This idea is a little hazy, but I see it as an opportunity to bring some new, younger people with fresh ideas into UDF activities. I see it as being a day ‘without bosses’, when an idea from a first year student is just as valuable and viable as that from a 30-year design veteran.
Maybe I have utopian views, but I see it as vibrant and vigorous day in which people can unleash their minds and bring to the discussion ideas that are liberated from old economic paradigms, ideas that will be applicable to the new economics model that is about getting a better result for less money.
Powerful ideas in urban design are frequently frustrated by the heartlessness of traditional economics. Proposals may promise wonderful results for people, but fall foul of the profit-mantra and so are either only partly realised or completely ignored. We are in a position to change all that, in just one day.
The UDF network includes many people who have a rich knowledge and understanding of what it is that makes a place people-friendly (read: attractive, friendly and useable), practical in terms of how it operates and connects with what surrounds it and, importantly, ensures that it will be resilient in the somewhat different unfolding social and economic conditions.
Rather than organize and promote another annual conference, another of the many ‘talk-fests’ open to those in the architectural and urban design field, the UDF should be pooling its resources and knowledge to set up a ‘Mob-shop’.
So what’s a Mob-shop?
A Mob-shop is when a group of people are thrown together (in this case voluntarily) to use their skills and talents to look at, consider and come up with a workable concept for something that under normal circumstances would not be deemed worth doing. Utopian and fanciful ideas would be most welcome.
All Australian cities have small spaces crying out for some love and attention, but for various reasons they are simply not on the responsibly municipality’s design/re-design radar and, although people use them every day, they are little more than a wasteland.
The Mob-shop would look at this discrete space and in just one day create a proposal to breathe life back into the area, ensuring it is publically connected in every way to its surrounding neighbourhoods.
Contributors would be encouraged to have a fun/social day in which they applied their skills; all care and no responsibility; apply how they believe urban design should be employed in the creation of spaces (work/living/recreation/leisure); and create a template that could be utilized in the area.
The municipality in whose area the space (a block, a street, a vacant area, an old and unused factory) sits would be invited to send a senior planner and the Mayor to discuss the area and its relevance, and some local people (residents and business people) would have 10 minutes to say why they would like the place freshened up and the space made more people friendly and useable.
The goal of the day would be to have the group produce a written piece explaining in outline how they see the process working and how the municipality could go about applying it, and maybe a few quick sketches that outlined the general look of what was envisaged. The day would include a walk around the area and a general discussion about what needed to be done, how it could be done and its importance.
The profile of the Mob-shop would be elevated by choosing a spot in serious need of help, having the council promote that, encourage publicity in major media, urge involvement from universities and urban design students and generally make it an exciting day.
Younger design people, who love to see things happen quickly and are frequently marginalized, and frustrated by older grey-headed people who quickly and almost instinctively damn a project with a seemingly endless list of ‘that’s impossible’, would be urged and invited to apply new design technology to make the outcome of the ‘Mob-shop’ a reality. It would be a day that would result in some superbly practical ideas for a small space of the city that was destined to become another piece in the jigsaw of wasteland.
Imagine a day in which we are meeting in a hall or spacious area somewhere close to the place to be subject of the day’s efforts; a quick welcome and introductory story; everyone to say who they are; a walk around the site; 20 minutes from the Mayor or councillor; 10 minutes from the local resident and business people; break into groups who return within two hours to outline what they imagine; each group presents their idea and then discussion for 30 minutes about the proposals; one of the concepts or amalgam of the best of each is drawn together and one concept sharpened up for the final presentation. By 6:00pm, the Mayor is presented with an overall model or idea.
A day without design boundaries would include morning and afternoon teas, a light lunch, an evening dinner that would wrap up events with a comedic speaker, such as Rod Quantock.