Sydney Architecture Festival creative director Dr Barnaby Bennett reveals his top picks for this year's event. 

One of the real privileges of organising festivals is watching the gradual realisation of the program as it moves from sketchy conversations and ideas to events being attended by hundreds of people. This is felt most acutely the moment the festival starts when the organisers shift from being above the festival to being just another person in the crowd watching the whole thing unfold. With this in mind I’m so excited to be in the audience watching so many of these events this week. I’ve got so much to learn.

My top six picks are below: 

1. Walking Tours with Eoghan Lewis: Design Innovation and Housing choice in Redfern and Surry Hills (Tuesday 12 November)

Over recent decades the inner city former working class suburbs of Redfern and Surry Hills have undergone massive change. No longer associated with poverty or crime they now boast many of the city’s most popular cafes, bars and restaurants and have a thriving creative scene with something to be discovered around every corner. But at what price? Set within the broader theme of housing affordability, this walking tour will explore these vibrant neighbourhoods and focus on housing choice, housing innovation and projects that engage wholeheartedly in community building.

2. Wednesday night with Western Sydney University - Towards Urban Transformation (Wednesday 13 November)

Western Sydney University’s new architecture program presents a public discussion about the challenges and opportunities of the urban transformation of the Greater Sydney Region. Sydney is embarking on a once in a generation infrastructure, transport, and housing expansion. The billions of dollars being spent raises many opportunities to improve the quality, character and performance of the broader Sydney region, but it also introduces many risks. How to build affordable housing in a successful city? Are we planning sufficiently for two or three degrees in temperature rise? What are the new ways of construction? The evening will start with an overview by the new Dean School Of Built Environment professor Kerry London and follow with a small number of short talks and then a panel discussion afterwards.

3. Better Housing Now: a free two-day public symposium on housing affordability in NSW (Saturday 16 - Sunday 17 November)

The keystone event of the festival, Better Housing Now is an in-depth look at the complex and interconnected issues that have created our currently unaffordable city. In four sessions: ‘Setting the scene’; ‘Defining the terms’; ‘Squaring the circle’; and ‘A call to arms’, the city’s leading organisations, advocacy groups and designers will explore projects, identify problems, and propose solutions. Better Housing Now is free for the public. 

4. 1:100 Drawing Workshop at Waterloo Towers (Friday 15 November)

Participants can take a closer look at two of Sydney’s most controversial and interesting housing projects: the Matavai and Turanga buildings in Waterloo. These distinctive public housing towers are scheduled for demolition in the next few years to make way for development that will considerably change the landscape of Waterloo. This multi-staged sketching and drawing workshop that will drawing and discussions to better understand the significant history or these two towers. During the workshop, the group will be joined by multiple guests to cover the history – past and present – of the projects.

5. Alternative Housing Ideas: ‘Reimagining How We Live’ (Friday 15 November)

Sydney is facing an unprecedented housing availability and affordability problem unlike ever before. To address this issue, the City of Sydney made a bold move. They invited the public to put forward their best ideas to re-imagine housing in the future. The Alternative Housing Ideas Challenge attracted international recognition with over 230 submissions. The city's panel of experts shortlisted 7 finalists from Australia and around the world. As part of the Sydney Architecture Festival, the seven shortlisted teams of the City of Sydney’s Alternative Housing Ideas Challenge will give us insight into their creative concepts. With a panel of experts, we’ll examine scalability, applicability, assess feasibility and discuss what the future of housing could look like.

6. Architecture of Affordability keynote orations by Timothy Hill and Paul Karakusevic (Sunday 17 November)

The Sydney Architecture Festival 2019 closes with a very special evening that will both interrogate and celebrate the value of architecture as a response to problems of affordability with orations from one Australia’s most celebrated thinkers and designers Timothy Hill, and leading British architect Paul Karakusevic at Customs House, Circular Quay.

Click here to see the full program of events.