Summer School 2014
After what had been a 30-hour flight, over what I counted to be 13 countries, we finally arrived in Sydney some 16,000 km away from Dublin (4 of us without our luggage!). Without much time to make sense of the 9 hours we had gained and the reversal of the seasons, the long anticipated U21 ‘Shaping the Future City’ Summer School began.
After a few hours of confused sleep, I quickly began meeting more students than I could remember names. This unique gathering of like-minded individuals from 24 universities created a shared sense of excitement – and any cultural barriers were quickly overcome by semi-intellectual discussions of our respective cities and our visions for those of the future. We all became friends immediately!
The programme was tremendously well coordinated – everyday a different theme related to ‘Shaping the Future City’ was introduced and explored by remarkably well-informed and articulate guest speakers from a multiplicity of backgrounds (professors and professionals). The themes covered included: inclusive, connected, beautiful, resilient and healthy. After each speaker gave his/her presentation, the floor would be opened up to a Q&A session. This allowed us to ask any burning questions or, in instances, even challenge the speakers. In the afternoons, to help consolidate the morning discussions, relevant visits around Sydney had been organized according to each theme. This included a visit to the Sydney town hall, an architectural walking tour, a visit to the New South Wales Fire Services Headquarters and even a visit to the Taronga Zoo.
Sydney (or ‘Eora’ the name given by the Australian Aborigines for the Sydney Basin) proved to be a truly exemplary city, almost perfectly suited for discussing the ‘5 themes’. In many ways the city can be seen as a laboratory for innovative ideas in urban design, planning and development, which is mirrored by its progressive 2030 blueprint to create a green/global/connected city.
As part of the Summer School we were divided into groups of 5 and told to creatively present on an assigned theme. My group was assigned the theme of ‘connectivity’, together we conceptualized what we referred to as a ‘light touch architectural intervention’ to better connect cities socially. As part of the presentation we created a visually aesthetic website – which you may visit at: http://square.letsgeekaround.com/
Looking back, not a single minute was wasted; even our free time was filled up with adventures around Sydney’s vibrant neighbourhoods and scenic landscapes. All in all, the summer school was a truly unforgettable, invaluable and eye-opening experience. I cannot help but recognize the unique dynamics that were realized in bringing students together from all corners of the globe. Aside from the life-long friends I have made, the summer school has helped mature my knowledge and further fuelled my desire to work at the heart of international planning efforts.
Thanks to everyone who made this special educational experience possible!