Bristol Green Capital: #futurecity15

Last updated: 10 Oct 2019

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, the Bristol edition had lots of delights, not least the Bristol Festival of Ideas’ Festival of the Future City (on Soundcloud & YouTube; see also the brochure and book).

I’m completely green! Everyone’s there, you could go on a coach tour with Jonathan Meades and a walk with Will Self (Gdn). Will also gave a talk on JG Ballard, Jonathan Meades was in convo with John Harris and Iain Sinclair with Matthew Beaumont and Lauren Elkin…there was an RSA #heritageQT and sessions on age friendly cities, the 100 Resilient Cities network and social mobility, plus Guy Standing on The Precariat.

Jonathan Meades:

  • 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)

Iain Sinclair:

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

The 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 set of different lenses the city can be viewed by:

Let’s stand up for the 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:


So that’s it for the Bristol as Green City and the Bristol Method – Ljubljana up next. Some bon mots to finish:

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