"reSITE will be one of the most fun and interesting places to meet fellow city makers and grab good ideas"
Prague’s City Embassy, reSITE, is at it again organizing the sixth annual conference about making the contemporary city. reSITE conference will be back in Prague on June 22-23 and will focus on how the invisible shapes the visible in a city. What has been called the “most interactive architecture conference in the world” will present dozens of international speakers including globally renowned architects Kazuyo Sejima, Teddy Cruz and landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson. Martin Barry, the landscape architect, city maker and chairman of reSITE, an organization focusing on the possibilities of future urban development, explains the theme of the event that will attract over 1000 people from 30 countries.
What does the invisible city mean to you?
As is typical, Osamu Okamura, our program director, and the team again had a very long discussion before we decided to go full steam on the In/visible City topic. Yet this theme and the wish list of participants was on our minds for almost two years. We will explore everything that makes a city functional, that drives the economy and consumes a consequent part of municipal budgets – despite being invisible, like technical infrastructure. We will present the intersection of where the invisible becomes visible. The technical and underground infrastructure – the invisible city – that we inherited from our predecessors – is planned decades in advance. But, we rarely discuss what that infrastructure should be, whom it should serve and its value. It’s very obscure for most people, even for many in the city-making world. Will it serve the investment needs of only wealthy private investors, or will it provide a higher quality of life for urban denizens while providing returns for the city, reducing climate impact and better connecting citizens to services and the places they live, work and play? Infrastructure can provide a healthier and more efficient lifestyle. We have to answer whom it’s for and how we can provide it at a high level. We will try to define what kind of green, social and technical infrastructure makes a world-class city. And, what will the impact on investment and private development be? We will study award-winning designs, overlaps with architecture and we will look into all the layers and forms from pipes to greenery and human networks.
Is there much room for creative thinking when it comes to infrastructures?
Absolutely. And, creativity and innovation are why people come to reSITE. We will show that if thought of as vital architecture and not simply technical infrastructure, the associated buildings can become icons in a city. And, we must consider that all kinds of infrastructures have a huge impact on our quality of life. We are so excited to host Kazuyo Sejima this year, one of our prestigious Keynote speakers from Tokyo-based practice SANAA, a Pritzker Prize winner whose truly invisible architecture is based on very innovative design thinking. We will also look at controversial infrastructure. Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman from Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman will join us to present their study of the border wall between San Diego and Tijuana and its impacts on the economy, architecture and everyday lives of local communities. Teddy Cruz is very much questioning the architectural and aesthetic efforts for Donald Trump’s wall and the risk of trying to beautify this dividing infrastructure. Based on our experience last year with “Cities in Migration” this is a very strong topic, here in Central Europe. And the Dutch architect Caroline Bos from UN Studio will also speak at reSITE.
Who will bring inspiration for city makers?
I might seem strange but my answer is a politician. Paris Deputy Mayor Jean-Louis Missika who is in charge of town planning, architecture, economic development and competitiveness. He will give a lecture about his most well-known project „Reinvent Paris“, one of the world’s biggest and most ambitious urban development projects. Within one competition call, the city of Paris found investors and new uses for 23 city-owned sites. It was a very smart approach to rely on participation to make merge bottom-up creative energy and ideas with capital and city land resources. We love this. Also, it should go without saying that outside of the city makers conference in Amsterdam of course, reSITE will be one of the most fun and interesting places to meet fellow city makers and grab good ideas to bring home to their cities, or get inspiration for elections or startup ideas. We meet so many interesting people at reSITE; who knows you might be inspired to bring home a new lover, too. Like we say: share your heart, share your city.
And what about the pipes and city anatomy?
Here comes the cool part. We love pipes, tubes and waste. Since we’re designers first and we have built a pretty big audience of like-minded folks, we needed to try to merge design and city anatomy – like pipes. The City of Vienna knows how to do it. The head of Vienna’s waste management, Martina Ableidinger, will share state-of-the-art sustainable strategies that result in consequent energy savings, cleaner streets or re-use of still functional household equipment. We will bring to municipal experts from different cities and countries to one table – including Prague’s waste management and the municipal water company to compare and share experience. Many cities are still ramping-up their interest in implementing smart cities initiatives. We want to show the complexities of what „smart“ really means and also allow municipal leaders to understand that ignoring sustainability, resilience, innovation or big data would be like not paying attention to the Internet 25 years ago. It’s engrained in planning efforts now. We will also play with city data experts from London-based visualization studio TEKJA. Information architects Amanda Taylor and Jacopo Hirschtein are bringing an exhibition Big Bang Data to DOX, Prague’s great contemporary art gallery.
Last question is obvious – will there be anything new for frequent reSITE’s visitors?
We should have started with this question! We are innovating the format, we will offer over a dozen workshops and intimate round tables, many of them co-hosted by our partners from our 6-country Shared Cities: Creative Momentum project. We love for our event to be fun and want to make it more so then ever with tailored and themed bar crawls led by cultural personas from Prague. We are also very excited to host Leni Schwendinger’s NightSeeing™ – she is one of worlds best lighting designers and her light walks are literally an eye-opening experience. We will also organize guided tours of diverse underground infrastructure – yeah, pipes! – that are usually closed to the public. This festival program will involve surprise dance choreography for conference visitors. Not the least, we are innovating our visual identity and design experience of the event. This year we’re working with the mighty and awarded Czech graphic agency, Studio Najbrt. The dates of our event are coordinated with Metronome music festival and Ai Weiwei’s Law of the Journey exhibition at the National Gallery. No more excuse needed to join reSITE this year.
Registrations: resite.cz – June 22-23 2017 | Forum Karlin Prague
Early Bird Discount ends April 30