Architecture & Cities, Conversations on TV

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This recent post on Twitter sent me into a contemplation.

Twitter is a bubble, or a foamy mess. Call out culture abounds, where people are content to air their grievance or their better idea, and there it stops.

What if instead, it went further?

To be clear, this post is not a gripe at @HillThalisArch, they are a practice with many staff who do great work within and beyond the profession, for the profession and the public. This is simply picking up where they left off…

My first thought in response to the tweet above was this…

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I continued to ponder this thought bubble and added…

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That’s where I’m now picking up on this thought experiment.

What is it for?

Always a good place to start. What are we wanting to achieve by having “Australians speaking regularly about architecture & our cities on tv”? Here’s some thoughts:
— build awareness around issues affecting our cities and built environment that impact the public.
— identify what is valuable about our built environment, and demonstrating the importance of this conversation.
— identify the value of the expertise and skills of built environment professionals such as architects, landscape architects, urban designers and so on.
— to reinforce the importance of awareness and discussions around our built environment and instil it as part of the broader culture of our community.
— to stimulate and promote work for built environment professionals.
— to encourage a more generous and less entitled community.
— to change the culture.
— to generate further activism and advocacy for our built environment.
— to instil this as a part of everyday consideration, in how people think andin how people see their world.

Who is this aimed at?

The next important consideration. It is perhaps not for everyone and at the very least not everyone will be interested or receptive to the message, no matter how good or well presented it is.
— Is it for everyone? That’s a tall order. I’d suggest it’s not for everyone, but nevertheless remains a wonderful audacious ambition.
— It’s for those with influence: politicians, philanthropists, change-makers, built environment bureaucrats, media.
— For those that have invested in the built environment.
— For those that are investing in the built environment.
— It’s for built environment professionals, not so much the messaging, but in order that they can feel seen, heard and valued. Less like they exist in a void.
— People who are already interested, and seek more knowledge or the language to continue the conversation.
— Those that want to make changes in the built environment.

Where do they hang out?

Now we know who it’s for, we need to consider where they hang out, what they take in, basically in what ways might we realistically reach them? If they never watch commercial TV, for example, that’s important to know. So where to find them?
— we know those that wield the regulatory power as well as significant commissioners of the built environment, hang out in the corridors of power, Local Councils, State Parliaments and Federal Parliament.
— real estate sections of the media.
— it’s likely they would read publications such as Financial Review, BRW, Forbes, etc.
— land or house sales, project home villages etc.
— reach out to the people in these public spaces.
— dining in expensive restaurants.
— in the boxes and VIP seats of major sporting or arts events.
— out and about at the local club, bar or restaurant.
— Netflix
— the online realm is vast, I’ll not attempt to really dig into this, but it might be that Instagram is a reasonable first guess.

These ideas and answers are by no means exhaustive and are proposed to serve as examples of the type of thinking we need to be doing.

“How might we make it happen?”

Returning to a broad answer to my first question. Here are some rough thoughts based on the What & Who it’s for, and a consideration of where these people might hang out. These strategies might work, they may not, we need to experiment…
— design professionals could go into schools and do classes on the importance of what we do in our built environment. This could be tiered and reaching out to all years and ages. Think of it as the built environment equivalent of the Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmites strategy, but less opportunistic and more generous. This could be run by volunteers at a relatively low cost. To change the culture, it may be best to start young.
— design professionals out and talking in local communities, as being done by Architecture Street. Again relatively low cost.
— direct action. Do the work to make the changes, either through doing the actual building or forming part of the team that does.
— trojan horse, not sure what that looks like, but it would require piggy backing the discussion onto a broader discussion, without obvious hijacking it. Perhaps it’s a festival, that’s not the “Architecture” Festival, or “Built Environment” Festival, but more like a (silently) themed Sydney Festival, entertaining and informative.
— civil activism and/or disobedience. Likely to draw some limited attention, but perhaps not so positively.
— paid lobbyists in parliament (state & federal) for the built environment. This would be an expensive exercise and would require significant funding from a small and not especially wealthy profession.
— breakfast TV is content hungry. How might something be done that’s engaging and entertaining? As a starting point to infiltrating the media.
— buy a block of land in every project home village and instead of building a project home build an information or even entertainment centre (mobile, pre-fab, inflatable, demountable, etc) focussed on relevant issues of the built environment.

Returning to TV (& I include streaming services in this). TV is untargeted (aside from streaming algorithms), it reaches everyone and no-one. So how do you attract the audience you want to reach? Either you need to piggy back onto a show you already know they watch or you create a show that resonates, that builds an emotional connection and becomes something they want to watch. A bridge to the issue. It therefore may be better to create a fictional show to engage in the issues, another trojan horse if you like. It would be about people, connection, but always present is a discussion or ideas around the built environment. What comes to mind would be something from the Working Dog team, part “the Castle”, part “The Dish”, part “Utopia” all heart and mind. It may be that such a thing could exist on multiple media platforms such as Instagram TV, etc. It would be a tall order and an expensive experiment.

What else?

This is all a brain dump. A start. A way into the idea of building a greater discussion and awareness of the built environment.

I’m curious what others think?

Want to know more about the author?
Michael is the co-founder of
Redshift Architecture & Art, and founder & coach at Ed Shift.

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| Not inclined to stay inside the | lines.

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