feat. But this diverse range of speakers, tethered by a united goal around preservation and the future of urbanisation shared insights from multiple angles and invited audience members into a fascinating brainstorming session. 

Host Noelle Faulkner.

For Damon Gameau – of That Sugar Film, and 2040 fame – a process of regeneration and   a focus on ecology are essential to the cities of the future.

“When we’re talking about the future of our cities, it must include our ecology and the climate,” says the writer and director.

“To reach sustainability we need to enact a regenerative process, we need to heal and repair the damage that we’ve done. [Now] we need regenerative thinkers, regenerative designers, and regenerative architects to start thinking about our cities.” 

“Planting more greenery around our cities is going to be essential. And water is going to be a huge discussion point in the next 20 years. Some countries are building sponge cities that capture water when it falls; they’re making more porous walkways and footpaths and storing (rainwater) in huge tanks under the cites; we’re going to have to think about that in our design; and even the type of materials we use.”

“To reach sustainability we need to enact a regenerative process, we need to heal and repair the damage that we’ve done"

Damon Gameau

Writer and director, Damon Gameau.

“The amount of people who can’t afford to live in our city is growing"

Yvonne Weldon

Ensuring everyone has a voice and is heard is vital to Yvonne Weldon’s utopian cities. The first Aboriginal candidate to stand for Lord Mayor in Sydney and the first Aboriginal councillor of the city in its 180-year history – Weldon is all about providing opportunity for all.

“The amount of people who can’t afford to live in our city is growing. When you look at the social housing and affordable housing, it’s not the same as it was, and the people aren’t the same anymore. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t progress, but we need to make sure it's an inclusive city. We need to increase the supply of affordable housing. We need smart, innovative and community focused designs, which foster integrative and diverse communities.”

“If we can future-proof our cities, we can future proof our futures. It’s not enough to regulate and develop; local government needs to play an active role in designing and building our future cities not just for the people but with the people,” says Weldon.

Deputy Chairwoman of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council Yvonne Weldon.

“We’re on Gadigal land here,” says Fox. “The work we do at the studio tries to think about a deep connection to place"

Chris Fox

Chris Fox who has practiced as both an artist and architect, has over 25 years’ experience in the built environment, navigating the complex constraints of the public domain. Passionate about transforming our cities, towns and landscapes through artful thinking and collaboration, Fox understands the importance of telling meaningful stories of place and people through time and the importance of connection and consultation with traditional owners of the land.

“We’re on Gadigal land here,” says Fox. “The work we do at the studio tries to think about a deep connection to place. We try and work with indigenous practitioners to continue that conduit of knowledge into the public domain,” he says. From concept to completion, Fox weaves that philosophy right throughout his work to create structures that push the boundaries, whilst telling the meaningful stories of place and people through time. “It’s about a connection to story and a connection to place.”

Artist and architect Chris Fox.

“Cities behave like nature. In an energy system if you don’t invest more energy in it, it will fall apart"

Barrie Barton

Barrie Barton works at the forefront of placemaking innovation and urban strategy. His consultancy, Right Angle Studio, is engaged by developers and government around the globe, to provide unique forecasts on how their cities are evolving and how to make the most of that change through creative development concepts. “We believe things can be better, not just hope something can be better. It’s about belief,” he says.

“Cities behave like nature,” he offers. “In an energy system if you don’t invest more energy in it, it will fall apart. If you don’t invest your time, money, energy, whatever you’ve got to make it better, they do not organically improve.”

“Cities need to be wild like jungles. They need diversity for their energy and their interest, and if we design and plan things that are just a little bit different than they were before, our cities are going to be flat and undernourishing.”

Group CEO of Right-Angle Studio Barrie Barton.

Of course the greatest challenge when dealing with any large city is attempting to meet the specific needs of a huge, diverse population. Regardless of how much change comes with progress, the old adage of not being able to ‘please all of the people all of the time’ remains true. The balancing act then is to create an environment in which everyone can live their best life – the sweet spot where practicality and passion meet. No easy thing, but certainly worth pursuing.

Planning a 'utopian city' is a balancing act that must listen to all stakeholders