At 1:30pm BST on 8th September in Oslo’s newly revamped waterfront, Victoria Marie Evensen, the deputy mayor for commerce in Oslo set out a vision for the ongoing transformation of her city, to a live audience of urbanists, politicians, planners, developers and architects, at the three-day conference; Oslo Urban Week. Simultaneously in the revamped 1990’s brutalist bus depot in Hackney, Patricia Brown, director of Central, countered with a vision for London 3.0, to a live audience. Tomas Stokke, director of Haptic in Oslo, and myself, in London, took the role of moderators.
This event, in two cities, at one time, was screened to a live global audience as part of a digital programme called ‘Londonon Around the World: Cities in Dialogue
’. The continuous 13-hour global relay of broadcasts was hosted by Londonon - a rolling research and residency programme run by a collective of London-based architecture studios – partnered with practices in Sydney, Paris, Barcelona, Oslo, Tokyo, Bogota, Shenzhen, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Mogadishu, Cordoba, New York and Montevideo.
The brief set by Londonon asked participants from around the world to explore and address the personal challenges they had faced through the global pandemic, to offer insight across a range of subjects on what the future might hold, in terms of the major challenges to face our cities, and how we might adapt our pre-covid rituals for transformative gain.
The topics of discussion were as rich and diverse as the locations themselves. Alongside our digital trip to Oslo, three small practices in three cities; Perth, Sydney and Brisbane recounted the challenges of working in a post-colonial environment. In Paris, we explored the value of local reusable materials and the importance of the circular economy in architecture. In Barcelona we reflected on solutions to the broken global food system, through local production and regenerative urban farming practices.
In Tokyo, we explored the richness which emerges from interdisciplinary work in the fields of art, architecture, and mathematics. Our trip to Bogotá looked at urban responses to police brutality experienced through the pandemic. In Shenzhen, we explored co-creation in the hands of the youngest members of society.
Meanwhile, Copenhagen celebrated the renaissance in cycling as a primary form of green urban transport. Amsterdam explored waterborne architectures as a solution to the rising waters of climate change. Mogadishu advocated the role of design in the realisation of civic spaces in the development of emerging cities and the team in Cordoba detailed the growth of passivhaus buildings across Latin America.
In New York we discussed the interface between ‘Nature’ and ‘Culture’, and finally in Montevideo, ideas about the interface between the wilderness and the city were explored through the lens of prefabrication technologies.
This highly ambitious programme was curated and facilitated by a number of incredible young architects from a core group of the Londonon collective, who had no prior experience of hosting anything of this type or scale. The experience of delivering a complex programme of interlinked events to a global audience was both unique and exciting.
It revealed the extent to which the pandemic has brought us all together with shared experiences, and with this, the manner in which we might continue to share our experiences, and what we have learned from them, to help shape our cities, and build their global resilience for the future.