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Vanguarding Newcastle

Posted by on November 23rd, 2017 · Cities, Guest appearance, Public space, urban renewal


By Dr Ori Gudes, Research Fellow, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW, Emily Davies O’Sullivan, Willana Urban, Newcastle, and Associate Professor M. Hank Haeusler, Computational Design, UNSW.

Earlier this month 50 rising urban planners and leaders from cities across the globe converged in Newcastle, NSW, for Vanguard Australia. Organised by NextCityOrg, this was the first of its annual Vanguard events to be held outside North America. The conference was run in partnership with the NSW State Government and Newcastle City Council.

The overarching aim was to stimulate innovative ideas for Newcastle, to help the city to thrive and compete in the global economy. The selection process for attendees was competitive and there were more than 200 applications in which 50 participants were selected. From our faculty, two participants were selected, Associate Professor M. Hank Haeusler from Computational Design and Dr Ori Gudes from City Futures. UNSW Alumni also included Rachel Cogger (former tutor of the BPlan), John O’Callaghan (Tutor of the BPlan and CoDe) and Emily Davies O’Sullivan.

During the conference, participants were introduced to the work done by Revitalising Newcastle  and the University of Newcastle. They also met with business owners and local leaders such as Marcus Westbury, founder of Renew Newcastle, a not-for-profit company that has facilitated more than 70 new creative projects in more than 40 once-empty buildings in the Newcastle CBD. They also met with other Novocastrians who shared their inspirational stories of renewing Newcastle.

The conference culminated with an urban planning challenge. Six planning teams were challenged to plan two iconic sites in Newcastle CBD (the old Post office building and the old train station). The groups comprised of mix of thinkers and planners from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Therefore, three planning teams were working on each site. A panel of judges including the Lord Mayor of Newcastle selected the most innovative plans.

The winner of the Vanguard challenge for 2017 was the group facilitated by John O’Callaghan (JOC Consulting Pty Ltd) Australia and included the following Vanguard members:

  • Rachel Cogger (RPS Group, Australia)
  • Subeh Chowdhury (University of Auckland, New Zealand);
  • Tyler Caine (DCP Architecture PLLC, USA);
  • Tara Mei Smith (Extra Terrestrial Projects, Inc., USA);
  • Jasnam Sidhu (PWC, UK);
  • Lindsey Scannapieco (Scout, USA);
  • Essence Wilson (Communities First, Inc., USA); and
  • Ori Gudes (City Futures, UNSW).

The presentation of the wining project (e.g., the train station challenge) can be found here. The conference was also well reported in the local media.

Perhaps the most significant takeaways from the conference were hearing the stories of the other Vanguards.  Tenacity was a trait widely displayed in their place making, administration and urban planning pursuits. We had Vanguards from New Zealand who have been instrumental in rebuilding not just Christchurch physically but socially and culturally.  We had representatives who challenged us to always think about countering disadvantage when making change in communities.  We had representatives who focused on the possible when everyone else would have deemed a scheme impossible.  It was working, learning and hearing from these amazing individuals that led to a general feeling of striving to do more for our own communities and be the change we want to see in the world.

Another major take-home was witnessing international and interstate perspectives on processes and culture here in Australia, New South Wales and specifically Newcastle. At each of the presentations to the Vanguards, the delegates challenged the perspective which had been long held and well recited. Poignant questions raised by the Vanguards, often met with no tangible answers, will hopefully be the start of wider conversations with the local circles of the presenters.  This outside perspective forced us locals to critically evaluate things such as inclusion, the notion of equitable access and the role Aboriginal Culture plays in modern society and how ongoing urban renewal plays out in relation to retention of Newcastle’s unique character.  All very relevant points for rising leaders and urban planners to consider more thoughtfully.

Did this get you inspired? More information about the next Vanguard conference will be available here.

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