Thinker in Residence Program

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Queen Anne
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Thinker in Residence Program

#1 Post by Queen Anne » Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:21 pm

Hi all,

I saw on the ABC website a couple of days ago that our new thinker in residence is an architect:

http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/llee.html

She seems to be in Adelaide, at the moment, starting her tenure, and I was wondering if there is any interesting news on this over there in Adelaide? Or maybe I should let her get unpacked, at least? :)

I'd also be interested to hear what you think of the scope of Laura's program while in SA.

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#2 Post by Wayno » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:38 pm

hi queenie, i recently saw the article below on Laura, and am not sure whether to be excited or not. I also looked at the thinkers.sa.gov.au website you mentioned, but it does not seem to offer any easy way for "joe public" to really engage in the program - it actually appears to be a bit of an elistist club - happy to be proven wrong though.

[edit - sorry for being a bit negative about this thinkers program, but we've had many 'thinkers in residence' over the years and rarely does the public hear about their ideas/recommendations - previous thinkers include: Geoff Mulgan, Ilona Kickbusch, Dennis Jaffe, Fraser Mustard, Stephen Schneider, Rosanne Haggerty, Susan Greenfield, Peter Wintonick, Maire Smith, Peter Cullen, Blast Theory, Charles Landry, Herbert Girardet]

http://www.adelaidereview.com.au/proper ... =&ucat=19&
The built environment is personal. We sleep, eat, work and travel within its confines. It can make us feel happy, uplifted, frustrated, angry or even ill. Which might seem like an obvious observation – but how often do we stop to think about how the built environment impacts broadly on our lives?

That task will this year fall to highly regarded US-based architect and teacher Professor Laura Lee, one of the state government’s Thinkers in Residence. Lee has gathered numerous architectural plaudits, has taught at universities in Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland, is a senior fellow of the Washington D.C. think tank Design Futures Council and heads Carnegie Mellon University’s school of architecture, one of the US’s leading architecture universities. She strongly feels that personal connection to the built environment.

“I grew up in a very multicultural community in Canada and I’ve always been interested in art and in language and in culture,” Lee says. “My father is a civil engineer and that was part of my growing up. So the ability to bring those worlds together, the multicultural environment that was infused with a lot of art and design and the ability to build is a lifelong passion.”

Lee’s residency will focus on the value of design and the impact of the built environment on the quality of life for South Australians. She specialises in bringing agencies together to work collaboratively on built design projects and will work with such diverse government departments as education, health, arts, housing, transport, education and planning, along with outside program partners such as the Australian Institute of Architects, Flinders University, the University of South Australia and the Barossa and Light Development Board. She plans to focus on initiatives that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. She says while South Australia faces some unique challenges, they’re balanced by the state’s natural assets and an enthusiasm for sustainability.

“You’ll often hear designers say when there are market constraints, or the greater the challenges, that’s when design really rises to the occasion,” she says. “There’s no question that the water issues and the climate issues in South Australia are great challenges, but there are also other environmental assets that can be harnessed to counterbalance or mitigate those, two of those being geothermal and wind power, or waves, for example, so it’s a matter of looking at things in totality that can mitigate what are already exaggerated challenges.”

The total of Lee’s time in Adelaide so far comes to 11 days, many of which were spent locked in meetings as she worked on programs for Carnegie Mellon’s Adelaide arm, so she’s reluctant to be drawn on the state’s big built environment issues – such as housing at the former Cheltenham racecourse, the RAH debate, redevelopment in Brompton, changing southern suburbs with the closure of the Mitsubishi plant and towns to the north of Adelaide coping with an influx of mining workers. There’s certainly plenty of grist for an architectural thinker in residence’s mill.

“My ability to read the cultural landscape is, so far, limited,” she says. “But I have met dozens and dozens of people from all walks of life and all sectors and I must say that one of the most impressive aspects of the state, really are the people and their enthusiasm… there’s a genuine interest in sustainable practices and I would say that that stands out above and beyond other places I have visited or worked in the world.”

The state government invites two or three thinkers each year from around the world to come up with strategies in arts and sciences, social policy, environmental sustainability and economic development for the Thinker in Residence program. Thinkers spend between two and six months living in Adelaide – Lee will visit for about a month each time in March, June and October – and are expected to help the state come up with innovative and creative ideas, strategies and policy directions.

Lee aims to increase awareness and understanding of good design as integral to the state’s future and assist in the development of an integrated design strategy for South Australia. Even among difficult financial times, she says it’s important to continue looking to sustainability and heading towards new ways of working on built environment projects.

“In terms of economic impact, the building industry affects a lot of people and yes it’s critical to set some structure for building and looking at the ways design leads to economic prosperity,” she says. “So it’s not only about health and wellbeing or environmental sustainability, design can really change economic prosperity. That’s part of what I’ll be looking at in the residency, how we value design and invest in infrastructure such that it leads to those outcomes.”
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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#3 Post by Queen Anne » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:48 am

Hiya Wayno, I'm not sure whether to be excited or not, either. The thinkers can seem a bit remote from us mere mortals.

I guess we should wait and see. George mentioned to me that the thinkers do do public talks (to my shame I have never bothered to look into it before). Ms. Lee's program also mentions working with communities, along with the professional and academic groups. Hopefully, it will amount to something tangible.

I'm interested by the quote in the last paragraph of the article you posted (thanks for that). It's really good to hear Ms. Lee will explore economic prosperity as an outcome of design. Hopefully, she will expand our horizons in this regard.

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#4 Post by Wayno » Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:25 am

Queen Anne wrote:George mentioned to me that the thinkers do do public talks
unfortunately these are setup as amphitheatre-style lectures rather than discussions focused on seeking input.

Don't get me wrong, there's tangible value in the Thinker program, but it's more of an academic exercise - and a bit of a *tease* to us who are more practically minded. Joe Public has no visibility into whether/how the outcomes from the program translate into real-world improvement.
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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#5 Post by omada » Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:00 am

“But I have met dozens and dozens of people from all walks of life and all sectors and I must say that one of the most impressive aspects of the state, really are the people and their enthusiasm… there’s a genuine interest in sustainable practices and I would say that that stands out above and beyond other places I have visited or worked in the world.”

Well at least that is encouraging.

The Thinkers in Residence program though resembles Rudd's 20/20 Summit in its usefulness ;)

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#6 Post by Prince George » Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:19 pm

My impression of the Thinkers in Residence programs is that the amount of community input into each thinker's tenure depends on the thinker, and that the recommendations from the thinkers has been seeing impact in policy terms. Sadly, the thinkers.sa.gov.au site isn't responding at the moment (which seems to be happening to a whole swathe of goverment sites), but I did find a few links:

Current thinker Genevieve Bell (focussing on technology in our culture, and especially what its impacts are on remote communities) is running the site http://www.sastories.com/. From the site:
As part of her extensive fieldwork and research plan, Genevieve has set out to collect over 1 million stories from South Australians about our use of technology and how we stay connected with each other. Genevieve is keen to hear from all members of the community and so South Australians can also share their experiences by

•completing a ‘SAstories’ postcard, being distributed broadly through networks in South Australia
•by visiting Genevieve’s ‘blog’ on http://www.sastories.com/ and posting a story on the website
•by emailing adelaidethinkers@dpc.sa.gov.au for a copy of the postcard.
Genevieve is travelling extensively, covering as many towns as possible during February and March 2009 and so you may come across her in your town.
And she was just recently in the riverland on a "community consultation"

Geoffrey Mulgan, a policy thinker from the UK, made a number of recommendations last year about "social innovation"; in particular, starting a body specifically geared to generating new solutions to social issues (eg affordable housing). Just last month, the state government announced the first board of directors for the centre. In Mr Mulgan's words:
...South Australia also needs an institution that addresses problems through practical projects – demonstrating new models that work at meeting social needs. This would be the Australian Centre for Social Innovation, based in Adelaide.

Its spirit should be action oriented, starting projects small in order to learn quickly about what works, rather than depending too much on analysis.
And this last one might be one of the future thinkers - Judge Peggy Hora from California seems to have been invited into the program, but there's no mention of when. The list of past thinkers doesn't seem to include her, so I presume that it's in the future. This article about the appointment mentions that "over 90% of Thinkers’ recommendations have been implemented over the years".

So it might not be magically transforming the state, but the program doesn't seem to be a completely toothless tiger.

Perhaps it would be worth approaching Laura and ask her if she'd mind contributing something to Sen-Ad?

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#7 Post by stumpjumper » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:29 pm

A female architect. We're doomed!

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#8 Post by Prince George » Thu Mar 19, 2009 12:37 am

Stumpjumper, I am prepared to overlook your sometimes crass posts when they are at least interesting, but at this I draw the line.

Your comment was assinine in the extreme, frankly I am appalled by it. Especially when I think that we might ask Professor Lee to post some thoughts on design on the forums. Kindly edit it into extinction.

Might I remind you too that the person who's sex "dooms" us is the head of the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture, a school that - with due respect to our own universities - is rather more highly regarded than anything SA has to offer. And considering the standard of output from our predominantly male architectural community in SA, I daresay that a Ray Eames, Denise Scott Brown, or Zaha Hadid might do rather better than the claptrap that we have now.

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#9 Post by monotonehell » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:44 am

Okay, I took Stumpjumper's comment as satirical sarcasm intended to poke fun at our misogynistic recent history. In which case Prince George has been in America too long. ;)

But if Stumpjumper's comment was indeed misogynistic then, what George says stands.

It's often hard to tell on a forum.
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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#10 Post by Prince George » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:43 am

The Onion is satire, The Simpsons is satire, The Colbert Report is satire, The Daily Show is satire and is probably the best in recent history (and, shut my mouth, they're all American!). If someone can explain how SJ's two sentences are likewise satire on a par with, say, Jonathon Swift's A modest proposal, I will naturally withdraw my own remark and be the wiser for it.

BTW, there is a frequent complaint along the lines of "all this political correctness crap means that you can't tell a joke" - that's simply not true. What it does mean is that now the jokes actually have to be funny. Strangely, many "jokes" fail to meet this low bar, but then we are better off without them.

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#11 Post by stumpjumper » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:17 am

I've enjoyed a good laugh over the last few posts.

Monotonehell is right. My 'two sentences' were a deliberate attempt to provoke and annoy, purely for my own amusement. Fairly leaden satire perhaps, Prince George, but as you rightly point out, I'm no Jonathan Swift.

If I have offended the delicate sensibilities of Prince George, then I humbly apologise. I have a high regard for his royal highness' posts, by the way, and would not want to deter him from posting here.

On the subject of lady architects, I can say for a start that I have a couple of architecture degrees myself and have both taught and managed women in the field.

I would recommend that any architecture office includes women in a creative role. Sometimes blokes alone, for example, will miss a design solutions that a woman can see clearly.

So there. Now I'll go back to thinking up more asinine posts. :mrgreen:

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#12 Post by Wayno » Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:40 pm

Laura goes public

http://city-messenger.whereilive.com.au ... -for-good/
ADELAIDE needs to cast aside its conservative tendencies and ``be proud of itself’’ starting with Victoria Square the city’s latest Thinker in Residence says.

Internationally-renowned Canadian architect and design professor Laura Lee told the City Messenger this week while she was ``extremely optimistic’’ about Adelaide’s future, the city faced significant challenges.

``In terms of approaches, Adelaide can tend to be very conservative, with respect to change, which can lead to complacency,’’ Professor Lee said.

``There’s not enough demonstration of really good design on a number of levels there are some fantastic projects in Adelaide, there’s no question but for people to understand the value of design, there’s got to be a demonstration of it.’’

Prof Lee said the Victoria Square redevelopment was a prime opportunity for progressive, integrated, sustainable planning.

``Without a vision or comprehensive master plan it’s very difficult to resolve this space.

``Victoria Square connects everything in the city. It is the heart of the city and it needs to be considered as such and I think that’s probably why it’s taken such a long time.’’

After years of debate about an upgrade, Adelaide City Council is yet to decide on a final design option and may also require State and Federal Government funding.

``Adelaide should be itself, it should be authentic, it should draw from its distinguished history,’’ said Prof Lee who is in Adelaide this month for the first of three stints as Thinker in Residence.

She commended the state’s environmental conscience and North Tce cultural precinct.

``It’s always active and it’s a really good example of the potential of Adelaide to grow.’’

Laura Lee will present a free public lecture next Wednesday, March 25, from 6pm at the Hawke Building at UniSA City West Campus on North Tce. To register or for more information, go to http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au
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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#13 Post by Hippodamus » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:22 pm

Hi everyone,

I believe the governments scheme of 'thinkers in residence' is a waste of money and a very reactive approach for addressing the crux of the problem.. how to stimulate Adelaide to manifest itself as a more vibrant, sustainable and thriving polis.

I work for the government in the UAE and in a very progressive planning department. Our initial approach was to seek the very best town planning consultants and urban economists from successful regions throughout the world to create a 30 year vision for Abu Dhabi which the government has since endorsed and we are using as our mandate to stimulate sustainable and measured growth.

Unlike our neighbours Dubai, Abu Dhabi has embarked and committed itself in implementing up to date policies and a state of the art development review system which will ultimately lift this place as a thriving metropolis, from 1 million now to 3 million by 2030.

I realise that Adelaide is different, because we do not have the capacity in terms of oil money or stimulus in growth; however, we need a cognitive approach to our problem and I think seeking assistance from world renown planners who know their stuff is something which we have not done successfully to date.

Vancouver, in Canada - is a perfect example of a city which was very much like Adelaide. It lacked economic diversity, was too car dependent, and its citizens were not as confident as their more prosperous eastern neighbours of Toronto and Montreal.

Under the lead of a very successful and intelligent leadership, Vancouver has emerged as the worlds most livable city, with high density affordable housing in the city attracting thousands of families to live in the CBD, reducing car dependency while enhancing public transportation options and walking options, thus spurring a more attractive climate for stimulus of business and growth.

I believe Adelaide has this potential. But what is potential without an overall vision which is tailored for this city's needs...

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#14 Post by Queen Anne » Sun Mar 22, 2009 8:07 am

Hi Hippodamus,

I don't tend to think that the thinkers scheme is a waste of money. I like the idea that Adelaide can have the benefit of the brains of some of the world's more eminent experts, on a range of issues. And I believe some of the residencies have brought real-world results to Adelaide - for example, Roseanne Haggerty's Common Groundon Franklin, built over the new bus station. (Though on a side note, I read somewhere that the apartments are being rented to students and travellers now, rather than to low income people. Does anybody know anything about this? It sounds like a shame, but I can't remember where I saw the article to read it again, and wonder if I misunderstood something?)

Regarding Ms. Lee's residency, I'm glad she is in Adelaide right now, as John Hill - completely from left field- starts talking about an "arts and festival centre/green plaza" on the RAH site. I'm grateful to Ms. Lee for bringing the discussion back to Vic Square (thanks for posting the article, Wayno). Victoria Square has its issues, it's true, but for Mr. Hill to have added the RAH site to the mix is ridiculous, imho (because the location is not any better than Vic Square - which is already in line for redevelopment, anyway. What a circus!). I'd like to believe that the thinkers can help us conceptualise things beyond what the pollies serve up to us - which so often seems to be self-serving and questionable (Hello "green plaza").

If Adelaide finds the will and money to seek out the world's very best town planning consultants and urban economists to create a sensible plan and then actually support it (like you are doing over there in the UAE) that sounds like a good thing (though I would also like to see more participatory planning in Adelaide, as I don't believe experts have a monopoly on the answers to a city's challenges). That said, I don't believe that Adelaide's lack of a forward thinking planning vision leaves Ms. Lee's residency and the thinkers program looking like a total waste of money. It's not perfect, the thinkers program, and it can't answer all our prayers, but at least it gives us the opportunity to have a fresh view of things from a world renowned, presumbably independent, presumably passionate brain. I'd like to think that the little steps we take in the right direction - even a step as seemingly small as inviting a "thinker" to stay - can add up, if we make the most of the opportunity.

PS, if anyone is planning on going to Ms. Lee's talk on March 25, I'd love to hear about it, if you could post something. Pretty please, with cherries on top! :)

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Re: Current thinker in residence, an architect

#15 Post by Hippodamus » Sun Mar 22, 2009 6:39 pm

Queen Anne wrote:Hi Hippodamus,

I don't tend to think that the thinkers scheme is a waste of money. I like the idea that Adelaide can have the benefit of the brains of some of the world's more eminent experts, on a range of issues. And I believe some of the residencies have brought real-world results to Adelaide - for example, Roseanne Haggerty's Common Groundon Franklin, built over the new bus station. (Though on a side note, I read somewhere that the apartments are being rented to students and travellers now, rather than to low income people. Does anybody know anything about this? It sounds like a shame, but I can't remember where I saw the article to read it again, and wonder if I misunderstood something?)

Regarding Ms. Lee's residency, I'm glad she is in Adelaide right now, as John Hill - completely from left field- starts talking about an "arts and festival centre/green plaza" on the RAH site. I'm grateful to Ms. Lee for bringing the discussion back to Vic Square (thanks for posting the article, Wayno). Victoria Square has its issues, it's true, but for Mr. Hill to have added the RAH site to the mix is ridiculous, imho (because the location is not any better than Vic Square - which is already in line for redevelopment, anyway. What a circus!). I'd like to believe that the thinkers can help us conceptualise things beyond what the pollies serve up to us - which so often seems to be self-serving and questionable (Hello "green plaza").

If Adelaide finds the will and money to seek out the world's very best town planning consultants and urban economists to create a sensible plan and then actually support it (like you are doing over there in the UAE) that sounds like a good thing (though I would also like to see more participatory planning in Adelaide, as I don't believe experts have a monopoly on the answers to a city's challenges). That said, I don't believe that Adelaide's lack of a forward thinking planning vision leaves Ms. Lee's residency and the thinkers program looking like a total waste of money. It's not perfect, the thinkers program, and it can't answer all our prayers, but at least it gives us the opportunity to have a fresh view of things from a world renowned, presumbably independent, presumably passionate brain. I'd like to think that the little steps we take in the right direction - even a step as seemingly small as inviting a "thinker" to stay - can add up, if we make the most of the opportunity.

PS, if anyone is planning on going to Ms. Lee's talk on March 25, I'd love to hear about it, if you could post something. Pretty please, with cherries on top! :)
Thanks for the response Queen Anne.

You have outlined one or two examples from very few results which exist and that have come out of Thinkers in Residence. I still believe it is more or less a personal gain for the 'thinkers' selected (when he/she return to their home country with the experience gleaming from their updated CV with being posted in South Australia for this job); rather than what it is for the greater benefit of 1.1 million people.

I'm not saying that it is totally a waste of money, maybe 95 - 99 percent a waste of money.. I am trying to outline the fact that we need to take a more proactive approach - how long have we had this programme and how is it reviewed, analysed and then taken seriously with each of the results... how long has the government been putting money into Thinkers in Residence with very little change with Adelaide and what we want it to become... we need more than just a peasant programme is what i am trying to tell you.

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