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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

New thinking at Pecha Kucha

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HALIFAX – Imagine an alternate Halifax. Beautiful people sprawl happily in urban parks, eating thick, locally produced sandwiches. When they’ve had enough fresh air, they head home to energy-efficient glass towers. Imagine a “shimmering blue harbour” or “a fragrant and swimmable harbour with no unsettling warm spots.”

Capital District‘s Urban Design Project manager Andy Filmore shared his dream journey Friday night to a packed Garrison Brewery full of urban visionaries, eclectic personalities and those with an interest in sustainability. Filmore participated in Pecha Kucha Night—part of last week’s 4 Days’ “unconference.” Pecha Kucha literally means “chit chat” in Japanese, but much more than chit chat transpired.

Each Pecha Kucha participant focused on a topic loosely related to design or sustainability, discussing 20 slides for 20 seconds each. Sarah Craig urged Halifax to build a school like Ursula Franklin Academy, which espouses values of diversity and community service; Jonathan Mckeever applied mathematical formulas to areas of life, such as square dancing; and Adam Foster Collins’ discussed his socially-conscious design project, Threads of Peru.

Burst! Transformative Solutions’ Patty Busby also shared her theories of  change. Busby adheres to a 20/80 theory, holding that community transformation is possible if you focus on the 20 per cent of things you have in common with people, rather than the 80 per cent of things that set you apart.

Internationally renowned speaker and transformation guru John Thackara was the last to perform at Pecha Kucha night. Thackara took us on a globe-trotting journey, where we learned about urban agriculture and grass-roots sustainability in all its forms. He treated us to slides of underground gardens in Japan, water gardens in China, kimchi-fermentation pots in Korea and land-sharing projects in England and France. Thackara urged Nova Scotians to engage in a knowledge exchange with Havana, where 80 per cent of the city’s food is grown municipally. The provocative speaker also discussed sustainable-energy initiatives in Stockholm, where residents ignite bunny carcasses to stay warm.

If the ballsy Thackara was afraid of anything, it appeared to be pavement:

The one thing I would like you to leave tonight with is a fear and a disgust of paved surfaces.  Every time you see a paved surface, dig it up!

photo by Lizzy Hill