Why the best designed cities reflect the best of us

The Sydney Olympics in 2000 turned Australia’s Emerald City into a truly global place, where people from across the world came together to celebrate and share a once-in-a-lifetime experience

People were kind to strangers, volunteered, chatted freely to anyone on the train and felt a deep happiness sharing their home and city with the world.

Much of the credit went to the massive investment in transforming a piece of wasteland in the city’s west, creating a whole new regional centre. The organisers had a holistic, marvellous vision for the future. In 2000, the link between the built environment and how we could imagine ourselves into reality was more obvious than ever.

Investment on a massive scale is again transforming Sydney – the home of our harbour-side studio.

Sydney today faces the same pressures as all modern cities – growth, resources, infrastructure and resilience. 

The interpersonal fabric of modern-day Sydney contrasts to its healthy past – the challenges of isolation and a vast mental health crisis in our communities, pervasive social media, our collective response to climate change and biodiversity emergencies, and the pressures on housing and equity in a rapidly growing metropolis.

Do the answers to these current challenges lie more with the community itself than governments? Have we forgotten how to design for love and belonging?

Principal Ross de la Motte invited Ralph Ashton, founder of the Australian Futures Project to talk about short-termism in city shaping, how Australians really feel about what’s going on in their cities, and how everyone – from the top down – has a role to play in imagining a better future for ourselves. 


Hassell Talks: Episode 4


Ross de la Motte, Hassell


Ralph Ashton, Australian Futures Project


Jessica Lock


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Leaders have abdicated their responsibility to lead. And I think it also shows that we, as citizens, have in a sense abdicated our responsibility to be good citizens.”

Ralph Ashton Australian Futures Project

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