Recently, the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced that the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Art's Winthrop Professor Bill Taylor and Winthrop Professor Michael Levine (UWA Philosophy), in collaboration with three-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist James O'Byrne (New Orleans), have won a major Discovery Project award for research on ‘Catastrophe: a historical and philosophical assessment of urban disaster, ethics and the built environment'.
Funding of $482,000 for the four year research program is the third ARC award to be granted to Taylor and Levine for work in the field of architecture (and urbanism), philosophy and ethics. Outcomes envisioned, including books, symposia, special journal issues and other publications will further strengthen ALVA's reputation for quality research and postgraduate education in the humanities and built environment.
‘Catastrophe' tackles an important, but only partly realised problem facing liberal democracies. This arises from the desire of communities to build in ways that preserve civic ideals and ways of life, but which also allow them to adapt to wholesale and sometimes catastrophic change. The investigators' principal task is to acquire understanding of this dual challenge. They seek to promote understanding of the public worth of cities, in excess of any likely contribution to national wealth and economic productivity or narrow understanding of sustainability.
The project draws on the circumstances of historic and recent events to frame key questions about civil society and the built environment: How might communities learn to plan for, endure and rebuild themselves after a disaster in ways that preserve and promote social unity? How might urban form develop in ways that are resilient and just-that value existing building heritage, perform flexibly to meet future needs and allow all citizens to overcome a catastrophic event? While mitigating risk and/or facilitating rebuilding can architecture also allow for cultural aspirations that are often hard to define, let alone deliver equitably?
Research contributing to the award winning project proposal has featured in Bill Taylor's Master of Architecture elective ‘ARCT5511 Utopia/Disaster and Imagining the City' which will be offered again in second semester, 2012.