PS 12.01 - Richard Weller and Anthony Duckworth-Smith present Macro/Micro Cities: Summaries and Reflections

Prof. Richard Weller expands the remit of his 'Boom Town' research to a federal level, and suggests Australian organisations (primarily government) need to plan effectively for the global population expansion which will, according to Weller's sources, see the world population plateau at 10 billion people as the population increases, becomes urbanised (for economic reasons) and reproduction lessens as a priority.

If you know the 'Boom Town 2050' work, then you have a pretty good idea what this project looks like as well, but the ideas are up in scale and down in resolution, so Weller (and Dr Julian Bolleter) are no longer really concerned with the built form in any real detail, but more with the size and placement of Australian megacities (on the scale of U.S. conurbations like 'Bos-Wash' in the North East - though if you watched The Wire, you can see how well that worked out. Not to say Weller wasn't critical of the U.S. - he was, particularly the state of their infrastructure).

To my mind, what Weller does well is frame the hard questions, demand answers, and come up with creative possibilities which are not idealistic whimsy (no floating underwater civilisations or 'radiant cities' rolling over well loved urban fabric here), but realistic and ambitious options, based on existing ideas about what works, and what doesn't. He is  an intellectual and powerhouse, throwing out observations and ideas like bread to seagulls (question time was a feeding frenzy) and a very engaging speaker. The visualisations form the work are suggestive but clear (i.e at about the right level of specificity to allow for the imagination, but say enough).

The future of Australia (according to Weller et al)? Three megacities (in places which can support them, especially with water and food) - Darwin: Australia's first Asian city, airport moved and it's prime site redeveloped, world-class contemporary university established. East Coast (Sydney area) linked with high speed rail. West Coast (Swan coastal plain) again linked, probably, with high speed rail, though population may not support it.

Publication by the UWA Press is due in 2013.

Dr Anthony Duckworth-Smith had a hard task following up this one (having stepped in at the last moment for a cancelled international speaker), and unfortunately his studies of dense housing possibilities along transport corridors were quite dry, and perhaps even flawed. He showed some excellent mappings - one series showing areas proximate to 3 levels of bus frequency (casual use frequency needs to be below 15mins, according to Duckworth-Smith), but then seemed to become, in my opinion, overly obsessed with acoustic studies, predicated on the questionable assertion that people cannot live comfortably next to busy roads without a specially designed acoustic environment. Not to say he didn't come up with some interesting points, for instance that textured surfaces to break up noise need to be large "crenellations", rather than the fine textures many (myself included) were picturing as a solution, because of the long wave length of low-frequency traffic sound.  He didn't say whether his suppositions about the health effects of living near busy roads will placing a load upon the health system and the well-being of residents is based on health studies or other data. It was an interesting extension of Prof. Shane Murray's work (in ReHousing, acknowledged by Duckworth-Smith as a precedent), but a very narrow one.


rc said...

FJE I think you've missed the point in parts. I've added my comments on your review of D-S's presentation here: http://bluecarpetcollective.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/response-to-fjes-review-of-duckworth.html

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