This October, the Barbican plays host to the world-renowned Battle of Ideas Festival 2013, which has reached its ninth year. Blueprint has teamed up to debate two of the most hotly contested urban phenomena of recent times. Ready, set: Battle!
This October, the Barbican plays host to the Battle of Ideas Festival 2013. This is the second time the world-renowned arts centre has hosted the event, which has reached its ninth year and is intiated by the Institute of Ideas.
The annual festival draws more than 350 speakers over 80 sessions, and aims to continue its intellectual agenda: daring to ask thought provoking questions within an arena of public debates, on issues that shape culture and politics today. With the ethos of 'free speech allowed', these debates choose to identify and explore innovative ideas, cultural and social trends in an approachable and - above all - truly discursive manner.
In a debate entitled 'Pop Ups: Overhyped and Everywhere?', the public will be able to join architect Cany Ash (Ash Sakula), editor Pedro Levi Bismarck (Punkto), researcher Alastair Donald (Future Cities) and critic Oliver Wainwright (The Guardian), as they discuss the relatively recent phenomenon of the 'pop up' and its role in the civic economy. The darling and often first step of graduating or emerging architects, pop ups can host lively and creative interim uses on otherwise disused sites - but their punky popularity has seen them become increasingly co-opted by corporations as low-cost ways to consolidate an urban presence. As the organisers say, 'These days, from trendy Hackney to Heathrow airport, it seems no urban space is complete without short-let shops and restaurants, temporary cinemas or urban beaches.' From caravans selling street food to open-air cinemas, the panel will be discussing the pop up and other associated 'guerrilla' activities as over-hyped, ubiquitous branded forms, as much as the genuine, bottom-up engagement with public spaces that they can achieve.
Although not quite so recent, the debate surrounding urban farming continues - indeed forming the topic for next year's Rotterdam Architecture Biennale. Another debate 'Grow your own? The Urban Agricultural Revolution' chaired by Jason Smith, will explore a discussion surrounding the growing interest - especially in the new millenium - in urban farming. The recent horsemeat scandal has triggered visceral awareness of our industrialised food production methods, alongside increased consciousness towards food miles and the need to support local producers. Meanwhile, the London Legacy Development Corporation prioritises two large allotment sites as part of the Olympic legacy; architect and academic CJ Lim claims the urban farming hybrid will bring 'long term urban and ecological sustainability'. This panel includes Anand Dossa (National Farmer's Union), Stephen Hargrave (London Farmers Markets Ltd, Reform), Vicky Richardson (British Council) and CJ Lim (Studio 8 & author of forthcoming title Food City).
In some ways, both urban farming and the pop up come hand in hand. These two debates are interesting parallels that, like it or not, mark two defining social and urban trends of the present era, and their concerns can frequently overlap. Temporary architecture frequently facilitates opportunities for 'growing your own', viewing urban landscape as resource towards self-sufficiency, whilst ambitious city farming projects need to consider clever ways of utilising space and promoting their 'cottage industry'. The two debates circle around themes of empowering the individual citizen against globalised systems, as they attempt to promote a social agenda within the urban realm. With a varied range of speakers offering a wide breadth of perspectives, the Battle of Ideas leaves room for plenty of food for thought.
The Battle of Ideas 2013 takes place at the Barbican Centre between 19th-20th October 2013 and Blueprint is proud to be media partner for the two events listed above. Join us at the Free Stage between 10:30am and 12 midday on the morning of Saturday 19th October for 'Pop Ups: Overhyped and Everywhere?', and again on Sunday afternoon between 3:30 and 4:45pm for 'Grow your own? The Urban Agricultural Revolution'. Ready, set: Battle!