Walkley Media Conference 2010: What’s the story?

I’m speaking at the Walkley Conference this Wednesday August 11:

PANEL: What is originality?
Time: 4.20 – 5.10
Are there any truly original ideas left in the world? Is originality over-rated? Or does true creativity lie in reinterpreting age-old ideas? With the way that technology and media are moving, when does a mash-up, remix or homage become plagiarism? What are the implications for copyright and intellectual property in a world where anyone and everyone can and will collaborate?

The panel is chaired by Chris Warren, Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and also includes Sophie Cunningham, editor of Meanjin, and journalist Malcolm Knox.

I think my contribution will be to lower the tone and be a bit more pop-cultural… so I’m talking about I Can Haz Cheeseburger. Could be a disaster.

Iron Designer at the Powerhouse Museum

On Friday night I had a lot of fun as one of the judges of Iron Designer at the Powerhouse Museum, as part of Sydney Design 2010.

NYC July 2010

I spent three weeks in Brooklyn/New York City in July [you can check out my trip on Flickr] meeting with great people, sitting in on talks, checking out arts and creative city-building projects, and generally having a very nice time.

I’m hoping to invite some of the people I met to participate in Creative Sydney, and I interviewed others for the new SummerWinter. There’ll be more happening there later this year.

Dam-Funk concert poster for San Francisco & Hollywood | Stones Throw Records


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Watch: Creative Sydney on ABC1

Creative Sydney 2010 was a huge success – we were lucky to have close to a hundred inspiring participants, and over 10,000 passionate attendees, over the 20 events of this year’s festival.

Reviews, footage and coverage of the festival are still coming out, and today ABC TV’s Big Ideas program broadcast over an hour from our Creative for a Cause session!

If you missed it, check out iView or watch the video here…

Working on: Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards (SOYA) 2010

The call-out is underway for Australia’s largest (and coolest) creative industries grant and mentorship initiative, SOYA, and I’m in my third year directing the program, which represents Qantas’ commitment to supporting the next generation of talent.

I’m thrilled to be working with the amazing Collider on the campaign – they’re a Sydney-based design and film studio who do incredible things for clients including Sydney Dance Company, MTV, and artists like PVT and Dion Lee. I developed the “Step Up” tagline and Collider CD Andrew van der Westhuyzen came up with a (typically brilliant) off-the-wall design concept – a Russ Goldberg machine that brings the idea of pulling the pieces together, and “stepping up” to the next level, to life.

Check out the video below – could SOYA be the only grants program with a “director’s cut” of the campaign TVC?!

One of the things that sets SOYA apart is the mentorship opportunity, and I’m lucky enough to work with some brilliant, world-leading mentors for 2010:

TONY MOTT (Photography)
DEANNE CHEUK (Visual Communication)

If you’re a designer, musician, artist, filmmaker, photographer (or other creative maker), aged under 30 and living in Australia, what are you waiting for? Step up and enter by August 9.

Is Los Angeles really the creative capital of the world? Report says yes – SmartPlanet

Los Angeles is now the “Creative Capital of the World,” with one in every six people in the region employed in a creative field, according to a new report.

According to the 2009 Otis Report on the Creative Economy (.pdf) — sourced from the Otis College of Art and Design located in, you guessed it, Los Angeles — the city’s strong network of colleges and universities, its growth of new digital industries that attract skilled workers and (relatively) stable economy all help L.A. claim the throne as No. 1.

Part of the reason is that digital media has taken off in the city. Unemployment may be affecting the country, but the report forecasts a 10 percent increase in employment for digital artists from now through 2013. That includes animators, digital effects artists and motion graphics artists.

The report also highlights L.A.’s growing base of “nonemployer” firms — those with revenues but without paid employees, such as freelancers or creative professionals in the fine or performing arts. There are two self-employed people for every person working in a traditional firm in these disciplines, according to the report.

Los Angeles County counted $121 billion in creative receipts, better than all industries except tourism/hospitality and international trade.

But the city hasn’t done enough to promote its creativity beyond the entertainment industry, according to the report. A lack of recognition, insufficient government planning and support, lacking K‐12 school curriculum in the arts and tightening school district budgets are otherwise detracting from the city’s creative talent pool.

Is L.A. really creative capital of the world? The introspective report doesn’t compare the city on the world stage, so it’s hard to say. But if you believe in the creativity of the Mazda Miata, the SR-71 fighter jet, the Internet, the French Dip sandwich and yes, bare midriffs — the City of Angels is indeed king of creativity.


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jan gehl: urban visionary

danish architect jan gehl‘s work has influenced the street culture and sustainable development
of many cities around the world. his most successful and widely-noted work has been
the transformation of copenhagen from a car-dominated city to a pedestrian-friendly space,
embracing urban cycling as an important part of the city’s culture and identity. his 1971
publication ‘life between buildings’ is still considered to be an important and relevant
body of text for any urban strategist today.

the core foundation of his practice is to simply put the people first. a lively and healthy city
should encourage the people to use public spaces. by eliminating heavy traffic infrastructure
with bike paths, wider sidewalks, and other systems of private mobilization, the city will
become a space to inhabit and enjoy rather than just a point of passing.


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Streetsblog New York City » Final Deal on New Domino Locks in Parking, Adds Shuttle Buses


Final Deal on New Domino Locks in Parking, Adds Shuttle Buses

by Noah Kazis on June 30, 2010

Add a whole lot more cars and some shuttle buses to this picture, and you’ve got the approved plan for the New Domino. Image: The New Domino

The New Domino development slated for the Williamsburg waterfront passed the City Council’s land use committee yesterday in a unanimous vote, thanks to a last-minute deal between the developer and project critics. Under that agreement, the project’s tallest towers will shrink from 40 stories to 34, though the total number of units will remain the same. The project is now expected to sail through the remainder of the approval process.

In terms of transportation, the developer has now promised to provide shuttle buses to nearby subway stations. With room for 1,428 cars, the project is far from a model of sustainable planning, but with the fight over New Domino now at a close, it’s worth remembering that livable streets advocates won some real improvements during the land use review process: the shuttle buses and last month’s reduction in off-street parking.

The bottom line remains, however, that with 1,428 parking spaces, this is an auto-oriented development. “The transportation plan hinges on bringing more cars into the neighborhood,” said Ryan Kuonen, an organizer with Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, a local community organization. Still, she said, “It could have been worse — the plan used to be worse.”

With both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn strongly supporting the project, final approval was all but guaranteed. “This thing was going to get passed,” said Kuonen. The only question was how the New Domino would change on the way to approval, and the adjustments that unfolded were almost uniformly towards more livable streets.

The changes were “pretty much as good as you were going to get on these issues,” said Rachel Weinberger, a parking expert and professor of transportation planning at UPenn. “If this is what we get when the system is working how it’s supposed to, we need to rethink the system.”

The shuttle buses, if implemented well, could help make transit the mode of choice for a few more New Domino residents — and will certainly improve their trips. The project is located about three-quarters of a mile from the closest subway stations. That’s walkable, but hardly appealing in miserable weather. A shuttle will give the significant number of people who’ll be taking the subway a quicker, more pleasant commute. “It’s the right idea,” said Weinberger, noting that the implementation will matter a lot. According to Council Member Stephen Levin’s office, the routes haven’t been determined yet.

The inclusion of shuttle buses at the New Domino also sets an important precedent. “It expands the envelope of what types of transportation improvements developers are responsible for,” said David King, a planning professor at Columbia who had previously called for including shuttle buses at Domino. “In most cases developers are only responsible for parking,” he continued, explaining that buses are very rarely a condition for approval. If it becomes widespread practice to require large-scale developments to improve residents’ access to transit, not just give them space for cars, that’s a tangible shift. 

Shuttle buses can only do so much, however. First, they’ll be targeted only at New Domino residents. “It’s really solving a problem for the people moving there,” said Kuonen, “not the people who are already living there.” One easy way to ensure that these shuttles are a community benefit, not just a resident perk, might be to run them all the way to Union Square; many Williamsburg residents were more concerned about adding even more commuters to the overstuffed L train than they were about added congestion on the roads.

More importantly, shuttle buses will do little to counter the car use induced by all that parking. ”They will serve the people who don’t have a parking space,” said Weinberger. “It’s not going to be of huge relevance to those who have a car,” she continued, citing research she just completed showing that in New York City, residents with parking are likely to drive to work, even if they live near good transit options. The congestion-busting impact of the shuttle buses, therefore, will be limited. 

So about all that parking. Here too, livable streets activists won a small victory. Local organizing convinced Borough President Marty Markowitz to request a 266-space reduction in the amount of parking at New Domino, which the City Planning Commission agreed to enact — a rare case of the review process yielding a less car-centric outcome than the initial proposal. 

Of course, the amount of parking originally proposed was so enormous that the New Domino will still add a flood of cars to the neighborhood, congesting the free Williamsburg Bridge just feet away, guzzling gas and exposing pedestrians and cyclists to greater danger. The policy that larded Domino with parking in the first place — attempting to build enough off-street automobile storage to match the car-ownership rates of the surrounding area — needs to be discarded as too disconnected from broad transportation goals. 

Moreover, while the shuttle buses could quite easily disappear after a few years, these parking spaces are forever. That’s why it rankled when the mayor promised a comprehensive traffic and transit study for the area as one piece of yesterday’s deal. The city has already made a huge, and permanent, transportation decision. If, years from now, that comprehensive study finds that the inclusion of so much parking was a bad decision for the neighborhood, the horse is already out of the barn. The only way to align this project with the goals of PlaNYC, significantly reducing the amount of parking, won’t be an option.


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the little book of shocking global facts


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South London Gallery: art in the walls | Culture | The Guardian

An extremely well-appointed one bedroom flat, complete with north-facing terrace and its own lift down to an art gallery, cafe and garden, was seen by the public for the first time at the weekend. The flat forms part of the South London Gallery’s £2m redevelopment and will be occupied for short periods by a series of artists-in-residence. For now, though, the flat is being used as gallery space for its new show, Nothing Is Forever, themed around a clever idea. Artists including Fiona Banner, Mark Titchner and Robert Barry have put work directly on to the walls so that it becomes part of the building’s fabric, or bones, when the walls are painted in September. Opposite, Yinka Shonibare has designed a fabric to cover the gable end of a 40m-tall Peckham tower block. The SLG’s redevelopment is a good thing and demonstrates the need for more private investment in the arts: only 20% of the costs came from public funds.


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david chipperfield architects: rockbund project and art museum


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hulger and the ipad


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frederique daubal: hide and seek


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Jules Bates


Will Phoenix Rise from the Flames? – The Future of the City – The Atlantic

I find myself agreeing with Richard Florida here – cities must be suspicious of a real-estate based economy – leading cities are now starting to recognise their true assets, the people who make up the city, and their skills.


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Reinventing Urban Transport: Singapore-Malaysia cross-border transport agreement and opportunities

So will Singapore seize the opportunity to create a new Park Connector along the Malayan Railways corridor? There is no news on that for now. 

The KTM corridor would make a wonderful “rails to trails” type project. It would be tragic not to preserve this right-of-way for non-motorised transport. Such a park connector could provide a direct, flat, bicycle route free of road-crossings all the way to the edge of the financial district at Tanjung Pagar from Woodlands via Upper Bukit Timah, Ghim Moh/Holland Village, Biopolis and Queenstown. Right now, the PCN network is rather disjointed (see the map below).


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Norma Jean


Greg Kadel + Miranda Kerr in Numero


Stripe Generator – ajax diagonal stripes background designer

M.I.A.’s New York Times Magazine Shoot With Ryan McGinley


Crowdsourcing and design – can we afford not to be involved? | Australian Policy Online

Crowdsourcing design is becoming a big issue in design practice. Ross Dawson from Trends in the Living Networks recently wrote an article on how Australia is becoming a global hub for crowsourcing platforms.

Over the past 12 months, new and re-launched companies have sharpened their offer to enable us all to access an enormous market of creatives who are willing to become part of the crowdsourcing game. I'd like to discuss a few models here:

How Portland Sold Its Banks on Walkable Development


How Portland Sold Its Banks on Walkable Development

by Noah Kazis on May 25, 2010

Gresham, Oregon used to look like your typical suburb. Lots of lawns and lots of parking. When Portland’s MAX light-rail line expanded to Gresham, developers saw an opportunity to bring something different: walkable development. But a downturn in the local real estate market interceded. One developer trying to build a four-story condo project decided that he’d be better off with a video store surrounded by surface parking.

The Crossings at Gresham brought transit-oriented development to Portland’s suburbs, opening the door for financing to flow to similar projects. Image: Myhre Group Architects.

Metro — Portland’s regional government — decided that wasn’t good enough. They bought the site outright. Then Metro proceeded to double down on the original plans for the project, which it called The Crossings. Four stories became five, making the development the tallest building in Gresham. Condos became a mixed-use development with ground-floor retail, sidewalk cafés and engaging street-level facades.

There was still one big problem: financing. Charlotte Boxer, director of commercial real estate at Pacific Continental Bank, was skeptical of Metro’s project. “What would draw people to live there, or what would make a retailer decide to lease there?” she asked. “There was substantial risk on Metro’s part and on ours as the lender, because we had no comparables to go to that would say this would work.” For the project to succeed financially, they’d have to charge rents 25 percent higher than the going rate in Gresham, for a type of development no one had ever tried there.

In many parts of America, efforts to build transit-oriented, walkable communities are foiled because financing can’t be secured for projects that differ from the templates lenders have become used to since World War II. In Salt Lake City, for example, the local government’s push for transit-oriented development has been stymied because local banks won’t lend to projects without huge parking lots.

Why do lenders balk at development that reduces car dependence? In a word, inertia. “The lending industry appears to be very conservative, if your
definition of conservative is doing the same thing this year as you did
five years ago,” said David Goldstein,
the co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s energy
program and an expert on environmental real estate financing. Because banks have no institutional memory of lending to transit-oriented
development, they are reluctant to do so going forward.

In Portland, officials and activists have begun to escape this cycle. The policies they’ve pursued to foster walkable development are instructive for many American cities looking to grow without making traffic congestion worse.

Even in transit-rich New York, economic development officials have subsidized developers who import car-oriented standards. They are happy to secure favorable lending terms, underwritten by the U.S. government, for multi-story parking decks. It’s safe to say that goals like enhancing the pedestrian environment or attaining sustainability targets are not motivating these decisions. Portland development officials do things differently. When planners there decided that urbanism and sustainability were good outcomes, they went out and started convincing lenders to change the way they do business.

Megan Gibb runs Metro’s transit-oriented development program, which works with developers and offers financial incentives for TOD. The Crossings, for example, received discounted land, tax breaks, and other financial incentives from Metro. ”Our whole program is to build more market-comparables,” said Gibb. “The more TOD projects there are, the more it builds on itself.” Each project that gets built makes the next one easier to finance.

Gibb also highlighted the centrality of public-private partnerships to Portland’s success. According to Gibb, banks normally look at standard, car-oriented development models and say, “We know this worked in the past. Why would we want it to be any different?” When the public sector commits to smart growth, however, bankers instead see that the government “thinks this is really important and is willing to put their money where its mouth is.” For financial institutions that are often quite risk-averse, government action provides the security necessary to move forward.

John Warner, who manages most of the TOD projects at the Portland Development Commission, argues that at first, government may have to push the envelope to convince banks that walkable development pays off. “Until you’ve got examples that lenders can look back in time at,” he said, “you have to be doubly conservative and oversubsidize something to prove the concept.” Warner added that in Portland, where lenders have bought into a consensus about the need for sustainable development, they’ve been able to walk back many subsidies.

At The Crossings, Metro’s vision — and incentives — turned the project into reality. Financially, it’s a complete success, with 100 percent occupancy and a sizable waiting list. It’s won awards for transit-oriented design and earned the praise of Gresham’s residents and politicians. Perhaps most importantly, however, it set an example.

Boxer, the initially skeptical executive at Pacific Continental Bank who provided The Crossings’ financing, now says she is “very proud to say I have financed the project.” She also calls it “truly pioneering,” providing a model for how to bring walkable development to suburban locations. The Crossings, itself possible because of the successful projects that preceded it, helped pave the way for more and better transit-oriented developments that followed.

The Beranger condos, a new transit-oriented development in Gresham, wouldn’t have been possible without The Crossings’ success. Image: Gresham Downtown Development Association.

Even in Portland, though, proponents of walkable development have more convincing to do. One bank that’s played a central role in financing urban-style housing near transit, ShoreBank Pacific, is still getting accustomed to projects with less parking, for instance. “Having no parking for a business is still a pretty challenging place to be,” said ShoreBank VP Bonnie Anderson.

Moving forward, then, Portland will have to craft policies that expand the comfort zone of lenders. Gibb and Anderson saw shared parking and car-share as tools to mitigate banks’ fears about financing projects with fewer parking spaces than normal.

There are also structural reasons that banks avoid transit-oriented development, which can’t be overcome by building a few market comparables. Because profits from transit-oriented development tend to materialize more slowly than from typical suburban development, new financing methods are needed to make TOD more attractive to lenders. And of course, banks respond to the regulatory environment. Portland makes many developers adhere to principles of walkable development near transit lines.

It’s true that Portland area bankers have yet to embrace the full range of development needed to reduce car-dependence. But as the region attempts to grow sustainably, it benefits immensely from development officials like John Warner, who talks passionately about “the community organizing needed to get all the stakeholders on board with the absolute necessity of transit-oriented development.” While here in New York, where growth is ostensibly shaped by a citywide sustainability plan, the chair of the local Economic Development Corporation still thinks that not providing enough parking is “the worst thing we could do.”


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set + drift: shopping cart farming


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Op-Ed: Building a creative city in SMH

I’ve just had an opinion piece published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald on the idea of creative cities, check it out! I’ll post full text shortly.