reSITE 2019 REGENERATE: Human Creativity is the Ultimate Renewable Energy
In its most diverse edition yet, REGENERATE hosted a rich and interdisciplinary conversation about the future of life in cities, attracting twelve hundred participants from 25 countries to 3 stages, side events and parties.
"Regeneration is a continuum. It has to be mindful. And we need to utilize the collective power."
reSITE founder, Martin Barry kicked off the the 8th edition of reSITE centered on the theme of regeneration. The discussion tackled natural and urban revitalization, our collective power and responsibility as individuals and institutions to organize and solve the problems of climate change and housing affordability, among many. Others discussed the need to regenerate our public spaces to push back against an all-consuming online world. Technology will also play a role in planning for uncertainty, they argued.
When it comes to cities, the whole of urban life is greater than the sum of its parts. As TechReset Canada’s Bianca Wylie noted, in the original translation of the phrase, the sum is also different than the whole of its parts.
Cities are the sum of designers, developers, artists, citizens, public officials, entrepreneurs, and the displaced, but rarely do each of these constituencies gather in the same room or even speak the same language, and cities suffer for it.
"reSITE is literally that room“, guest curator Greg Lindsay noted — the event that frames the future of cities through all of these perspectives and convenes them in one place.
Against the backdrop of the climate crisis, and the 20th of September Global Climate Strike, Wylie and her fellow speakers called on attendees to remember the collective power we possess as citizens, setting a tone that reverberated throughout the conference.
So, what will be remembered from reSITE 2019?
Ravi Naidoo, the Founder of Design Indaba, has magnetized South Africa as a new hub for fresh aesthetics with what is now the largest design festival on the planet. It was only fitting that we kicked the conference off as he asked us all to look introspectively with the question: "What’s design for? Is it in service for people? Give it a higher purpose and a more noble service. Not just for consumption, but to improve the quality of life, not just for the haves, but the have-nots”.
Making the case that human creativity is the ultimate renewable energy and underlining the importance of technology for regeneration: "In the last century, it was enough to be literate, now you have to be techno-literate.“ and finally reminding us of the immense energy created in all of us coming together, coalescing and making it a force for good.
Chris Precht expressed the voice of his generation. He said that this generation of architects isn’t concerned with theory or concepts. “We’re concerned with the environment, with climate change, with sustainability. Our planet doesn’t care about fictional stories. Today we should build not for fictional stories but for our objective reality.” His practice creates spaces that connect with our senses. We can smell, taste and eat part of our buildings. It creates different city centers, not defined by banks and corporations, but health and vitality.
Bianca Wylie, co-founder of TechReset Canada has risen to notoriety through her criticisms of Sidewalk Labs and technology companies involvement in public spaces, arguing that they should not be commoditized. She reminded us all “that participating in all of these spaces very thoughtfully” is of great importance, and to not forget to act collectively: “I want to remind you that you all have power. And you need to start using it. Now. While it’s great to highlight the individual stories and projects, we also need to remember the power and the urgency of the need to operate as a collective.”
Flipping the coin, Marianthi Tatari, UNStudio brought us their practice’s work on the Netherland’s Brainport Smart District, that aims at becoming the smartest neighborhood in the world. She stated that it's high time for the built environment to catch up with technology - our only tool helping to plan for the uncertainty of the future.
She makes the point that “with a productive landscape, we can create a local economy” as well as “the most important part is the human approach and care for the quality of life for every resident”, both being cornerstones for their smart city project taking the data ownership of its residents seriously.
Closing out the first day, Thomas Heatherwick (Heatherwick Studio) disclosed a new project to be built in Prague, the regeneration of Savarin complex adjacent to Wenceslas square . He insisted that we should "keep old buildings and work around them. The blessing of old building is their texture and soulfulness. The places we love tend to be multi-layered. He explained that his approach is to "make something that doesn’t feel like somewhere else that we’ve been.“
Hailing from the south-side of Chicago, USA, founder of the Sweetwater Foundation and now-winner of the 2019 MacArthur Genius award, Emmanuel Pratt showcased all the ways in which they work with marginalized communities, putting them in the driverseat of the regenerating their communities.
“Every community has seeds of their own regeneration, right there”, and “regenerating is an active process, not a passing like sustainability. Giving people a chance to participate as well as ownership of that regeneration that translates into more than just physical spaces, but regenerates the culture.” are just a few statements that reflect his ethos.
MAD Architects principal partner, Yosuke Hayano opened day two of REGENERATE with a presentation exploring the questions - “How can we trigger an emotional connection to architecture? How can we make architecture to be urban space so that people feel it is built for them? Through their design, MAD Architects seek to make a journey for people to meet nature in another way. They care about how the future of the city can be better pressed for the people, from young to old, to come, live and enjoy the space together.
This year at REGENERATE, we are stepped up our game to bring you new ways to interact with speakers, and each other at this years event. reSITE has always been about connection, so we created a program to foster a little more of that, with more breakout sessions, the live mic stage powered by Shared Cities, morning yoga, parties and ended with a guided run through the city.
What is an urbanism conference if you don't get out and be in the city? See you next year!
Spotted on reSITE Social Networks
.@biancawylie lives up to her moniker as the "Jane Jacobs of smart cities" with a cri de coeur to #REGENERATE faith in our city governments before they are replaced by corporations. Can't wait until she goes head-to-head with #ThomasHeatherwick this afternoon. #reSITE2019 https://t.co/NDu08vmGVO— Greg Lindsay (@Greg_Lindsay) September 19, 2019