I attended 3 out of 4 of the 4×4 series of discussions in Manchester in May of this year. The series is about promoting real debate about cities, bringing speakers from a range of built environment related backgrounds together. This year was hosted by Bob Phillips, and led by the partnership of Urbed, RIBA NorthWest and the Academy of Urbanism.
The theme for this years’ presentations was Money, Love, War and Peace and Freedom. I attended all of them except War. I’ll blog on my take on what was presented, with an inevitable slant towards my own personal interests (hoping I don’t stray too far from the presenters’ original intentions).
Money was held on 4.5.16 (in the former Cornerhouse building, Oxford Road, Manchester). 4 speakers made 4 presentations, followed by a Q and A session. Each took the theme of money and addressed notions around issues of value in the built environment and the city.
Architect and academic Flora Samuel spoke on how architects are valued within place-making, on the cultural value of architecture and how often the public values a different set of aesthetics to those of architects.
Activist and researcher Morag Rose, spoke about her Phd research at University of Sheffield into women’s experience of walking in Manchester. She talked about valuing the city differently, how walking shouldn’t be, but is a radical act and how women, disabled people experience the city differently to others. She called for the city to be made more accessible for everyone.
Phd researcher Mick Martin, presented his recent researches into the Temporary Urbanism, or the meanwhile use of vacant buildings and plots in urban areas. He underlined how these spaces have been used in ‘Mundane’ or ‘Extraordinary’ ways whilst developers wait for land values to rise, before beginning to build.
Finally Steve Conner, director of Creative Concern (http://www.creativeconcern.com/ ) talked about what needed to be valued differently in cities. He noted the duality experienced in Manchester between making money and social activism, emphasising the inequalities that are highly evident in the district. He highlighted 5 ways to challenge and change the status quo:
- Accept that trickle-down economics doesn’t work
- Understand that ‘infinite growth’ is not possible
- Accept that more money doesn’t make us happier
- Economic growth shouldn’t be the priority of a civilised society
- People need to be dancing to a different beat to George Osborne’s
He summed up by directing people towards Steady State Manchester and their calls for a Viable Economy. Finally, in terms of looking differently at what we as a society understand as valuable, he advocated taking the Rochdale Pioneers as role models for changing the world we currently live in.
Image credits: Morag Rose and Steve Conner, taken by Sarah Spanton