#futurecity15: cities with an edge

2017 update: new edition Festival of the Future City (about) taking place from 18-20 Oct; here’s the brochure and book (107pp) from the 2015 runout; see also the Bristol800 Book of Walks (PDF; 2016)

Bristol took over from Copenhagen as European Green Capital in January 2015. While the CPH experience seemed to be largely aimed at the professionals, as reflected in the Danish intervention at #futurecity15 (see #liveablecity), the Bristol edition had lots of delights.

The city hosts a stonking annual Walk Fest, which in 2015 offered over 160 events. In July a symposium on walking (abstracts) at #icml52 explored walking as an aspect of the liveable city, launching a Romantic Bristol app (iTunes) looking at “how walking through a city is altered, enhanced, encouraged and deliberately or subliminally directed by representations of its history”. See also the Bristol and Romanticism walking guide (PDF).

From 17-20 November the Bristol Festival of Ideas (@festivalofideas | blog posts) hosted the Festival of the Future City (lots of audio on Soundcloud and even more on YouTube) – I’m completely green, it’s so exciting, everyone’s there, you could go on a coach tour with Jonathan Meades and a walk with Will Self (Gdn: “a way to break free from the shackles of 21st-century capitalism” (source); Will also gave a talk on JG Ballard), Iain Sinclair also in convo with Matthew Beaumont and Lauren Elkin…so different from 2014. There was also an RSA #heritageQT and any number of other delights, including thought provoking sessions  on ‘age friendly’ cities, the 100 Resilient Cities network (see website, includes Vejle; article), social mobility and Guy Standing on The Precariat. Less my thing, but worthy of note, is Playable City, based at Watershed.

From Jonathan Meades in convo with John Harris (@johnharris1969):

  • where there are people and buildings nowhere is boring
  • not a fan of planned urbanism – cities need untidiness, mess, nooks and crannies
  • the “silent majority” of buildings not commented on, vs “institutionalised tweeness” (Letchworth) – all create a richness
  • precipitous cities (up/down, hills!) are good too
  • “the irony curtain” (north of Birmingham)

How can I entice JM to CPH?

Iain Sinclair:

  • you can judge the quality of a city by how fast people walk in it
  • commented on the “entitlement of bicycles” in London, cue much hilarity, if only you knew…with pedestrianism, in particular individual/ised walking, seen as a regressive pastime
  • the magnetic pull of places in a city, eg the Arnolfini in Bristol, and the need to walk to perceive this geography of the city – walking renews the city as landscape

The #futurecity15 opening event explored what we want our future cities to be. In the age of modernism the stress was on the practical and quick; at the moment many are following the path of enchantment, which brings its own dangers. We are now entering the second cycle of urban development, with a range of different lenses the city can be viewed by:

Increasingly there is a need to stand up for the traditional unruly city. Isolated people are excluded by gentrification, which offers a safer, cleaner, richer environment where everyone and everything is alike – lurking behind this is a fear of difference. Cities are shifting from being liminal places of contact and connection to isolation wards, with the like penned in with the like (Olivia Laing). Gentrification is in opposition to the cosmopolitan (multiple, diverse).

The closing event (George’s state of the city address) was a tad formal, after the introduction by Ian McMillan (around 9 mins), that is:

It seems Ian is poet in residence at the Academy of Urbanism.

So that’s it for the Bristol as Green City and the Bristol Method – Ljubljana up next.

#futurecity15 bon mot


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