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  • Sa. 06.08.2022
  • 18:00 — 21:15
  • 3 h 15 mins
  • -
  • Kuppelsaal, TU, Karlsplatz. 1040
  • english

Every summer for 10 years, a group of worldwide students meet for 3 weeks in Vienna to share best-practice in ecological architecture. They learn about Vienna's moves towards resilience and innovation. And of course, they learn from each other. Many of the students come from developing countries, and so this opportunity to get insights from the West is especially valuable, since they return home with practical new ideas.

The whole project is coordinated by OeAD (Austria’s Agency for Education & Internationalisation), and features contributors like Helga Kromp-Kolb (Climate Expert, BOKU), Gabu Heindl (Architect & Urban Planner), Anika Dafert (Fridays for Future) and Nora Laufer, Der Standard's science & environment correspondent. OeAD is one of the leading European developers of passive buildings (and also plus-energy architecture), and in particular student accommodation. They run many educational projects.

After two years of hybrid online celebrations, we are thrilled to get back together for face-to-face engagement, at a proper celebration with wine and ideas, hosted by Whoosh's Eugene Quinn. The weeks are always hot, lively and intense, with students absorbing so many experiences around the city, in Seestadt, BOKU, TU and the Otto Wagner Areal. Eugene is always intrigued to hear what has shocked the students about their time in Wien. We will discover all of that on this Saturday night in TU.

We should not underestimate how important this work is. Housing is one of the great variables in future urban development.

And this is an intelligent forum for open debate. To learn among a supportive network is a beautiful resource, built on trust and openness which is vital for a forum like this. There is much debate among the group, as there should be, but also a new network is born, full of utopian inspiration. Our age is characterised by both frightening challenges and a beautiful new sense of openness, of sharing instead of owning, of recycling and reusing best practice. We can help to shape communities, development and ultimately, our shared future.

Eugene does not fly, or drive, is vegetarian and has a great life in a modern metropolis like Vienna. His ecological engagement stretches to three times being arrested for green protesting. He leads tours on smart city, Green Wien, and walking - his job - is the most sustainable urban mobility. He is pioneering #TourismForLocals, with the event Vienna Walking Week. He teaches in the spatial-planning department of Vienna Technical University, and has lectured several times to the UN Academy of Sustainable Urban Mobility.

What the global eco movement needs is more characters, more personality, more celebration and inclusion, more warmth & storytelling, less policy wonks and nerdy statistics. Of course we need governments to act, but since they are not doing so, we need to make the moves ourselves in our lifestyles. As a symbolic act. Because if we don’t, who will? My Facebook feed was full of outrage when former President Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Rightly so.
But those same protestors don’t see any contradiction in posting photos of their holidays in Cambodia or Peru. Many Austrian Green-voters own two houses, which they drive between, since one is always in an inaccessible Dorf. Can you really be Green if you own 2 homes, particularly with rents rising so fast due to a lack of housing, and the waste of energy in owning 2 homes - since concrete accounts for 8% of global emissions. One of their 2 homes is always empty. And German Green-voters are the second most-likely to fly. They are hypocrites, thinking it is enough to vote Green, but not to live green.

People in the ecology sector seem not to be so eager to become heroes. They tend towards the nerdy Al Gore school of presentation and dressing. We need more prominent figures to speak up in the media, music and arts sectors.

Part of the problem is the time scales involved.

Lots of people complain about the heat, but only a few actually do something about stopping it. And that is people like these students (and teachers).

Interesting to reflect on the role of business in driving change. There is a website where you can see how many of your neighbours have solar panels (using satellite image data). And so you can find out if it is the norm or not. But the site also provides data on how much you could save if you invest in some, with the weather in your district. This is useful nudging, I think. And of course there are links then to firms who sell them in your area.

The Technical University of Vienna's Getreidemarkt tower was Austria's first plus energy building. And the Raumplanung Department is very actively involved in the life of this city, unlike many other universities around the world, which are isolated ghettoes of abstract learning. At TU, architects are expected also to study sociology as part of their course - which should be compulsory around the world. The language used by architects all over the world is often meaningless to non-architects, which is silly and elitist, avoiding participation and engagement. Of all the creative disciplines, surely architecture is the most universal. We all have opinions about it, & engage with it every day, and so architects should be able and willing to communicate with us.

Some people say that there are too many architects more interested in winning style prizes, instead of designing buildings that people want to live in, and which are good for community, for your mental health, built on a human-scale. Do you feel that architects are engaged enough with explaining their work to the public, in a language that they can relate to?

And when Europeans speak of the problem of climate change being too remote to their own lives now, we forget that in the heatwave of August 2003, 11,000 elderly Parisians died in four days. That should be used as an example much more often, since it has led to that city being a pioneer in opening streets to people, and closing them to cars - with Mayor Anne Hidalgo re-elected this year, promising fewer cars, and more joy and play and social-dining on the streets. Vienna's mayor should take notice!

See the photograph of a desire path above, as both metaphor & optimism and a beautiful phrase - and most of all that we can change the world, through collective belief, and find a new way to move forward, or sideways. Who designed the original path, that didn’t go to where the people want to go? I suppose it was people like the participants in our summer school: landscape designers, city-planners, bureaucrats, transport consultants. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t, but the people show us how we got it wrong, and in an interactive, democratic way, they show us where they want to go, and ultimately take another path. Let’s be open to their suggestions.

The world seems to have turned on its orbit in the last five years. Clearly we have some new political directions, with a rise in both populism and activism. Hashtags and hacking. There is a group of city mayors now, moving forward the evolution of ecology as a movement. Corona showed us how fast we can act, when faced with a crisis. One of Eugene's favourite books, Worldchanging, can point the way forward. Its editor, Alex Steffen, emphasises the importance of imagining persuasive, positive possible futures: “It’s literally true that we can’t build what we can’t imagine,... The fact that we haven’t compellingly imagined a thriving, dynamic, sustainable world is a major reason we don’t already live in one.”

Let’s get started with changing the world.

Please join us for this unusual and inspiring event. More info: https://summer-university.net/...