12 November 2009

Minimum or Maximum Cities? A conference

Keen to go to the Minimum or Maximum Cities conference, held by the Min-Max-Cities group in the University of Cambridge's Architecture department. It's on Thursday 26th November 2009 in Cambridge and looks to be well worth the £20 registration fee and a day off work. They are asking:

What is the future for cities? Are they expanding at an ever-increasing rate or are they being abandoned and shrinking into oblivion? Are cities polluted, overcrowded and anonymous, or are they dynamic centres of innovation and culture? Are they sociable or anti-social?

...So one year on from the economic crash, how should we seek to reinvigorate our urban centres? Some welcome the current mood of caution as appropriate for hazardous times. Others argue a lack of belief in the benefits of an urbanised future is a cause for concern. So should the priority be to dampen expectations and settle for minimising potential problems? Or should we be more ambitious and experiment with new ideas and technologies that could maximise future gains? Are our creative talents best employed in seeking a 'minimum' city as a means to retrench, rethink and rebuild? Or is a 'maximum' urbanism the answer, based on expansive cities for a dynamic and globalised planet?

And the programme goes like this:

9.00 - Registration and coffee
9.30 - Welcome and Introductions

9.35 – 11.05 The Anxious City: The Dilemmas of Growth
"For the first time in history half the world's population live in cities, yet the celebrations have been distinctly muted. Rather than advancing civilisation, cities are said to be on "the edge of chaos", and bring out our "lurking paranoia". Some have claimed the roots of recession are spatial, and that sprawling cities point to a "whole system of economic organization and growth that has reached its limit". Just-in-time contemporary urban lifestyles are said to threaten the frail systems of a brittle society.
So how should we account the sense of exhaustion and limits that have become central features of western discourse on cities? Are cities today too dynamic and spiralling out of control? Or do they suffer from a surfeit of controls?" Is resilience a dynamic, positive message, or one that implies cities are vulnerable?

11.30 – 13.00 The Agile City: Local Ties versus Global Reach
"The ambition to travel further and faster has often been held up as a virtue. Not so long ago, there was enthusiasm for the idea that Jet Packs and Flying Cars could represent the future of urban transport. These days the outlook on travel is less clear cut. We seem less likely to dream about flying cars, than to express concerns about flying and cars. At a time when local accessibility rather than metropolitan mobility excites policymakers, fast citywide, regional or global connections seem less of a priority than measures to promote cycling and walking.
Expanding one's geographical range has often been associated with the positive ambition to broaden one's horizons. So is the new maxim of living more simply and more locally likely to prove inspirational enough to city dwellers?"

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch & Exhibition
Exihibition Space - Paper City: Urban Utopias

14.00 – 15.30 Powering the City: Innovations in Energy
"From the impact of increasing oil prices to the benefits of investing in renewables and smart grids, energy has become central to the discussion on recovering from recession. And whether through 'passive houses', 'transition towns' or 'low carbon cities', the question of sustainable energy now figures prominently at all scales of architectural and urban thinking.
So how should designers view the elevation of energy efficiency as one of, or perhaps even the defining criterion of design quality? Does the current emphasis on localising supply and 'off grid' solutions mean that universal supply and scale efficiencies have had their day? Does the recent focus on altering individual behaviour represent a welcome broadening out of the concept of innovation? Or does it indicate that controls and regulations are taking precedence over discovery and experimentation?"

16.00 – 17.30 The Future City: Rewriting the Rule Book
"What might represent a way forward? From ‘slow cities’ to ‘creative cities’, and ‘liveable cities’ to ‘hungry cities’; from ‘aerotropolis’ to ‘postopolis’, and the ‘compact city’ to the ‘città diffusa’; there are any number of ideas out there that purport to represent a basis for the future city. But is what is on offer today ambitious, challenging and bold enough? Do the visionaries of today respect current rules and accept contemporary limits? Or are they the ideas of risk takers who are attempting to move beyond?
In this final session we invite three teams of aspiring urban visionaries to present and defend their min/max solutions for the future city. This is your chance to crit their ideas… and through doing so, to flesh out your own."

17.30 – 19.00 Wine Reception

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