2014 WAF Panel Discussion

Copyright British Council

Art and Public Spaces - Cultures in Cities

In collaboration with the World Architecture Festival, the British Council presented a panel discussion during the festival on 2 October 2014.

2014’s theme at WAF was Architects and the City. In the session we took a broad look at the theme from the perspective of cities and culture. Cultural activity was almost unthinkable without the creative interaction that cities offer, and almost all cultural advances have taken place in and through cities.

Architecture is both a cultural activity and a contributor to making cities, but it is not the only way of engaging with culture and not uniquely responsible for the urban environment. The discussion looked at how different arts play a vital role, combining with architecture – as well as planning and engineering – in creating a public urban realm that is stimulating, enjoyable and inclusive.

That can take many forms. Permanent artworks can be commissioned for public spaces, bringing different experiences and meanings and fostering collective and personal memories that architecture alone could never achieve. Public space, with or without imaginative artworks, might foster spontaneous creative reactions;  institutions can then focus and intensify particular forms of cultural activity, taking them to new levels of achievement through the architectural qualities of rarified space.

The panellists discussed the nature of creative relationships and interactions in enhancing urban life, and how cities themselves can foster these activities. We also looked at how the public realm can be, to paraphrase the words of Richard Rogers, a place where all people, all races and all creeds can meet and benefit from each others’ company.

Panel speakers included Roland Davies (Director British Council Singapore), Professor Sir Peter Cook (RA) and Honor Harger (Executive Director of ArtScience Museum at MBS). The panel was moderated by Jeremy Melvin, Curator of WAF.