This realisation became evident toward the end of the first day when, after a presentation by Brit Andresen and Lyndall Milani which advocated a “slower” and more considered design approach to urban sites, a keynote speaker, Dr Carlos Leite, (McKenzie Presbyterian University, San Paulo) presented a bleak vision of his city of San Paulo. After displaying confronting images of his city, Leite concluded with comments from Dutch firm MVRDV which stressed the need for ‘urgent‘ and ‘rapid‘ interventions into the current urban fabric of San Paulo.
Professor Rodney Harber, from Kwa Zulu Natal presented images and commentary on the daily lives of the populations of some West African cities. What could easily have been a more overwhelming and unsettling presentation than that given by Leite was lightened up considerably by the manner in which Harber delivered and approached his subject. He described the social environment of these populous and ‘chaotic‘ cities, where people “work and live outdoors“, as ‘convivial’ and although he stressed he did not want to romanticise their situation, the cooperative solutions he has led and advocated for improving and enhancing their lives displayed an understanding and fondness for the people.
Dr. Tanya Plant, Anne Miller and Dr. Danny O’Hare focused on setting practical sustainability guidelines and measures for initiating sustainable practices within Queensland. However, the presenters somewhat disappointingly noted that there is still some resistance to the measures they advocated. The sense of frustration which they expressed may have been partly due to the preceding presentation which enthusiastically illustrated many sustainable features which have been operating in the city of Freiburg, Germany for nearly thirty years.
One the last day, a clearly relaxed and optimistic presentation by Chongqing Planning Department described sustainable initiatives for a populous region in and around Chongqing city. They displayed colourful images of tall, clean residential and commercial buildings intersected by overhead monorails alongside slides of well preserved historical buildings and bright maps of conservation areas for flora and fauna.
As I left the conference grounds on the last day I remembered a remark from the first day where one of the presenters hoped to see a decline in the current “fixation with ‘post modern relativism’”. I felt confident that if she attended the presentations of the following days she would have to admit there is little evidence of that happening.