Green Fields, Brown Fields, New Fields: The 10th Australasian Urban History/Planning History Conference, Melbourne, 2010

By Petrow, Stefan | The Town Planning Review, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Green Fields, Brown Fields, New Fields: The 10th Australasian Urban History/Planning History Conference, Melbourne, 2010


Petrow, Stefan, The Town Planning Review


The tenth biennial Urban History/Planning History (UHPH) conference was held in Melbourne from 7 to 10 February 2010. The venue was the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning building at the University of Melbourne, one of Australia's leading universities. The organisers David Nichols, Anna Hurlimann, Clare Mouat and Stephen Pascoe from the University of Melbourne compiled a programme of high-standard, well-presented papers. The mix of seasoned researchers and postgraduates created a stimulating collegial atmosphere and the organisers deserve congratulations on the standard of food, which sustained us on the hot Melbourne days (the average temperature for the duration of the conference was a sweltering 33°C). (In 2009 the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Melbourne as the third most liveable city in the world, but perhaps the ranking was not done in the middle of summer!)

Previous UHPH Conferences

No society has been established in Australia and New Zealand to run the UHPH conferences. There are no office bearers and no common source of funding to draw on. Researchers rely on their colleagues offering to hold a conference. The enthusiasm of Robert Freestone started the ball rolling in 1993 when he held the first UHPH conference at the University of New South Wales, and he has been the moving force in encouraging others to follow his lead and generally promoting research in planning history in Australia. Conferences have subsequently been held in Canberra (1995), Melbourne (1996), Sydney (1998) in conjunction with the International Planning History Society, Adelaide (2000), Auckland (2002), Geelong (2004), Wellington (2006) and Caloundra, Queensland (2008).

The UHPH conferences operate as a forum for historians of urban and regional planning and the built, social and natural environment to discuss their research. Participants have included leading scholars in planning and urban history in Australia and New Zealand as well as early career researchers, postgraduate students and practising professionals from the private and public sectors. The conferences have consistently attracted a wide range of papers from diverse disciplines (planning, architecture, history and geography have been the major areas) and cover divergent places, different scales and varied contexts. Although the participation of scholars from other parts of the world has been limited, we hope that this will change in the future. Hearing papers from and discussion with colleagues from around the world can only enrich our conferences.

UHPH 2010

The conference theme 'Green Fields, Brown Fields, New Fields' explored, wrote the organisers, 'past and future approaches to managing and designing for growth, development and decline'. This theme went 'beyond debates over density, frontier development and renewal' and included 'new fields of historical, policy and social research' which informed 'discussion of heritage, growth, environmental, economic and other issues of urban life and urban form.' Eighty-seven people registered to attend the conference and 58 papers were presented (a figure perhaps slightly higher than most UHPH conferences). About half of the papers (30 including the keynote speakers) were given by researchers from Victoria. All the other Australian States, the Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand were represented, but there were no overseas presenters and perhaps fewer urban historians than usual. There were a number of two or three concurrent sessions, but moving between rooms was relatively easy. Conference attendees received a printed book of Abstracts and a compact disc of the refereed papers, which were edited by the organisers.1

The UHPH conference was launched at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square on 7 February when three rarely seen Australian short films of planning in the 1970s were screened. These 'urban activist' films critiqued and/or celebrated planning, development and the changing urban landscape and were followed by a panel discussion. …

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