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Look: Photos and news from Living Cities Forum 2019

Living Cities Forum 2019, Melbourne. Photo by Tom Ross.

That’s a wrap! The third annual Living Cities Forum—an initiative of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation—has come to a close, with our symposiums in Melbourne and Sydney drawing capacity audiences who engaged in explorations of the future needs of our cities. Each city’s Forum was led by an incredible cohort of international architects and urban design thinkers: Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate and MPavilion 2019 architect Glenn Murcutt AO; New York-based cultural historian and designer Mabel O. Wilson; Los Angeles’ chief design officer Christopher Hawthorne; Bangkok-based architect Rachaporn Choochuey; London-based architect and researcher Adrian Lahoud; and Paris-based landscape architect Catherine Mosbach.

We were honoured to have each Forum opened by esteemed government representatives. In Melbourne, the Victorian Minister for Creative Industries, the Hon Martin Foley MP, opened the day. He said: “The Andrews Government is proud to support this event, and recognises design as a critical capability for our shared future—one that can greatly enhance our liveability, our social wellbeing and our economy.”

New South Wales Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, the Hon Rob Stokes MP opened the Forum in Sydney. He said: “Sydney’s future needs are as much about open space as they are about the built environment. We have much to share with, and much to learn from, other great global cities and this event is a fantastic opportunity for Sydney’s design and placemaking community.”

In 2019, the Living Cities Forum was an insightful and diverse display of leading global thought on the ways we can address climate change, population density, social inequality and cultural movements through design. The symposium began with Glenn Murcutt AO discussing with architect Shelley Penn the current and future social and climate impacts on housing and urban planning in relation to Glenn’s distinguished practice and career. Glenn connected a need for new thinking about ways to design dense urban housing with a consideration of landscape and nature and a need for empathy when planning for diverse communities. “I’m interested in the junction between the rational and the poetic,” Glenn said in Melbourne. “The problem is that we are largely educated to be convergent rather than divergent… To visualise is important. To draw is to reveal, to reveal is to see, to see is to begin to understand.”

Bangkok architect Rachaporn Choochuey looked the remarkable ways in which the challenges of density are often self-initiated and addressed informally in her home city. Rachaporn presented her firm all(zone)’s redevelopments of vacant “shop houses” to create urban middle-class housing. “Around the neighbourhood of our shop house transformation, seventy per cent of unoccupied units were renovated and transformed. Within ten years, they are all in use—a tiny urban revitalisation.”

Los Angeles’ first chief design officer Christopher Hawthorne discussed the ways in which LA was turning back inwards from the West Coast to address urgent housing needs of a diverse population. Christopher delved into the ongoing LA River Project, which is setting out to revitalise a former industrial stretch of the river purchased by the city into usable public space and environmental clean-up.

New York cultural historian Mabel O. Wilson considered what “future reckoning” might mean to built environments, thinking about our public spaces as places to address a colonialist past. “Perhaps if we think about future needs in relation to where we are now, and have been, a taking stock of past needs, then our imagination might hold the seeds for a future that is just and equitable.”

Dean of the School of Architecture at Royal College of Art London, Adrian Lahoud, talked about his role as the inaugural curator of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial. Adrian told of visiting the Ngurrara people in Fitzroy Crossing to discuss exhibiting a painting made twenty-two years ago and used in their Native Title claim. Adrian considered the impact on a community of exhibiting works when the economy of exhibitions centres on capital for collectors and institutions.

Paris-based landscape architect and founder of mosbach paysagiste, Catherine Mosbach, talked us through a number of her projects, including the celebrated Louvre-Lens Museum in northern France, designed in collaboration with Japanese architecture firm SANAA. Catherine discussed the large scale of that project, on a 4,000 square kilometre site, allowing for changing experiences of the landscape and “spontaneous appropriation” of the design by visitors.

Each Forum included panel discussions between the speakers, allowing an opportunity for the gathered Australian design community to engage with international ideas in a localised context. The Forum was moderated Andrew Mackenzie, and co-moderated in Melbourne by Monash University’s Professor Diego Ramirez-Lovering, and in Sydney by University of Technology Sydney’s Francesca Hughes.


The Living Cities Forum Melbourne is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria and Development Victoria, and ANZ, and is presented by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation in partnership with Open House Melbourne with the assistance of Melbourne School of Design at The University of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT University, the Australian Institute of Architects, and the Planning Institute of Australia; with Sofitel Hotels & Resorts, and Space Furniture.

The Living Cities Forum Sydney is supported by Create NSW and ANZ, and is presented by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation in partnership with Committee for Sydney, the University of Technology Sydney, the Australian Institute of Architects, and the Planning Institute of Australia; with Sofitel Hotels & Resorts, Grimshaw Architects, Tract Consultants, Plenary Group and Space Furniture.