International Climate Change Adaptation Conference 2010

‘Ecologies of Climate Change Adaptation’ poster presentation with Jim Gall and Rae Cooper

This inaugural international conference (hosted by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility on the Gold Coast) on climate change adaptation included 1000  international delegates from industry and government. I participated in this conference so that we could develop a conversation of climate adaptation from  the designer/practitioner perspective. I presented our poster and conversation to scientists, government and council representatives, and postgraduate students, and we discussed the urgent challenges of climate change adaptation.
While there was consensus on the need for urgency in developing government and council policy, what was generally missing from the conference was the identification of specific challenges requiring urgent design action now, eg: with respect to urbanisation, urban planning, transport, renewable energy and food production within our cities. While government policy may eventually deliver the structures for change, what is needed is a closer collaboration between the  scientific research community and the design industry in addressing what adaptation measures we should be developing right now.

Our presentation included the case studies ‘Boonah 2’ by Jim Gall and Tony Fry and ‘Gold Coast 2’ by collaboration between Gall & Medek, Tony Fry and the Griffith University QCA Master of Design Futures Program.


Adaptation to climate change in cities is typically addressed at the physical and  technological level and the adaptation of existing social, economic, political and cultural systems. This presentation questions the assumption that our core values and systems – products of the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution – and their manifestations in cities, will remain suited to a changed environment. It looks at how social, economic, political and cultural relationships might themselves be adapted for the viable future of our cities.

This leads to some proposed revised underlying principles for the design of cities and for the design process itself. It is argued that these principles and the process by which they are applied to the design, building and maintenance of cities must be ecological (non-linear, requiring relational thinking processes) rather than linear, definitive and prescriptive.

The strategy of Metrofitting is presented – a conceptual and organisational approach which puts the city in a position to adapt to climate change. As an extension of retrofitting, metrofitting has a transformative agenda to identify major areas of threat, and develop a framework of strategies to prefigure a viable city future. It engages with the city’s cultural and social fabric, opening the doors for changes in ideas related to food production, qualitative economies, shelter, learning and transport.

Two speculative case studies are presented, based on successful submissions for design and ideas competitions. The first examines the parameters of a city for 50,000 people in the Boonah Shire: based on a retreat from much of coastal Brisbane and the arrival of large numbers of environmental refugees. The second examines the economic, social, and physical options for the Gold Coast in the face of significant sea level rise and increased frequency and strength of extreme weather events.

Both case studies present concepts for the re-imagining of these cities, where a pre-emptive engagement with the community assist in the re-direction of the psychological, the forming of new economies, and re-defining cultural and social transactions and objects. This involves designing from the future to the present: imagining detailed viable and desirable scenarios for the future and designing the core strategies and actions to reach them.

PDF of poster: NCCARFPoster