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Must watch movies for Planners

Blade Runner art concept
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Looking to movies demonstrates how the urban landscape, form and a cities atmosphere has and can change over time.

Evandro C. Associate Professor of Urban Design, Urban Planning, Transportation Planning - JSUMS \ International Consultant has compiled a list of ‘epic’ movies that showcase cities and urban scenery including districts, neighbourhoods and public places.

His list includes:

· Blade Runner – Ridley Scott (1982) – The apocalyptic and dramatic future of our megacities

· The Million Dollar Hotel – Win Wenders (2000) – Impressive views of L.A.

· The Truman show – Peter Weir (1998) – The daily life in the suburban area

· Mon Oncle – Jacques Tati (1958) – The contrast between a traditional European neighborhood and the technology-driven emerging trend

· Amelie - Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001) - Incredible images of Paris.

What do you think of his list? Can you add to it?

Follow the conversation here.

Can future cities learn from failed ancient cities?

The temple of the Great Jaguar
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What lessons can be taken from the abandonment of the ancient city of Tikal? David Lentz, a professor at the University of Cincinnati states “Here was a big city. They had the best architecture, it was the centre of the universe. And it was pretty rapidly abandoned.” 

The once thriving town of Tikal in Guatemala has been an isolated ruin since the Maya left at the end of the 9th century. Researchers are now discovering clues about how the Mayan culture lived and what the city’s demise could signal for future urban resilience.

Tikal grew to be one of the most important cities in the region and lasted more than a thousand years. Whilst the Mayans did manage their resources well and made efficient use of limited resources (i.e. water) they had reached a point of living near or beyond their means by the 9th century.

By the end of the 9th century a series of droughts had strained their water resources and clearing of land for agricultural needs exasperated the problem. Eventually life as they knew couldn’t be sustained and the city was abandoned.

It’s hard to believe that a large city today could be abandoned. One lesson that can be learnt from Tikal is that if technologies aren’t adapted or don’t have the ability to adapt to changing conditions (like climate change), that a large city could disappear in a few decades. One positive is that we have more warning and awareness.

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Classically Melbourne

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 Could a giant, illuminated fountain be the ticket to ‘saving’ Docklands?

Docklands News recently reportedon a proposal to build a 'giant fountain and flame show'. According to the report the fountain and flame show would attract more than five million people to Docklands annually and generate at least $230 million for Victoria's economy every year. The plan, being touted by the FCT Flames and Avant-Garde de Studio, has the support of the Docklands Chamber of Commerce, which says it would put Docklands on the map for visitors.

Choreographed to music, the fountain would be programmed to music during the day and flames, pyrotechnics, video projection and lasers may also be added at night for an even more dramatic show, and may be programmed to match particular themes or special events.

But with all this talk of wiz-bang circus tricks to save Docklands, it’s difficult to forget the giant illuminated wheel circling in the background. Before its highly public mechanical setbacks, the Melbourne Star was believed to be the silver bullet needed to entice hordes of tourists into Harbour Town. However the reality has been somewhat different.

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For years the criticisms facing Docklands have been far greater than its emptiness. Before the City of Melbourne became the custodians, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle noted that Docklands needed better connections to the city, a place to kick a football, and somewhere for a casual beer (read more here). In 2012 the City of Melbourne released a Community and Place Plan which looks at how to capture the essence of Melbourne in Docklands. The plan emphasises everyday activities for residents and the creation of comfortable and active public spaces.

While a giant water fountain may look great on a postcard, it’s difficult to see how it will contribute towards the more nuanced neighbourhood-creation goals for Docklands.

What do you think? Can a fountain really save Docklands?

You can read more about the proposal here and see the City of Melbourne’s plan for Docklands here

Where the sun don’t shine

Elon Musk. Inventor. Pioneer. Oddball entrepreneur. International man of mystery. He made online transactions mainstream with Paypal. He’s brought electric cars into mass production and into the public consciousness through Tesla. He’s aiming to make space travel cheaper and more accessible to the common man with SpaceX. He’s envisioned high-speed mass transit with the Hyperloop. Basically, he’s the real-world version of Tony Stark, or Ironman for non-Marvel fans.

So what’s the next side project for someone who has his fingers in everything? The answer is harnessing solar power better than anyone does today. Obviously.

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Photovoltaic technology is not new. The pros and cons of operating households off this renewable source are well documented: when it’s sunny, awesome; you can even sell your surplus power back into the grid. When its not, your house is no better than any other fossil-fuelled abode. Sometimes the sun shines when you don’t need any power at all. The key with solar is balancing the fairly constant demand, with an inconsistent and uncontrollable supply.

Enter Elon Musk and his other other side project, Solar City. Using the battery technology from Tesla Motors as a base, he is planning on creating a power storage unit for the solar-powered home. The most immediate problem this solves is the ability to keep using solar power even on clouded days, and long into the night too. Once storage technology becomes advanced enough, we may even see a surge in grid-independent homes.

This could herald the death of utility companies. While there are buy-back schemes for excess solar-generated power, customers could soon be viewed as competition by utilities if they are able to generate enough of their own power. This is especially true if the utility operates a buy-back scheme for excess solar.

Utilities could potentially take the tricky route of using their customers as both suppliers and consumers, though the economic balancing would be immensely tricky. The transition from centralised production of power to communal, decentralised production would be tough for old-school utilities to manage as well. However, my (rather basic) understanding would be this: if the utility no longer needs to supply the power, then their costs of production would be virtually nil. Instead, they can and should focus their efforts on the proper distribution of all the solar power being fed into the grid.

Changing winds are upon us though, and the message is clear: face the new dawn, or be left where the sun don’t shine.

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