Design for Liveability: Urban Experience and Public Sector Innovation

Soon to be held on 11-15 June 2018, our annual Knowledge of Design Week (KODW) will explore a series of critical issues concerning “Design for Liveability” from different viewpoints. This is a red-hot topic in the twenty-first century, when half of the world’s population have adopted an urban way of living. With three forums, nine workshops and a stellar speaker lineup, KODW harnesses thought-provoking local and international cases to trigger our imagination and discussion on liveability and design in the Hong Kong context. After giving you a sneak peek at Forum 1 “Vision for Future Cities,” in May, let’s delve into the other two forums in this issue.

Forum 2 “Urban Experience Reimagined” will be held on 13 June and focus on two essential building blocks of liveable cities — public space and urban experience. Many Asian cities have opted for vertical city planning to accommodate unprecedented population surges — we in Hong Kong probably know best what it looks and feels like. In such a congested environment, improving citizens’ public life is the ultimate key to boosting social well-being and facilitating community building.

The design of public spaces has become ever more important in global discussions on liveability. It has become an imperative for enhancing urban experience and spurring meaningful community exchanges and dialogues. How to wield people-centric and design-led approaches to revitalise public spaces, enrich the city experience from the grassroot level and connect communities have all become inevitable questions of the day. Furthermore, it is not just about altering the physical design of environments and facilities; it is more crucial to take a mindful relook at the shifts in lifestyles, values and ideals and rethink existing policies and regulations.

We have seen more and more visionary experiments on public space design in different corners of the world. Forum 2 gathers international speakers to share how these pilot projects are changing urban appearances and people’s lives, and how to unearth city resources to drive sustainable development. James Corner, the mastermind behind the High Line in New York and our TST Waterfront, will illuminate us on his design approach for public parks, waterfront and urban centre; Tom Kvan, Founding Director of AURIN (Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network), will spell out how data can be put at the service of design to underpin the development of urban policy and development guidelines; Tim Stock, Co-Founder of scenarioDNA from the U.S., will urge us to take a relook at utopia using system thinking.

The reinvention of public spaces leads to yet another timely topic, which will be discussed n Forum 3 “Public Sector Innovation” on 14 June. The fluidity of urban life and intertwined links between people and communities are redefining the roles of the government. Transiting from policymaker and administrator to facilitator, design thinker and entrepreneur, governments need to get used to a cross-sector way of thinking and doing. They need to embrace a user-centred mindset and harness new technologies like big data to cope with ever complex urban problems. Only by gaining a solid grip on changing behaviours, cultures and trends will they be able to address the true needs of the people in policymaking. There are multifarious ways to do this, as illustrated by the cases of Australia and Singapore we examined in this issue. It can be kick-started within the government itself, or via partnerships between the public sector and design expertise.

Tailored for public sector leaders, Forum 3 will take us through a host of international human-centred cases to cast light on innovations in healthcare, digital public services, arts and culture, etc. We will also take a look at how to engage experts from the academia and private sector to work towards a progressive society. If you are a keen supporter of better public spaces and services, this year’s KODW will give you some good food for thought!

KODW programme details
Forum 2 “Urban Experience Reimagined”

Forum 3 “Public Sector Innovation”

James Corner

Tim Stock

Tom Kvan