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City of Sound on Renew Newcastle as ‘Emergent Urbanism’

February 17th, 2010 by marcus

City of Sound

Dan Hill of the blog City of Sound fame (and much more besides) has written a piece for the current Architecture Review Australia about ‘bottom up planning’ or ‘emergent urbanism’ as he prefers to call it. In the article and the accompanying blog post he uses Renew Newcastle as a strong example and says some very nice things about us.

His definition of ‘emergent urbanism’:

It partly concerns increased transparency over the urban planning process but also, and perhaps more interestingly, how citizens might be able to proactively engage in the creation of their cities.

Dan’s post reminded me that at some point i do need to write a much longer post/ article/ book about my recent thinking in this area and what i’ve learned from the Renew Newcastle experience. In trying to explain where the thinking behind Renew Newcastle resides i’ve taken recently to using an analogy of cities as made up of hardware (built environment, physical design), operating systems (rules and regulations) that are constantly being contested and designed and yet there is almost no thought whatsoever going into the applications that those systems are put to.

It seems almost that governments, urban planners, community activists at times all run under the assumption that the only application anyone wants to run is “property developer.exe” and are constantly contesting how best to do, to manage, or to thwart that. Yet in my experience there are many resourceful people with initiative and imagination trying to run other other applications but the systems are not designed to cater for them. I think Renew Newcastle is best understood as an example of a system that is. In the absence of any control over the hardware and operating system it is an exercise in trying to run totally different applications on the city.

Anyhow, it seems to work. Of Renew Newcastle, Dan says:

I can think of few more positive examples of how to quickly make a genuine difference in cities I.e. not just at the surface layers of urban design, as important as that is, or festivals, or marketing, but at the very core of economic, cultural and social sustainability, with all the ensuring knock-on effects for repairing urban fabric and civic confidence. This is why cities exist, after all, and for Marcus and his colleagues to have addressed this aspect directly, with literally no funding, is thoroughly inspirational.

It is a good prompt to try and flesh out that thinking a little more. If anyone running an architecture/ urbanism type event, journal ever wants me to have a go at fleshing that out i’d love an excuse to.

Read the full article on the City of Sound blog.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dan Hill Feb 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks mate, much appreciated. And yes, please do write the pamphlet/article/book/whatever. As you know I’m drawn to the operating system metaphor too – you should also check out Steven Johnson’s Emergence if you haven’t yet. And thanks also for the prompt to fix my typos (‘ensuing’, ‘Marcus’).

  • 2 Pedro Soares Neves Feb 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I work around this subject also, particulary in Lisbon and trough the specific usage/ mediation of urban landscape trough informal non regulated creativity, some times vandalism…

    There’s some tendency for this sofware hardware view, there’s a portuguese author (Pedro Brandão) that also have this discurss that’s very contemporany.

    I will say tuned into your chanel as I’m with Dan’s. Thanks.

  • 3 Nicola Morton Mar 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    hehe. Yes, after being in Newcastle for a month I can say that it really does make a difference and I am really glad I got to run my spystation application. But the special events that Renew runs particularly puts “bums in malls” um.. bums that arent the homeless kind. After your comment at cityswitch about photoshopping people into the mall, I thought I better put up some photos of people in your Renew Loop Space

    http://www.nicolaisgreat.com/2010/03/renew-newcastle-puts-people-in-malls.html

  • [...] Marcus Westbury started Renew Newcastle, which was one of the (many) starting points for Brickstarter – you can read more about it here, and here, and here, and here, and here. [...]

  • [...] Marcus Westbury started Renew Newcastle, which was one of the (many) starting points for Brickstarter – you can read more about it here, and here, and here, and here, and here. [...]