Kylie Legge writes in the foreword to the first of her planned three Urban Trends booklets that she is far more fascinated by a city’s “complex system of interdependent relationships” than “individual pieces of architecture”.
“I am intensely interested in urban environments, in making them places where human beings can enjoy a meaningful and whole life; a balance of the social, economic, physical and cultural,” she admits in Doing It Differently. “The key challenge of placemaking is to create or nurture this chaotic balance (perhaps best described as a place’s unique and authentic character) but also support evolution into the future, and always to build in resilience and self sustainability.”
Legge runs Place Partners and has written about, lectured, presented at conferences and worked with governments, developers, communities, architects and designers on making places here and overseas in all sizes of cities, well before it became the vogue to do so. Her concerns are timeless and pre-trend any trending: “… work out exactly what is needed to keep people happy, make communities thrive and ensure the best result– both economic and lifestyle – for all involved”.
Judging by the chapters in this book, we need to be flexible, able to live without permanent structures or relationships, be open to others through serial, ongoing collaboration, bartering and inventive reuse of buildings and belongings. Pop-ups are a reward for keeping your eyes open – you never know where one will pop-up, Legge herself having a bookstore on an Oxford Street pavement (as I remember they did in Chinese cities on my longest visit there in 1983). Once the domain of artists and creatives these temporary outlets are now big business, Legge says. So are food trucks, by ubiquity anyway, and improvements to menu and tastiness at Sydney’s numerous festivals.
Collaborative consumption, where we barter across cyberspace, sharing goods with people known and not known, is a cheaper, space-saving and environmentally beneficial way of passing things on. Collaborative urbanism has people engaging with each other and participating in their future, making decisions that “will make our cities better for people”. Site-specific solutions that do not reinvent the wheel are the way to go. It all sounds so straightforward, but its very simplicity is revolutionary.
The upshot is a telling change in how we live and think. “Arts and creative industries aren’t just being seen as a luxury but a core generator of economic success and community wellbeing.” Without wishing to sound too trite, I can only say, Vive la difference.
Editor: These series of booklets promise to be an interesting insight into modern approaches to collaborative place-making. Book 1 ‘Doing It Differently’, is available at bookstores such as Ariel, Berkelouw Books and the MCA bookstore. Or order direct from the Urban Trends website.