arch-peace news and articles


Ethical cities agenda

What an exciting night! On Friday 10th November Architects for Peace hosted a lecture on Ethical Cities at RMIT. We knew it was a somewhat special event. In the weeks coming up to the lecture there was a great buzz on all our platforms, a sign that there is a great appetite for this topic.

We had been asking ourselves many questions about the meaning of liveable, smart and resilient cities and how to reconcile private, political and economic agendas so we can redefine our shared future in the urban age. We had waited in great anticipation and welcomed our guest speaker Ralph Horne.
Ralph Horne did not have a ready-made solution on how to govern our cities, but he offered us many suggestions on how to start thinking and acting collectively to minimise cities’ vulnerabilities.

Ralph opened the night by looking at the problems that cities present before talking about them using some contemporary adjectives – or ideas – often applied to cities. These are resilient, smart, shared, and liveable cities.

The problem with cities
In the dominant economic view, cities are described as centres of competitive advantage, but Ralph talked about cities as people not just infrastructure. With the rapid expansion of urbanisation, there is a growing need to think about our cities’ growth and anticipate it if we want to solve future problems.

Some of the current challenges that we face in our cities are governance, accountability, corruption and unequal access to infrastructure. We need to remember that so far, urbanisation has not entirely solved poverty, but rather shifted poverty from rural areas into the urban areas, deepening inequality.  
How do we to start to tackle this complexity? Ralph identified the rescue framework with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA).

Next, we need to ask ourselves: who should be involved? Ralph identified stakeholders such as mayors, civil societies, who tend to engage enthusiastically, and the corporate sector, less so. Our great challenge is how to bring those stakeholders in.

What happened to the sustainable city?
Ralph traced the transition of environmental concerns from the 1960s through to present as running from local ecological concerns, through to the global-north shifting the burden to poorly resourced and poorly regulated global south. This coincided with the resurgence in focus on marketisation, individual choice and overconsumption as the means to achieve sustainability. He highlights that this is based on the flawed assumption that market forces and regulations will always work.

The unstated reality is that underlying structures are at work, but who do they work for? Ralph pointed out how we still live with the idea of progress, growth of GDP, without questioning what that really means.

Over time, the idea that we must survive without subsidies took hold, although subsidies make markets work. For example, vast amounts of public money that could have gone into public health were instead directed in fossil fuels due to the IMF’s support of neo-liberalism.

Where is the resilient city?

Resilient cities have been broadly characterised as flexible, diverse, able to bounce back. But who defines the definition of resilience - from what, to what?

The literature suggests that the responsibility lies with individuals and the cities themselves. However, Ralph disagrees with this view stressing the fact that when evaluating projects, we should ask who exactly benefits from them.

What is the smart city good for?

The smart city is framed by three models: intelligent (digital), entrepreneurial (knowledge economies, post-industrial) and progressive (more democratic, forward looking). However, the dominant narrative about the smart city is coming from competing tech corporations, which are in a frontier-style digital land-grab.

Free public wi-fi is an example where the theoretical models meet and clash with the corporations’ idea of smart city.

The provisioning of wi-fi is done by local municipalities going into partnership with corporations who, in return, get access to the users' valuable data.  Based on how contracts are defined, the data can either be made available back to the city/citizens, or only to the corporations. Public-Private-Partnership contracts need to be reframed for the public good, keeping in mind transparency and accountability.

More than just the contracts need to be considered. Free wi-fi relies on people bringing their own devices - access to such devices is a source of inequality.

Ethical city: agendas & practices

What does the ethical city look like? How can we ensure that we won’t exacerbate already existing issues? How do we achieve this without selling meta data to corporations?

To begin with, the city itself must have an ethical frame, it is not sufficient to just have ethical individuals.

Cities become dysfunctional and anti-social as individual citizens begin to prioritise their narrow short-term interests over others. Cities that fail to build ethics are more vulnerable to shocks - climatic, economic etc.

The role of the private sector is crucial. As Ralph reminded us, many of the assets and infrastructure are privately controlled. The governance of those private public partnerships is essential – there is need for transparency and greater awareness of the consequences of decisions and actions. Ralph was calling for more overtness on intended and unintended consequences of project design.

Good examples of the PPP can be traced in the work done by the UN Global Compact Cities Programme.

Closing Remarks

Ralph closed his lecture with reminding us that the Ethical cities agenda is designed to raise the profile and advance a principle-based and collaborative approach to urban development and city management. When we devise a new project for our cities we need to ask ourselves How will your project address equity? And How do we make people accountable?

It was an interesting journey through the many facets of our cities: sustainable, resilient, smart. At core, the message I came away with is that cities are made by people for people and if we want to keep living in the same shared space we need to seriously start thinking how to reframe governance and the role of the private sector.

As part of civil society, we are but one of the stakeholders that have to sit at the table and bring forward ideas to make our place truly liveable, resilient, smart and shared for the 100%.
It’s your turn now to tell us what did you took away from the nightLeave your comments here.
Our thanks go to Ralph Horne for sharing his time and knowledge with us and to all of you for participating.

The video of the lecture will be released soon!


El Parque Forestal: persistente proyecto urbano integrador de la naturaleza y la ciudad

Parque Forestal: a persistent urban project that integrates nature and city

In the month of urbanism, I was invited to write a column for the National Museum Benjamín Vicuña MacKenna (Santiago, Chile). This column is intended as “a space of reflection and participation and seeks to collect the opinion from citizens, specialist and academics on the city”. I chose to write about Parque Forestal, an urban park designed in the year 1900 by the French architect George Dubois. 

This linear urban park is significant in that it recognises and incorporates the geographical situation and natural landmarks defining the city (the Andes, its mountain ranges, and the Mapocho River). Because of the Parque Forestal´s flawless design logic, new parks continue to be created in all the municipalities crossed by the river. These parks stretch along the Mapocho river, creating a system of open spaces—urban “windows”— and allowing us to contemplate the Andes mountains in a continuous manner.  

In times when urban gestures tend to be timid, surrendering the responsibility of cities (in all their complexity) to others, often the market and their developers, it is crucial to revisit and value the work done by our predecessors—the urbanists—and recuperate the drive that will permit us make cities better places for all. (Article in Spanish, published by the MNBVM on November 1, 2017).

Parque Forestal y Río Mapocho durante la proyección del Museo Arte de Luz, donde 14 artistas expusieron sus obras (2015). 
Frecuentemente asociamos el urbanismo a los llenos formados por los edificios e infraestructura. Se nos olvida que parte importante de esta forma e imagen de la ciudad está compuesta por sus espacios abiertos, los vacíos, los espacios verdes—esos relieves que nos recuerdan que la ciudad respondió en su origen a su situación geográfica y paisajística natural—.
A pesar de que en Santiago transgredimos constantemente estos orígenes, aun conservamos sus huellas. Entre estos, el río Mapocho, algunos de los riachuelos (hoy canales), incluso nuestra avenida principal (Alameda) que alguna vez fue un curso de agua. También nos quedan parte de las vistas majestuosas de la cordillera que se insinúan entre edificios y gigantografías que imponen en el habitante sus burdos mensajes.

En la conformación de Santiago, se valoró y destacaron sus orígenes, su topografía y es así como el río Mapocho, a pesar de la canalización que lo despojó de su capacidad de mantener sus ecosistemas, fue por otra parte enaltecido con el Parque Forestal. Parque lineal, diseñado por el arquitecto francés George Dubois en el año 1900, como primer parque urbano moderno del país y que formó parte de un conjunto de estrategias urbanas que transformaron y humanizaron la ciudad.

El Parque Forestal, que acompañaría en su recorrido al Río Mapocho, fue concebido como lugar de paseo y contemplación, de encuentro e integración, fue delineándose paulatinamente con edificios residenciales y coronado por el Museo de Bellas Artes (1905-1910). La irreprochable lógica de su concepción como paisaje urbano longitudinal, unificador y complejo en su ambición, permitió que en la medida que la ciudad crecía, este parque continuara extendiéndose e integrando municipios, más allá de lo originalmente proyectado. Es así como nuevos parques se han sumado a su sistema, tanto desde el oriente como del poniente de la ciudad, uniéndose a este poderoso gesto urbano inclusivo.

Además de la belleza de su diseño y sus árboles, el Parque Forestal tiene valor inmaterial como construcción cultural reconocida en su calidad de zona típica. En el esparcimiento y el caminar se mezclan y conviven creativamente diversos grupos sociales, diversas edades y nacionalidades, enriqueciendo el parque con sus picnics, actividades comunitarias y variadas expresiones artísticas. En tiempos de condominios (ricos y pobres), donde lo fácil e inmediato es optar por el cerramiento y la exclusión—la antítesis de lo urbano—, el Parque Forestal, hito urbano integrador, complejo y persistente, se mantiene firme y abierto.

El parque Forestal nos recuerda que es posible e indispensable pensar la ciudad desde el proyecto urbano, con estrategias generosas que nuevamente transformen a Santiago y la conviertan en una ciudad amigable. El proyecto urbano requiere valorar los vacíos, proveyendo con más avenidas en la que podamos reconocer el entorno natural con sus magníficas vistas de la cordillera, integrando a todos sus habitantes en el reencuentro con la naturaleza y de paso, en el redescubrimiento de nuestra identidad.

Vista de la Plaza Italia (Baquedano), desde el Parque Forestal, con la cordillera de fondo (2017). 
Tanto hacia el oriente, como al poniente de la ciudad, nuevos parques se han integrado al sistema originado por el Parque Forestal (vista del parque en la comuna de Providencia).

Beatriz Maturana Cossio (PhD): Architect RMIT University. Master of Urban Design and PhD, University of Melbourne, Australia. Academic Director & Director of International Relations at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of Chile. Adjunct Professor of RMIT University, Australia. Founder of Architects for Peace.


Pecha Kucha Melbourne Volume 29: MY UTOPIA, YOUR DYSTOPIA?

Architects for Peace in collaboration with Engineers Without Borders (Victoria Region) and Pecha Kucha Melbourne hosted Melbourne's 29th Pecha Kucha Night at the Drill Hall on Thursday 13th July 2017.

Seven guests were brought together in an evening of 'chit-chat' to present their ways of visioning and realising sustainable, humane or technological futures, speaking to the terms of their perceived utopias and dystopias. The various guest insights developed conversations around - acting to protect the physical and social health of Australia's wilderness, Australian youth and their attitude towards contemporary world politics, speculative and physical 'sites' for architecture, place and human imagination, intelligent building systems in pre-fabricated architecture, land and resources rights, rapid city growth and land development pressures in shanty towns and, futures in climate change. 

With one young guest presenter, the audience asked all adult presenters to explain how their profession, expertise, current practices and personal values were being used to develop a healthy future for today's youth?

We would love to hear your comments on this so please email us at:

A big thank you to our guest presenters for making this night so special!
Stella Veal, Alex Thomas, Peter Raisbeck, Lee Godden, Viv Faithfull, Grace Tjandraatmadja and Lloyd Lee

The Architects for Peace Team


The city, an absent topic in presidential candidates' programs in Chile [and in most places]

La ciudad, tema ausente de las candidaturas [presidenciales, Chile]

La siguiente carta fue publicada en el Diario La Tercera

Señor director,

Las ciudades son responsables por el 75% del consumo de energía; entre 40 y 50% de las emisiones de CO2 y en Chile el 85% de la población vive en ciudades. Por eso llama la atención que la ciudad no figure en las propuestas de los candidatos presidenciales.

Datos oficiales señalan que en nuestras ciudades mueren 3.723 personas como consecuencia de la contaminación ambiental (2015). Nuestras ciudades están rodeadas de microbasurales y sus periferias crecen a la par con los índices de segregación social. El acceso a áreas verdes es cuatro veces mayor en la zona oriente comparada con el resto de Santiago. Hoy enfrentamos guetos verticales y planes reguladores débiles o inexistentes.


Our Virtual Home Updates | #givepeaceachance

Architects for Peace has been running a crowdfunding campaign for the last four weeks. Thanks to the people who have generously supported us, we were able to raise more than 30% of our target.
Working on the campaign was a good opportunity to look back at all the work that AFP has been doing over the last 14 years. It gave the current team the opportunity to rediscover the work of former volunteers and share it with our community.  

We started our campaign by talking about AFP’s origin with Beatriz Maturana Cossio, who shared the story of how it all began with just herself, her computer and her dog.

Beatriz told us about AFP’s “official” kick off in 2004 with the IntentCITY free forum held at the undercroft of Hamer Hall in Melbourne.

The focus of the intentCITY street forum was to discuss the "political city" -- the public space that affects us all --  the built environment, ecology, citizens, and particularly our involvement in war and what can be done to prevent it. Dozens of people attended the one-day event that consisted of speakers, a panel discussion, NGO information and displays, music, dance, poetry, and art installations.
Eleanor Chapman, former AFP president, reminded us of the political origin of the organisation,  very much embedded in the way the group started up, at a time when people were protesting against Australia’s decision to attack Iraq, and the role AFP has been playing in the last 14 years.

AFP has been active on the front of commentary and critical reflection in the area of equitable urban development, fostering grassroots dialogue and debate outside of the halls of academic institutions and the pages of journals.

However, the campaign was also an opportunity to introduce the community to our team of volunteers. The Architects for Peace team is made up of a diverse group of people, with different nationalities, different languages, different backgrounds, but we share one common vision: to promote urban spaces that are planned, designed and used in the interests of social equity and environmental protection.  

Today begins the last week of our campaign. We want to thank all the people that have helped us to get thus far by donating or by acting as our ambassadors, telling others about our work.

We would like to invite you to please take a moment this week to think about what Architects for Peace was able to accomplish over the years and all the amazing work that was done. We want that work to continue and we need a place where that work can be freely and easily accessed by everyone, regardless of where people are.

If you care about social justice, solidarity, respect and want to give peace a chance, please help us build our virtual home and make a donation today! Thank you!