Trilateral workshop: Sustainable Pathways and Transformations of Urban Systems

Dr Sara Fuller, Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Planning at Macquarie, describes her recent participation in a sustainable pathways workshop held in Germany:

In late June, I participated in a workshop on Sustainable Pathways and Transformations of Urban Systems along with Peter Davies (Department of Environmental Sciences), Kirsty Davies (Macquarie Law School) and Leigh Staas (Climate Futures at Macquarie). The workshop, held at the University of Hamburg, forms part of the Trilateral Partnership between the University of Hamburg, Macquarie University and Fudan University. The Trilateral Partnership was initiated up in 2013 to strengthen international collaboration and advance innovative research and teaching through interdisciplinary cooperation. Building on previous workshops in Hamburg (May 2014) and Macquarie (Nov 2015), this third workshop aimed to develop further research synergies between researchers in the three institutions.

The first two days comprised workshop discussions on the topic of urban transformations in Hamburg, Shanghai and Sydney. Alongside an exciting mix of conceptual and empirical contributions, I presented a paper on Urban climate justice and energy transitions reflecting one of our departmental research themes. Over the two days we had productive discussions about collaborative research projects and joint publications. We explored the multiplicity of energy transitions in Hamburg, Sydney and Shanghai. On paper these are very diverse cities but we identified some surprising commonalities. We also started to think about opportunities for joint PhD projects – a really great opportunity for any postgraduates interested in international research!


On the third day we participated in a study tour around Hamburg. We were fortunate to benefit from expert guides who showed us around the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in the morning and HafenCity in the afternoon. The IBA Hamburg showcases projects that promote sustainable, environmentally friendly and balanced urban development. I was particularly inspired by the ‘Cities and Climate Change’ zone which included the Energy Bunker – a former air raid shelter which now generates energy using a combination of solar energy, biogas, wood chips and waste heat. Another unique structure was the BIQ building, one of the ‘Metrozones’ projects, which uses microalgae embedded in glass walls to allow the house to generate its own energy. Fascinating!

In contrast, HafenCity is currently Europe’s largest innercity development project. On the banks of the River Elbe, the city masterplan identifies a new urban district comprising both residential and commercial buildings. This new ‘downtown’ draws inspiration from the nearby historic warehouse complex, the ‘Speicherstadt’. It is also unique for its relationship with the river with much of the development being raised to prevent the damaging impacts of storm flooding.

Throughout our visit we were treated to excellent hospitality and I’m very grateful to our German hosts – particularly Jürgen Scheffran, Jürgen Ossenbrügge, Antje Katzschner and Tracy Cheung – for such a welcoming and wonderful visit. As a group, we will next meet at Fudan Unversity in Shanghai in November. I look forward to more inspiring conversations and the strengthening of research and teaching links between Hamburg, Macquarie and Fudan!


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