For the first time, the Festival of Urbanism will be held across Sydney and Melbourne on 4 September, with 18 events challenging people to explore and engage with the built environment in a new way.

Held over two weeks, the Henry Halloran Trust in partnership with the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning and Monash University will stage a series of events with industry leaders. The on-site events - including walking tours that explore our concrete utopias, a string of engaging talks, and exclusive book launches - aim to re-introduce residents to their cities.

With both Sydney and Melbourne experiencing the challenges of rapid growth, it’s time to investigate and reflect on how our cities are responding. Spearheading the events are leading researchers, industry professionals and community members who will provide citizens with a platform to be involved in the planning and decision-making process.

“This year’s Festival focuses on engagement with the government, the wider industry and the public, but for the first time it’s happening in tandem across our two largest cities,” says chair of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Sydney, Professor Peter Phibbs.

“This allows the Festival to compare the stories in our two biggest cities and explore what they can learn from each other in order to tackle the problems of record population growth and rapid development.”

The events include:

Land Rights Act: LALC and Sydney University Planning Partnership

Hear speakers from the Local Aboriginal Land Councils and the University of Sydney share stories about how land use investigation and analysis can inform decision making to suit the needs of the community.

Housing and Urban Citizenship: the role of urban alliances

This event will explore and report on the current research investigating the displacement of poor and low-income people from affordable housing. The panel discussion will discuss how organised citizen action is responding to this crisis within our cities.

Sydney Walking Tour: Underground and over the top

Urban and architectural historian and the University of Sydney’s director of Heritage Conservation, Dr Cameron Logan will lead a walking tour of the city. Explore new projects that are redefining the city landscape, some highly contested, and discuss the nexus of creativity, design and conservation that goes into the making of a city.

Water Sensitive Urban Design: planning for resilient cities

With much of the country in drought, this talk led by Monash University’s Catherine Murphy will explore the methods cities can take to facilitate the building of adaptive precincts to ensure long-term urban resilience.

Melbourne Walking Tour: A critical appraisal of recent tall buildings in Central Melbourne

Currently the fastest growing city in Australia, Melbourne is on track to build as many tall buildings in 10 years as in the preceding 60 years. Participants will delve into the measures needed to ensure successful planning and what needs to be learnt from mistakes of the past.


Other topics on the festival program include population booms and housing density, the housing crisis and current real estate bubble, softcore urbanism and decoding all of the forces that give our cities form.

Click here for more information.