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International Architectural Roundtable 2017

Cities and Densification: Weaving Our New Urban Fabric

Cities and Densification: Weaving Our New Urban Fabric
This year’s International Architectural Roundtable drew more than 400 to the opening event of the Buildings Show. The Roundtable examined the increase in the urban population and the issues associated with the rapid growth in our urban environments.  
Sourabh Dhawan, Manager, Business Development & Digital Products Constructconnect welcomed the audience and introduced the moderator, Adele Weder.
Adele Weder, Editor of Canadian Architect Magazine, lead straight into the presentations by introducing the session’s four speakers: Pei Zhu, Kelly Doran, Don Weinreich and Claudia Cusumano.
Pei Zhu, Founder at Studio Zhu-Pei, illustrated his approach with the story and images of the Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum. The building concept is to recreate the porcelain tile production experience with the interior to exterior environments, materials and the semi-indoor/outdoor flow of space. It is a contemporary approach to a complex site incorporating relics and heritage in a poetic and peaceful solution.
Kelly Doran, Senior Director – East Africa Programs at MASS Design Group stressed the importance of getting involved with everything from visioning – planning-design-construction-occupancy. We plan buildings to fundamentally change a context and the people we’re working with. He cited examples of building hospitals within communities, refugee camps and responses to crisis situations. Doran posed the question “How do you prove the value of architecture?”
Don Weinreich, Partner at Ennead Architects, introduced his presentation with “rethinking problems, binds us together as architects.” This is a theme we bring into all of our work. The firm does both projects and research. Refugee camps and the growing displacement of peoples is an area of concern and expertise. He stressed that architects can make a great impact by applying their skills and way of thinking to system planning.
Claudia Cusumano, Director at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC, discussed the Hudson Yards Project, New York, NY. She presented the project and the process of rezoning in the City to create new spaces above the operating rail lands. Public access, sculpture, shops and observation decks are integrated into the corporate, retail and housing within the project.
Adele Weder lead the Q&A portion of the program by highlighting some of themes that had been raised regarding urban spaces and densification as well as lessons learned.
In response to trends and where urban development goes, the following comments were made: “People in authority are waking up to the potential of heritage architecture….we’re waking up to defining our identity” ” - PZ
“Is that a universal application of architecture as we transform the cities of the future?”
Reflecting the region and nature were highlighted, as well as a consideration of cultural identity. Added to successful transformation was the importance of staying very engaged with the individuals building, using and supporting the project. 
What is going to change in 10 years in Cities?
Electric cars, Artificial Intelligence, electronic cash
Is there a system of engagement for displaced peoples?
Don Weinreich explained, “… in refugee camps the ‘client’ hasn’t arrived yet. It has to be developed, but there is not a lot of time. The system will go through many cycles of transformation.” It’s important to bring people in to the conversation was also stressed. And the architects’ role emphasized when describing successful projects as those that have the architect involved in the visioning from the start.
There was also a discussion on the RFP process around the globe:
There were comments reflecting the worst RFPs are coming into the process too late-- where the architects are seen as a vendor. As well the importance of bringing people into the process and how it impact innovation which is based on a contemporary point of view. 
The conversation wrapped up with some strong ideas and resonate comments:
“There has never been a more exciting time to be practising as an architect” - DW
“Convening experts that on their own cannot solve these problems, enriches the work like a stone soup process: people show up and put things in the pot.” - DW
Weder pondered on wrapping up the Q&A portion on a high note: “that’s an optimistic note…for a hopeful future”.
But cautious optimism was expressed in assessing that migration and immigration will impact us all. The conversation leaned towards a stronger future by posing a call to action: “Can architects and planners get ahead of this rather than just responding to problems as they arise?”
John Stephenson, OAA President thanked the panelists at the closing of the session and all who attended. The Construct Canada Tradeshow floor officially opened following the Roundtable event. 
The OAA was a proud sponsor of the event together with constructconnect, Canadian Architect, Brown Daniels Associates, Custom Tile Installations Systems, Reprodux, Teknion and WSP.
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