APRU SCL DAY 13: Hong Kong and Sydney

Working Group Presentations

The working group presentations was wonderful – it was amazing to learn about what the other groups had been discussing about. This was actually my first experience of being part in a conference and working group discussions. As a student, I feel that it has opened my eyes to a plethora of perspectives on how to see the world as a built environment practitioner. It has inspired me to delve deep into the situations and access them with utmost compassion and care for not just the average public but all walks of life. Some of the presentations that incorporate innovative techniques by the urban waterfront and the urban sanitation groups inspired me to incorporate some of these techniques in my design thinking. I have been inspired to think about waste – how can waste management be a driver of creating sustainable landscapes? How can this create a better atmospheres, especially for vulnerable communities?

IMG_1820.JPG
Our group members sitting at the conference dinner table and setting up our presentations.

Reflections

The Sustainable Cities and Landscapes has definitely been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. It has compelled me to see things in various perspectives as a landscape architect. It has taught me valuable things such as to look at. It is an experience that has definitely been a major milestone of my life – an experience that I will never forget. The entire journey was surreal – it was like being in a dream but actually living it. I witnessed being the issues of the sites, I witnessed the issues with my bare eyes and felt the need to have a change there. As a student, I feel that this type of experiences is extremely crucial for us. Especially as landscape architects and built environment practitioners, we need to have an understanding of issues evolving around the people, environment and wild life in order to come up with innovative solutions. The purpose of our work is to create better environments and to do that, we need to have empathy – we need to actually feel and understand the needs and issues. By being in a place and having the chance to experience the place gives us a better understanding – our own experiences of the evaluation of thoughts, ideas, witnesses all come into place to give us a better understanding of the site. Being a part of the design field trip took me out of my comfort zone and invoked an awareness and curiosity in me. Partaking in these outdoor activities gave us a chance to actually experience the place more. The interaction with the locals and the participation of the presentations hosted by the local groups gave us an insight in the local perspective of the place. It connected us deeply to the area rather than reading about it online or in books. The plastic pollution that we had seen and talked about made me think deeply about plastic waste management. Seeing the initiatives undertaken by the locals at these places compelled me to think deeply about waste management. What can we do as built environment practitioners to create sustainable cities?

The conference and involvement in the working groups has been of of the most inspiring events I had attended. The inter-disciplinary discussions helped me grow and connect with people from various backgrounds dealing with the same issue – vulnerable communities. This gave me different perspectives of approaching this problem of dealing with these communities. The working group sessions has helped me develop critical thinking skills and enriched my empathetic understanding of social issues that are involved in the built environment world. Participating in the conference has enriched my confidence and helped me to have my own voice in this community for advocacy work in the real world. It has helped me to meet amazing people from all over the world – from various fields. I have gained networking opportunities for future programs and publishing. This has greatly helped me to step forward In my career and life purpose as a landscape architect.

I want to thank my lecturer Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard, for informing us of this opportunity and helping us partake in this amazing field trip and conference. She has been actively helping us throughout the whole process with time, care and dedication. I especially thank her for giving me and Stuart the opportunity to write this wonderful blog about our experiences – which I find is an excellent way of reflecting our  wonderful experiences on this trip. I want to thank Linda Corkery’s kindness and support to help us attend this trip. I would like to thank Matthew Pryor for arranging such an adventurous and life changing experience for students. Thank you Matthew for sharing your knowledge about the places that we had visited – I have learned so much from these experiences! Thank you Michael Kokora and Scott Melbourne for your inspirations and your support during the field trip. I want to thank our guides during our journey for enriching us with so much knowledge of the places we visited. I want to thank my fellow trip members for days full of joy in learning and exploring together and sharing these wonderful moments. Thank you to Stephanie Pincetl, Kian Goh and Mark Gold for arranging this wonderful working group. I have learned so much about vulnerable communities in various context – it has inspired me beyond words! Thank you APRU officials for giving us this opportunity for this field trip and giving us the chance to participate in the conference. I appreciate all the time, effort and passion that has been put into making this experience happen. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to experience life and helping us grow. It has certainly been one of the major highlights of my lifetime memories which I will always cherish and reflect upon.

 

 

 

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APRU SCL DAY 12: Hong Kong

Working Group Collaborations

The working group collaboration was an excellent idea. We merged in groups and individually to discuss about solutions, innovations and ideas of what would be achievable if two working groups collided. One of the interesting ones were the group of Urban Water and Sanitation with our group – Vulnerable Communities. One of the things that Kory Russel from that group spoke about was a concept of container based sanitary systems. This method of waste management is implemented in communities facing vulnerability issues of airborne diseases, etc from improper waste dumping. The container based sanitation system is a localized system of treating sewerage waste and converting it to a useful material such as a resource  like fertilizer that can be used in agriculture.

Another idea which would be beneficial if the vulnerable communities merged with the group of productive cities – how can localized food production help vulnerable communities that face lack of income in the urban environment? In my opinion, a localized food production system in the urban space such as rooftops could engage the community in growing a fair portion of their food. This can help to reuse rooftops as food production sites, as Dhaka has so much buildings – most which have no practical use at rood tops! This space can be used as as resource to grow food for the individual households living in that building. It would help to create awareness and connection in people. This could create new opportunities for food production and new economies.

Working Group Sessions

Our second working group session involved diving deeper into our conversations. We talked about some case studies in Philippines, India, Bangladesh and the United States – the vulnerability of some community groups there and what factors make them prone to vulnerability. We talked about how important it is to design with compassion, a key element which often gets lost within the rapid urbanization movement. Designing with compassion is crucial to eliminate vulnerability in communities. Having an empathetic understanding towards the needs and issues for these communities are what strives us to develop innovative solutions for them.

The group discussion has inspired me beyond words. Growing up in Bangladesh, I have been exposed to witnessing firsthand the degree of vulnerability faced by some communities in the city. How can we design with the understanding of creating a better environment for all groups of people, with varied exposure to vulnerability? How can we create resilient cities with communities that are vulnerable to climate change factors? How can we create better environments for the needy communities, whose value is considered to be low by other members of the society because of their social status? How can we design with love and empathy – not just for an overall society, but with utmost care of the needs of community groups of children, elderly, urban poor, homeless and teenagers?

The working group sessions has inspired me so much. It has shifted my perception of how I would approach to design a site. I am now more compelled to thoroughly study the individual needs of social groups, the environment and the relation between these two to come up with ideal solutions for the site.
Group Excursion to City Farm

We visited another urban farm. Although this is my third visit to an urban farm during my travels, I could not resist my curiosity to learn more about how the locals in that particular region would approach small-scale localized food production. I decided to join the group excursions hosted by the Productive Cities group to visit a very unique urban farm. Apparently it was located at an old industrial building – a contrasting atmosphere of the farm which we had visited yesterday. Although the building had a industrial setting, the roof top was full of greenery. Plants were growing almost at every corner and open space of the roof, with just enough space for us to walk through the grids of planter boxes. The man who runs this farm, gave us a presentation of his farm. The planter boxes are rented out to the public, who pay a monthly fee and get the opportunity to grow their own produce right at the heart of the city! Living in a high-density city like Hong Kong, having this opportunity in the city center is very unique. The farm also runs workshops on gardening and even alternative lifestyle methods such as natural soap making with the herbs grown at the roofs. Food is an universal need – it is a need for every human and it has the power to connect us to nature. I believe that a certain level of awareness can be achieved in knowing where the food we eat comes from. It has the power to liberate us from depending on commercial scale farms that grow food without sustainable practices. Locally produced food , by small farmers are the key to a holistic lifestyle that is essentially sustainable for the environment. The income goes to these families who grow the food as a business and our health and well-being is improved by consuming food that is grown without harmful pesticides. Locally grown food is fresh and has low carbon footprint due to the fact that it does not rely on long transportation routes to move the food. This trip to the farm filled me up with so much passion and inspiration! It made me imagine how Dhaka would be like if this idea was implemented there.

IMG_1778.JPGThe area where City Farm is located is surrounded by old, industrial buildings.

IMG_1780.JPGA signage indicating the types of industrial work happening in the building. 

 

IMG_1782.JPGThe door to City Farm. I thought their logo is a simple yet effective approach to describe their initiative. I can only imagine how green and productive the city would be like if a lot of buildings had initiated this approach of roof top farming!

 

IMG_1791.JPGAn image portraying planter beds. These are rented out to customers who grow their own food by paying a monthly fee. Many of these customers are actual farmers who sell their produce to make a living. 

 

IMG_1796.JPGAnother image showing the panoramic backdrop of the roof top that had buildings of various sizes. 

Conference Dinner

Our conference dinner was something like a piece of  dream. We were invited to have a dinner at the yacht club next to a beautiful waterfront location. We entered a round hall with many tables dispersed around. The round edges of the building were only adorned with floor to ceiling windows revealing majestic views of the sea. The ceiling glisten with golden light, shimmering softly above our heads. Voices and occasional clunk of glasses could be heard. Our field school participants split up in three groups. I was involved in the group comparing what we had seen in Citraland and Gundi Village. Although both of them had been community residential, they both had different approaches to a sustainable development. Gundi Village was more laid-back, traditional and the initiatives directly involved the local communities living there. Citraland was more of the opposite – structured, modern and the initiatives of sustainable practices did not involve the residential there at all. They would be managed by the developers.

APRU SCL DAY 11: Hong Kong

Working Group Sessions

I reached Hong Kong airport around 7. I had just enough time to get changed and make my way to Hong Kong University to join the working group sessions. Our group, vulnerable communities focused on the people and how the factors of climate change in a highly urbanizing society has a negative effect. We brainstormed several places with unique characteristics which make the communities living there vulnerable. We discussed different issues which could possibly cause vulnerability in people. We spoke about who are the people who would be vulnerable to these changes. Overall, this was a very interesting working group for me. Being someone from Bangladesh, we have a lot of issues dealing with vulnerable communities. Starting from the recent issue of the Rohingya refugees who are living in extremely difficult conditions to the poor communities who are at high risk of climate change caused incidents such as floods to the squatter settlements in Dhaka who have a a degraded quality of life due to social and economic conditions. Vulnerable communities can be found all over the world and vulnerability can not only come from being in a fragile state; or lacking something. As we discussed in the working groups, vulnerability can also be found in communities that are well off. This type of vulnerability could be non-tangible, ie social or mental. Rapid urbanization often fails to deal with the issues that come with it that affect the livelihoods of the people who dwell in those urbanizing areas. The change in the built environment, coupled with the uprising issues of climate change have the possibility of creating large scale vulnerability issues in not only the people, but also the environment and its wildlife communities.

Group Excursion to Urban Farm

I joined a group excursion to an urban farm. We hopped on the conveniently- accessible train network and arrived in the midst of the bustling city center. High rise builds towered past us as we walked on the busy streets of Hong Kong. The weather was similar to Indonesia, except maybe a bit more humid. I was surprised when we walked into a corporate office building. The interior was sleek and modern. The roof top was really high up – to a floor which was the height of 50 stories of a normal building in Hong Kong! The urban farm was an initiative for small-scale food production for the office employees. The employees maintained and harvested the produce. The plants were watered manually with a hose. The farm had been carefully designed by engineers so that the weight does not exceed safety limits of the roof’s structure, which might essentially cause the roof to collapse.

IMG_1649.JPGThe lobby of the building which contains the urban farm. 

 

 

IMG_1683.JPGThe farm produces a medley of fresh vegetables and some fruits and flowers. 

IMG_1666.JPGMe looking at some taro leaves…

IMG_1685.JPGA green wall at the roof top. This was designed only with aesthetic purposes as the only type of vegetation growing on the walls were ferns, mostly. 

IMG_1673.JPGFresh malabar spinach growing at the farm. Stem cuttings can actually be regrown to new plants.

IMG_1682.JPGLilly – a chinese delicacy used in herbal tea…

IMG_1698.JPGThis was a rooftop garden located at the same building but on a different level. Unlike the previous area, which has high walls around the edges (as the building was not completed yet…), this roof was located on a lower level and was more airy. 

IMG_1712.JPGNone of these gardens are grown for edible purposes unlike the previous one. A wetland system was designed so that water is filtered with the use of these specific plant species. 

 

IMG_1691.JPGA model of the building showcasing both roofs. One is on the current topmost level (farm) and another one is on a few floors down. 

APRU SCL DAY 10: Surabaya

Surabaya to Hong Kong

I received my passport with no issues the following morning and headed my way for a long flight to Hong Kong. I slept most of the time on the plane or was either working on the laptop. Spending the entire day travelling, I let my mind wander about all the beautiful experiences and learning I had been involved with the past few days. I reflected on how this trip has helped me to shift my perspective on how to analyse places in the eyes of a landscape architect. I wondered how Hong Kong would be like. The excitement of visiting somewhere new was growing in me.

From Surabaya, I had a stopover in Kuta before taking another plane to Hong Kong. I was lucky to see part of the island from the plane as we did not get a chance to see the island because we arrived to Bali on a ferry. Much of the island was covered in agricultural land and beautiful volcanic landscapes could be seen from a distance. Bali has this mystical atmosphere to it – rich historical landscapes and a ancient untainted culture.

IMG_1626.JPGI took this photo when I was on the transit flight from Kuta to Hong Kong. Colors of the beautiful sunset gleaming on paddy fields; volcanoes can be seen at a distance, shrouded by clouds. 

IMG_1627.JPGAgricultural land at the coastal areas of the island. Developments can be found on the coastal region of the island. Much of the island’s interior has wild landscapes and volcanoes. 

APRU SCL DAY 9: Kuta and Surabaya

Kuta Beach

I woke up early morning and decided to experience the beach before leaving Kuta. I had to book a flight to Surabaya in the afternoon to visit the Chinese Consular there to resolve my visa issue for Hong Kong, as directed by the officials at Kuta. I walked to the beach, which was just a few minutes away from the hostel. I bought a traditional breakfast, favored by the locals – rice, noodles and sambal sauce wrapped in a paper packaging.  As I sat at the beach to enjoy my breakfast at the beach, I was lured into purchasing services offered by the friendly locals at the beach. Tourism seems to be the main income source for much of these people and they would earn unplanned sums of money, depending on agreement between the buyer and seller. I witnessed a major beach cleanup going on, with women wearing costumes scooping up trash left on the beach.

IMG_1607.JPGKuta’s world-famous beach.

Kuta to Surabaya

I had a flight to Surabyaya that afternoon and I rushed straight to the Consular to resolve my visa issue. One thing that I must say that touched by heart deeply was the extremely generous hospitality of the people in Surabaya. Even thought we would have a bit of communication issues, everybody I met that day – the taxi man, the officials at the Consular Office and the hotel staff, went out of their way to help me. A lady from the Consular office even came out of the office building and made sure that the taxi driver would not over charge me and would take me to the right hotel.  I was astounded and moved by so much generosity from the locals here. I headed to my hotel and rested for a while. I had to pick up my passport at the Visa Consular in the morning and fly to Hong Kong via Denpesar that evening.

APRU SCL DAY 8: Ubud and Kuta

Moksha Permaculture Farm

We decided to spend the second and final day in Ubud by visiting a permaculture farm in Kuta called Moksha. It was a small farm with an organic vegan restaurant and provisional space for an occasional farmer’s market. The farm used permaculture principles such as complementary planting, sustainable water systems, local species, organic farming and producing as less waste as possible.  Species of different plants which have a symbiotic relationship had been planted together in groups.  A swell has been dug up, connecting throughout the farm area, dispersing water throughout the farm. There was a larger collection point where water can be collected. This method is effective during rainy season, gathering water in the swell and preventing flooding at the ground level. All the plants that are grown for produce are local species: okra, eggplant, papaya, tomatoes, etc. No pesticides are used in the production of food at Moksha, resulting in produce that is free from harmful chemicals. Less waste was implemented by reusing leaf and plant cuttings (which would normally be thrown away as landscape maintenance waste) and using coconut husks to create planter beds. Using coconut husks provides a sustainable solution that can eventually be turned into compost.

IMG_1471.JPGWe stumbled across an agricultural land while looking for Moksha.

IMG_1481.JPGA signage at Moksha containing information about some of the healing activities offered there. 

IMG_1485.JPGThe farmer’s market at Moksha.

As we walked around the site, we discovered a beautiful restaurant with an open concept design that led us to a backyard garden overlooking the farm. On another side of the premises was a large open space where a few stalls had been set up by individuals showcasing a variety of local products. All the products suggested an alternative and sustainable living: locally dyed fabric, locally produced coffee, local honey, organic produce from small local farmers, bamboo straws made by mothers during their free time and lots of other ethically-sourced products.

IMG_1490.JPGPermaculture living is not complete without a cob oven!

IMG_1492.JPGThe restaurant overlooking the farm below.

The farmers market provided an opportunity for the locals to exhibit and sell their products. Much of the visitors at Moksha were tourists. It was great to see such an initiative undertaken by a community here in Bali, focusing on sustainable living. As I’ve been told by one of the hosts there, many people come to Moksha, out of sheer curiosity, and end up feeling inspired by witnessing the production of organic food, farmer’s market selling a wide variety of ethical and sustainable goods and an amazing vegan restaurant serving food harvested from the farm on site. This type of initiative definitely helps to create awareness to the public and create opportunities for locals to showcase their products.

IMG_1494.JPGCoconut husk ”planter beds”

IMG_1497.JPGLuscious tomatoes growing at the site. Organic tomatoes are a real treat!

IMG_1498.JPGAs raw as it gets – a variety of herbs growing almost naturally on a slope…

IMG_1502.JPGPlant cuttings being shredded up for compost.

IMG_1501.JPGSome of the guys working here… They were happy to give us an insight on what goes on at Moksha. 

IMG_1504.JPGSeedlings ready to be planted… Notice how they germinated the seeds on bamboo stalks – interesting idea!

The only issue about Moksha was that it is not easily accessible. Firstly, it is quite far away from where we were staying. We could only reach there by taxi. Secondly, once we arrived near Moksha, we had some difficulties entering the area surrounding the farm. The roads were quite narrow and were not efficiently designed for cars. Easy access to the area would be beneficial to visitors. Also, camping or overnight options would be an excellent idea for hosting week-long workshops and permaculture design courses.

IMG_1505.JPGMy roomie standing on a bamboo bridge on top of the swell. 

IMG_1517.JPGA hut made of bamboo and straw has been built on the farm. This is used as a rest area as well as storage space. 

IMG_1522.JPGFresh bok choi

IMG_1538.JPGA local woman showcasing her indigo-dyed fabrics. Indigo is a natural, plant-based dye. Indigo batik is a local Indonesian handicraft. 

 

IMG_1564.JPGFresh produce for sale at the market by local farmers from their own farms… Purchasing locally produced food helps to fund small businesses rather than multi-billion dollar corporate industries, helping to grow a community. Buying local produce also helps to reduce carbon footprint due to the shorter distance of food travelling from farms to consumers. 

IMG_1566.JPGBamboo straws in a leaf packaging – made with love by this amazing woman!

Happy Vibes Restaurant

We finished off our Ubud trip like a tourist – having a lunch at a boutique vegan restaurant before we headed off to Kuta. It was just amazing to be on an island that integrates so much of modern sustainable living practices whilst having a strong sense of Balinese heritage. Although there is developments going on, it is low-rise and low density, complimenting with the laid-back and traditional essence of the island. Much of the island’s natural green spaces are undisturbed by developments, preserving the natural heritage. The rich culture and tradition of Bali is like a time capsule – it is an insight of the past that had not been affected by modern development or religion due to its isolation from other parts of Indonesia. It is definitely a very special and unique place and careful measures always need to be undertaken to ensure that it is not affected by mass tourism.

IMG_1578.JPGAll raw vegan meal, made with (mostly) locally produced ingredients. 

Road Trip to Kuta

Our time in Ubud was up and it was time to head to Kuta. This time we got on cars and drove to the coastal town of Kuta. Strangely, I was there the previous day to resolve my visa issues and already had a little glimpse of what was to come.  As we were driving, I watched how the streetscape changed – from the abundant terracotta-tiled Balinese-styled roofs of Ubud among clusters of forests to a long stretch of sculpture-making shops to the slightly more developed area of Kuta. Soon after we reached our hostel, which was conveniently located close to the beach, we rested up and met at the rooftop for an evening meeting. We discussed about our presentations at the conference at Hong Kong and decided where to head over for a group dinner. We ended up walking to a Korean restaurant, especially in celebration of a fellow group mate’s successful submission of a thesis (completed while on this trip). The streets were bustling and it was quite prominent that Kuta, like Ubud was also a major tourist attraction. In Kuta, it was the beach and active night life that attracted tourists to come for a relaxation and good time.

IMG_1579.JPGTypical Balinese architecture. A lot of sculptures of religious deities can be found in temples, gates and rooftops. 

IMG_1587.JPGRooftop group meeting in Kuta.

IMG20180904182738.jpgA beautiful sunset on arrival during our first day in Kuta…

APRU SCL DAY 7: Ubud

Ubud

Our first morning in Ubud started with an amazingly healthy breakfast at a boutique café next to the famous Monkey Forest. As we replenished our bodies, I headed back to the hotel to catch a taxi. I had to go to Kuta, to visit the Chinese Consular to resolve some visa issue I had for our trip to Hong Kong for the conference. My roommate joined me, as she also needed to get work done at the airport, which was h was also in Kuta. The entire day was spent in accomplishing these tasks and we decided to give ourselves a little treat with some nice vegan food and a massage at the spa. Apparently, Bali is famous for its boutique cafes that serve amazing vegan dishes and a spa culture.

Streets of Ubud + Work in Kuta

We were lucky to have a really informative taxi driver, who, like Sukri, from Java, was also a pioneer in reducing plastic pollution in his town. Agung, as his name was, runs a major street clean up project in Ubud. The project involves several vehicles collecting plastic trash from the streets of Ubud late at night in order to keep the streets clean. Agung was also involved in the implementation of waste separation system of organic and inorganic waste at public rubbish bin sites. This helps to separate the inorganic wastes to be potentially recycled and the organic waste to be turned to compost. Agung also informed us that initiatives are taken by the government to involve the public in the clean up of plastics after public events. An example which we had seen ourselves in person was the clean-up of a field which hosted a festival in cultural celebration the previous night. We actually visited this festival the previous night and I had witnessed that there was abundant trash created by the masses of public visitors at the free festival. As we were on our way to Ubud, Agung pointed out to the festival grounds as the structures were being dismantled and said that by the time we will come back to Ubud from our work in Kuta, all the rubbish at the site would be cleaned – by the involvement of public. I thought this was a wonderful initiative. The local people of Bali seemed to be aware of their environment and had a deep value and love for it.

IMG_1410.JPGA bridge over a mangrove forest leading to the airport. 

IMG_1413.JPGAnother view of the bridge leading us to the airport and connecting Ubud to Kuta. 

IMG_1430.JPGLandscaped gardens right at the airport premise! I have never seen so much green space and garden inside an airport. 

IMG_1425.JPGBali’s airport was definitely one of the most beautiful airport I have seen. The building has an opoen concept, inviting air inside, keeping the interior cool from the humid weather. The ground floor was adorned with landscaped gardens and the walls were decorated with traditional-style motifs. 

IMG_1423.JPGThis green space resembles the cascading rice paddy – an iconic landscape element in Bali. 

Seeds of Life Restaurant

We ended our day with a nice meal at this beautiful restaurant. The restaurant, like many in Bali, portrays an essence of the tourism culture of Bali. The island is famous for its healthy cafes, handmade clothing and jewellery stores, natural healing, yoga, meditation and much more. In a way, this atmosphere of an alternative lifestyle – the reconnection between people and nature is a major component that drives tourists to Bali. Anyone would feel at home in Bali – the culture is so accepting and giving that anybody would feel immersed in its beauty.

IMG_1437.JPGThe Seeds of Life restaurant was located at Gautama Road (Yes, named after The Buddha), which was filled with shops and cafes focusing on sustainable living: yoga, vegan eating, natural healing therapy were just some of them. Bali is famous for this alternative-culture. It is one of the major tourist attractions and revenue streams for the locals. 

IMG_1442.JPGOne of the many vegan cafes in Ubud, encouraging healthy lifestyle and sustainable living. The quality of food was top class!