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Urban visionaries look to city’s future

27 November 2017 | Posted in: News


Written by: Rayannon Innes | Photography: Edwina Richards

Early this month, Australia had its very first taste of the Next City Vanguard Conference where fifty of the world’s leading urbanists gathered in Newcastle. Having travelled from all corners of the globe, the league of  ‘Vanguards’ as they are known, brought their expertise to the streets of a city in transition.

Following a tour that took the visitors to key sites of urban regeneration beginning at NeW Space City Campus, the group were then given a private encounter with two vacant locations: the Newcastle Station and Newcastle Post Office. Working in teams and informed by direct community and council consultation and in-depth heritage research each team devised a plan for the revitalisation of the historic sites. Their projected ideas were pitched to the public as part of the Vanguard Australia Big Idea Challenge and judged by a panel seated by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, and leaders in the local development, indigenous, and heritage sectors.

Emily Davies O’Sullivan, one of the four Vanguard delegates to represent Newcastle, was excited by the insights her fellow Vanguards presented in assessing Newcastle’s development. Emily’s Post Office ideas team were advocates for the ‘Twenty-four’ approach where a plan for site activation is considered over the immediate time frame of twenty-four minutes, hours, days, months, and years.

This concept embracing prompt temporary space activation, and its flow on affect into the long-term use of a site, has been actively applied in cities such as Auckland where community ownership is driving the city forward. In the US city of Baltimore, immediate space activation through the salvaging of building materials from vacant housing is an example of how swift community-led action can revitalise the urban landscape of a city and simultaneously create employment opportunities.

In our own city, vacant spaces have become opportunities for incubation, and the natural growth of the city’s cultural and economic value has followed.

“There’s a lot opportunities through Renew, the Council, and Newcastle Now who want to see us succeed” Emily said,

“It’s our city, let’s be the ones to take ownership”

The people and partnerships that served as the backbone of this era of Newcastle’s renewal, can now be experienced through the visually stunning, museum quality installation, Renew in A Box. The Vanguards had a peek at the exhibition in its NeW Space debut and you can experience it as well at The Newcastle City Library until the 30th of January.

Alongside her role as an urban planner, Emily is on the board of Octapod and is the co-founder of Ideas Bombing Newcastle.