At last, kick­ing off a con­ver­sa­tion

Robert Mor­ris-Nunn says a sum­mit about the di­rec­tion of the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia leaves him op­ti­mistic for Ho­bart’s fu­ture

Mercury (Hobart) - - TALKING POINT - Robert Mor­ris-Nunn is an award-win­ning Ho­bart ar­chi­tect.

VERY much out of the blue an in­vi­ta­tion by the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia ar­rived to take part in a con­ver­sa­tion about its fu­ture in Ho­bart. A two-day “Ap­pre­ci­ate In­quiry Sum­mit” to de­velop an ideas frame­work with a view to “cre­at­ing a univer­sity of and for the city”. Like many, I agreed to join and ap­proached the event last week with in­ter­est and not just a lit­tle cu­rios­ity.

Although I have prac­tised as an ar­chi­tect all over Tas­ma­nia for more than 40 years and my prac­tice has been re­spon­si­ble for a wide range of ma­jor com­mis­sions – I have never been re­spon­si­ble for any sig­nif­i­cant univer­sity projects. So I am very much an out­sider to the ways of think­ing by the univer­sity. It’s also worth not­ing that I’ve held a view of the univer­sity that his­tor­i­cally it has been prone to come across as rather opaque and non-in­clu­sive in its ap­proach.

This sum­mit was hap­pen­ing against the back­drop of the univer­sity’s planned move from Sandy Bay into the in­ner-city – a pro­gram it ex­pects will take the next 10 to 15 years. Vice-Chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Ru­fus Black has been pub­licly say­ing that rather than have a vi­sion for the univer­sity and a vi­sion for Ho­bart, there was a fun­da­men­tal need to build one vi­sion for the fu­ture of the two to­gether. As I un­der­stand it, these two days of ac­tiv­i­ties were the start of that process.

In the words of the guide­lines sent to par­tic­i­pants, “the two days of the sum­mit will be in a work­shop for­mat, with each ses­sion build­ing on the one prior. You can look for­ward to some stim­u­lat­ing and ex­cit­ing dis­cus­sion as we dis­cover what we love and value about the City of Ho­bart, share our dreams for the fu­ture, and de­fine what needs to guide us as we de­sign a univer­sity of and for the city.”

The event was very dif­fer­ent to any that I had even re­motely heard about ever pre­vi­ously hap­pen­ing. About 200 peo­ple took part – roughly half be­ing univer­sity se­nior staff and half be­ing a very wide num­ber of peo­ple from di­verse fields in­clud­ing com­mu­nity groups, so­cial welfare or­gan­i­sa­tions, res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tions, gov­ern­ment, City of Ho­bart, busi­ness and key in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Held in the Cruise Liner Re­cep­tion Area of Mac 2, where a large open in­door area with views back to the city and the moun­tain pro­vided an ap­pro­pri­ate con­text for dis­cus­sions, the event was in­deed a very gen­er­ous and in­clu­sive sharing of ideas. Most im­por­tantly, I came away feel­ing it wasn’t a syn­thetic pub­lic re­la­tions ex­er­cise but in­stead a very open and sin­cere at­tempt to be­gin a com­pre­hen­sive di­a­logue with a wide range of in­di­vid­u­als in the greater Ho­bart com­mu­nity. Mem­bers of the land­scape and ar­chi­tec­tural con­sul­tant teams who will be work­ing on the mas­ter­plan were also present and with se­nior univer­sity staff and other par­tic­i­pants there was a vi­tal and free-think­ing ex­change of ideas cre­at­ing a range of in­dica­tive pro­pos­als.

I will ob­vi­ously leave it to the univer­sity to an­nounce the dis­tilled out­comes of these two days, but I thought it im­por­tant to in­form the broader Ho­bart com­mu­nity of the event and the very new in­clu­sive think­ing that the se­nior man­age­ment of the univer­sity is tak­ing.

From this par­tic­i­pant’s per­sonal per­spec­tive, it augers very well for the whole process. I was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed by the will­ing­ness to share ideas, and the back­ground think­ing and prepa­ra­tion for the event that re­duced com­plex plan­ning is­sues to ideas or ques­tions where the di­verse par­tic­i­pants could all have a mean­ing­ful in­put. It was a re­ally re­fresh­ing change from an in­sti­tu­tion which tra­di­tion­ally could ap­pear very heavy handed.

There are some ma­jor el­e­ments of the em­bry­onic ideas that will need the ma­jor in­volve­ment of agen­cies out­side the univer­sity it­self, and in par­tic­u­lar there is an ab­so­lutely ob­vi­ous one, the pro­vi­sion of more ef­fec­tive pub­lic trans­port. This will need a very sig­nif­i­cant in­volve­ment of all lev­els of gov­ern­ment; lo­cal, state and fed­eral. I imag­ine these dis­cus­sions might have al­ready be­gun and in­deed that hope­fully there is fi­nally some com­mon sense be­ing brought to bear to ad­dress the re­ally chronic trans­port is­sues that be­devil greater Ho­bart and all its in­hab­i­tants. There is a unique op­por­tu­nity, and an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity, to ad­dress this mat­ter in a for­ward think­ing, in­tel­li­gent mat­ter in par­al­lel with other spa­tial plan­ning is­sues re­lated to re­lo­ca­tion into the city, and in­deed this very subject was one of the top­ics of group dis­cus­sion.

I would like Ho­bart


res­i­dents not di­rectly af­fil­i­ated with the univer­sity to feel pos­i­tive about the pro­cesses now un­der way. It is my sense that the em­bry­onic ideas and more im­por­tantly the breadth

of is­sues be­ing can­vassed in a so­cially in­clu­sive way by the univer­sity will pro­duce results that will be trans­for­ma­tional for all of its cit­i­zens.

The in­te­gra­tion of the univer­sity into the city could be a very dy­namic one that will af­fect the qual­ity of life of all of the city’s res­i­dents, as well as pro­duc­ing ap­pro­pri­ate new build­ing stock. I came away from the event with an op­ti­mism that the fu­ture of the city that is per­son­ally very dear to me could be pro­foundly changed for the bet­ter, and I for one re­ally look for­ward to be­ing shown the next stage of the evo­lu­tion of the univer­sity’s ideas.

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