Public Lecture Oct 9th 6pm | 2 October, 2018

Rob Roggema Professor of Sustainable Urban Environments

Professor Rob Roggema, Professor of Sustainable Urban Environments (University of Technology Sydney), will deliver the first of this year’s NBE: Shaping Our World, Together public lectures on Tuesday October 9th, 6pm in 0G/012, David Keir Building.

Professor Roggema is Professor is an internationally renowned design-expert on sustainable urbanism, climate adaptation, energy landscapes and urban agriculture. He has previously held positions at universities in the Netherlands and Australia, State and Municipal governments and design consultancies. Rob developed the Swarm Planning concept, a dynamic way of planning the city for future adaptation to climate change impacts.

Rob’s talk will address 'Rehabilitation of Emptiness, Revaluing the Void'

This event is free and open to all members of the University community and the wider public.  To reserve a ticket, please visit Eventbrite at:

After the lecture there will be a reception in the DKB Hub (next door to the lecture theatre).  All attendees are very welcome to stay and join us for the reception.



As our urban systems become more and more refined and complex they also become more vulnerable. Each system fulfills specifically described purposes and fits narrowly within the requirements. The urban environment is designed in a way all its functions, uses and means are efficient and fit for purpose. Our urban designs reflect those needs, however creating a fragile and vulnerable city, because, as we know, the future is all but certain, requires novel solutions, and can be unprecedented. Even more so, the current urban lay-out often dictates the urban systems that can be applied within the specs of urban space, and sustainable alternatives are ruled out because they are seen as ‘misfit’. Off course, it is not the problem of these alternatives, but the lack of flexibility and adaptivity of our urban confined spaces make them difficult to change.

This multiple or wicked problem, in which existing system makes transformational experiments impossible, while we know we have to adopt innovative and groundbreaking solutions for the unknown unknowns of the future, can only be solved through counterintuitive thinking and by keeping the spatial options open for future surprises. This way of thinking is not (yet) very common, as many of us still want to fit within expectations and current standards. To shift from thinking in requirements towards potentials is for many, especially politicians too difficult.

This lecture proposes to explore the potentials of the urban landscape first and keep the spatial options open until new urgencies appear. The use of spaces in the city must therefore be tamed, and some should be declared redundant, waiting for better uses in the future. The necessities of the near and distant future will determine how the vacant land will be used, whether it is needed to generate renewable energy in the best possible areas, or whether land is temporarily needed to accommodate the impacts of a disaster. In the design of the city we should therefore build in voids, the spaces that make the future possible and overcome the deadlock of vested interests and path dependencies. The lecture will make use of examples from projects in Australia, such as a Zero-Carbon Sydney and the Sydney Barrier Reef, and the Netherlands, such as the Floodable Eemsdelta, to illustrate how these counterintuitive voids keep our cities prepared for the unknown still beautiful and attractive.

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