SSASA Symposium - Day Two - Sustaining the City

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Sep 27, 2013
by Oscar Tollast
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SSASA Symposium - Day Two - Sustaining the City

Participants enjoy morning presentations before being split into discussion groups Mr Poczebutas speaking at Parker Hall

A series of discussions under the theme of sustaining the city took place today at the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium.

Participants spent the morning listening to architect, planner and urban designer Peter Cookson Smith, and Slavis Poczebutas, a project director at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).

Mr Cookson Smith’s lecture was entitled, ‘Planning and Sustainable Dimensions of Asian City Development’.

Covering the development of a continent, Mr Cookson Smith discussed colonial and post-colonial activity, talking about the disappearance and emergence of architecture, protection of cultural areas, and vertical living versus the street scene.

Mr Cookson Smith said: “At the end of World War Two, only 17 per cent of Asians lived in cities. By 2013, this has grown to more than 50 per cent.

“In certain situations cities have evolved into mega urban regions or expanded natural areas, as a result of concentrated economic development and investment.”

Social, political, economic and aesthetic challenges represented by the growth of cities were also raised.

The architect has written regularly on the subject of urban design and sits on Hong Kong Government’s Harbourfront Commission, the Land Advisory Policy Committee, and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Infrastructure Committee.

Following his lecture, he added: “From all this, can we dare to simplify some of these issues? Can we build on the strengths that are inherent in those Asian cities?

“Asian cities are different in all sorts of ways but what strikes me is how many similarities there are.”

Symposium co-chair, Christopher Bigsby, reminded participants that the topics so far were a reminder of how much they’ve taken on.

Meanwhile, Mr Poczebutas, provided a lecture to the group, entitled ‘Out of Touch – The Corrosion of the Natural’.

He spoke of key drivers for change in a society in transformation, noting the impact of technology.

The architect suggested society was becoming increasingly estranged from nature.

"By answering the basic questions we might be able to identify again the vision of future possibilities. As I've described before, there are a series of trends which are all closely interrelated and manifesting into a society that's strange and disconnected from their natural foundation."

Mr Poczebutas has in depth experience in the design of buildings and the urban spaces between them.

He led the design and management of various large scale projects such as the New Hamad International Airport City development and Media Masterplan in Qatar.

Mr Poczebutas added: "Cities will not be able to exist without their rural hinterlands and where cities might fail in the future, the rural territory can even be their savior."

Following lunch, the group broke off into smaller discussion groups to discuss: culture and the city; cities around the world – culturally, socially economically, and politically; and the role of civil society in urban life and development.

This extended further after a coffee break, with new discussion groups forming on: the ideal city of the future; architecture and the urban crisis; the Asian experience in the sustainability and liveability of cities.