More New Zealanders are discovering – as a result of weather related events or natural disaster – that knowing people living close by directly affects your ability to respond and recover from an emergency.
Around the world more communities are looking inward as a response to increasingly unaffordable housing, food security and environmental pressure on the planet.
Jason Twill, Director of Urban Apostles and Innovation Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Architecture Faculty of Design no longer advocates for sustainable design and economies. He teaches regenerative design and development.
‘It’s not enough now to live and think about sustainability, we’ve got to go beyond that,’ says Jason, ‘We started to breach planetary boundaries decades ago and have been accumulating ecological “debt” ever since. It’s time to start paying that debt back and we need to go well beyond sustainability to do this. The pressure is on now to not just mitigate climate change – but reverse it. Regenerative development is what is required.
Regenerative design considers what works best for nature first and then how development can take place – while supporting and enhancing local ecology and biodiversity.
Fundamentally, it’s about life creating the conditions conducive for life, over and over again. There is no “waste” in nature,’ Jason adds.
‘I say to my students, at some point in their careers, there will come a time where radical ideas and radical change has to take place. I’m not a pessimist. I learned early on as a change agent within the property industry to look at the glass as not half full or full… but as overflowing. Otherwise, you could fall into the dismal abyss the of sheer magnitude of the challenge we have created for ourselves. What I see before us is the greatest opportunity humankind has ever had. The distance between where we are today and where we need to be to restore planetary balance to me is simply the measure of human potential. I strongly believe humanity will come together and rise to the challenge. It will be painful, but we will rise.’
Jason believes the key to radical change is empowering local communities and local economies.
He refers to ‘Village Building Convergence’ a 10-day annual event in Portland, Oregon, United States, hosting workshops in natural building and permaculture design. The event began in the Sellwood neighbourhood, where residents commandeered a road intersection to set up a tea stand, children’s playhouse and community library to demonstrate reclaiming public space and ‘repairing’ neighbourhoods. The movement is now Portland-wide.
‘Creating more resilient and connected places will ensure the future stability of our cities,’ Jason says. ‘By spending, contributing and living locally, communities will be more self-supporting and better protected from shocks in global economies for example.’
Jason describes regenerative design practices as building on and supporting human connection and relationships of trust.
Instead of Uber for example, Jason advocates for co-operatively owned electric ride-sharing schemes such as Modo in Vancouver, Brish Columbia, so profits stay in the community – instead of disappearing off overseas. Also, common and shared amenities like community kitchens and platform cooperatives that support the local economic resilience and community connectedness.
‘We also have a major imbalance today between speculative (developer-led) and deliberative (architect or citizen-led) urban development which is eroding the culture and character of our cities. I see a disconnect and misunderstanding of what the role of an architect actually is,’ says Jason. ‘They should not merely be considered the specialist who the developer pays to have something built and sold off. There’s a shift back to the old way of thinking and restoring the role of an architect in our society, as a guardian – a guardian of design excellence, of quality and of place.’
Jason Twill will be discussing Collaborative Urbanism and the Deliberative Model at ADNZ’s 2017 National Conference – Thriving in the Future – 26-28 October. Early bird pricing applies until the end of August so book now; http://adnzconference.co.nz/