- Article by Madeleine Swain
The 13th Sydney Architecture Festival (SAF) will be a week-long festival running from 11 to 17 November 2019 under the direction of the newly appointed creative director, Dr Barnaby Bennett. This year’s theme is Making. Housing. Affordable.
At its core, the practice of architecture is a response to the human need for shelter. The festival extends this position to the simple claim that everyone deserves a safe and comfortable place to live.
In 2019 the festival format expands to a full week of activities in different locations around the city and state, culminating in a series of high-profile events run by the board and festival partners at Customs House – a dynamic civic space at the heart of central Sydney. The festival will feature a series of engaging seminars, exhibitions, film screenings, tours and events speakers across a range of disciplines and will reflect on issues of design, economics, housing quality and housing affordability to answer the key question: What needs to change to make it affordable to have a home in Sydney?
The focus on housing affordability is in line with the NSW Architects Registration Board’s mandate to promote architectural issues by engaging with communities of NSW.
Festival director Barnaby Bennett says, “Sydney exemplifies urban problems of affordability: houses are too expensive, homelessness is rising, the construction industry is struggling to keep up with demand, and we are still largely building the wrong type of houses in the wrong places.”
In the past hundred years or so the challenge of housing has been intensified by the increasing complexity and density of urban life. Sydney Architecture Festival will present the case that while some factors of housing affordability are fraught with debate and disagreement, a space for constructive action exists.
“The Festival will present contemporary research and development, practice-led innovation, policy activism, and shareable expertise in relation to community, design, policy and government. Is the answer more affordable housing? Or do we just need more housing to make it affordable? Is the current crisis caused by bad policy, bad land use, or poor design? Who does the current model serve? And what needs to change to make sure every person has a warm, safe home to live in?” says Bennett.
A publisher, designer, and researcher/activist/educator, Bennett brings a wealth of creative experience to this year’s Sydney Architecture Festival. His research, teaching and practice are preoccupied with notions of time and temporality. He co-founded the world’s first Festival of Transitional Architecture in Christchurch in 2012 and was its creative director in 2018. His doctoral thesis examined the political character of the temporary projects that emerged post-quake Christchurch – discovering a surprising connection to long-term infrastructural issues in the city.
Bennett has extensive experience in public advocacy around design and urban issues through organising student architecture congresses, publishing books and writing as the co-founder of Freerange Press. He has recently helped start WalkSydney, a new advocacy group to promote pedestrian travel in Sydney.