For the Asia Pacific region there is a complex and at times contradictory set of issues affecting life in cities. Some countries are experiencing rapid growth and unprecedented urbanisation, others are dealing with an ageing population immigration and shrinking cities. While some authorities are struggling with the environmental implications of these changes others are employing technologically advanced initiatives. Reflecting this paradoxical context, examples of planning, urban and architectural design across the region vary greatly. The neo-liberal models largely employed in Australian cities differ radically from those in China which, in turn, differ from those in Thailand and Singapore. Similarly, building adaption, evident in some places, is simply not an option elsewhere – where tabla-rasa scenarios are presented as the ideal model of development.
What results from all of this are inconsistencies in the way the cities of the Asia Pacific Rim move forward. Nowhere is this more evident than in housing. As changing living requirements develop, new demographic patterns emerge, and economic and political imperatives morph, the ways in which planners, politicians, economists, developers, architects and designers respond inevitably contrasts. What represents re-development of neighbourhoods in one country can be seen as the destruction of communities in the next. The refurbishment of old houses in one place is seen as the erasure of heritage in another, and government intervention in one city can be interpreted as state control elsewhere. The issue is complex and the problem titanic.
In the palimpsest context of the Asia Pacific region in which all design professionals work across national boundaries, this conference brings together diverse people around the issue of housing. It aims to understand the complexity and variety of the issues at play, to explore specific examples of best and worst practice, and facilitate the sharing of ideas essential in this multi-layered present and future. It is our belief that issues from one country are pertinent in another, and that the lessons of past developments are useful today.