Jan Christian Vestre set the tone for the LI’s Valuing Landscape Conference 2018 with his opening keynote

    Jan Christian Vestre deftly set the tone for day 1 of the LI’s Valuing Landscape Conference 2018 with his opening keynote, The changing role of value.

    Though he spoke about the global problems we face – including man-made climate change, a growing population, urbanisation – underpinning Jan’s presentation was a sense of public space being the hub of positive change.

    When Vestre donated outdoor furniture to residents of Brixton’s Southwyck House, Jan said, the local police constabulary were worried about an increase in antisocial behaviour. As time went on, however, police reported none. Furthermore, other members of the community, including elderly residents, began to make use of the space for the first time.

    Isolation, Jan argued, leads to antisocial behaviour; much better is to create a sense of belonging. Safety comes from people being in the streets – not from CCTV on every corner.

    This argument has far broader implications. By 2050, there will be 9 billion of us, 70% of whom will live in cities. Due to globalisation, the world is shrinking, and people are losing that ill-important sense of belonging at a time when it is more crucial than ever that we share space and resources.

    ‘Refuse to accept hostile design’

    Jan argued that more concrete and asphalt serves only to fuel antagonism. The way to create a sense of belonging in a crowding world is to promote diversity and abolish prejudices – to give people spaces to meet, interact, share culture, share language.

    He called upon delegates to ‘refuse to accept hostile design and hostile architecture’. ‘It is not your role’, he said, ‘to design barriers and doorways with spikes to prevent the most vulnerable members of society from sleeping there.

    ‘Explain loudly and clearly to decision-makers why it makes sense to create inclusive outdoor spaces… We have to work together and show practical examples of how we can help them find answers to their problems.

    ‘You possess the tools, knowledge and experience needed. Your biggest challenge yet is having the confidence to stand up. Be the ones to define the problem and provide the solution.’

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