The 3rd APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Conference 2019


The third 2019 Association of Pacific Rim Universities – Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Conference was hosted by UNSW between August 29th and September 1st. The conference was organized by Professor Linda Corkery, Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard and Catherine Evans and supported by the UNSW International Affairs.

The conference retained its unique format, with delegates contributing to thematically organized working groups who collaborate throughout the conference to develop an agenda for ongoing research output. This year working groups advanced their research studies and agendas to identify specifications including research papers, book chapters, and projects.

In response to feedback from the previous two conferences and further discussions within the SCL Hub Steering Committee, significant innovations to the conference were introduced in 2019. The main concerns were to ensure ongoing and optimal impact and engagement and to establish a platform for strategic direction for the SCL Hub. The changes for 2019 included a public opening event, a student design ideas competition, a strategic advocacy workshop, a planning session for the next two conferences and the introduction of a modest registration fee.


Conference Highlights

  • Seventy-eight participants from fourteen economies and twenty-four universities attended the APRU SCL conference 2019.
  • Nanjing University joined the APRU SCL network in 2019.
  • A third of the conference participants were students and included PhD, Masters and undergraduate students.
  • The working groups experienced approximately 60% new participation.
  • Special sessions were scheduled to allow time to focus on hub-wide concerns, such as conference organization and support, book production, and advocacy.
  • The conference dinner cruise on Sydney Harbour was spectacular and relaxing evening.

Click here to read the full report.
Click here to view the conference photos.


Working Groups

In  2019, eleven working groups were convened at the conference. One of these is new group, focused on Food and Nutrition Security. Three working groups, Infrastructural Ecologies, Urban Biodiversity, and Urban-Rural Linkages, united as one to strengthen the discussions and potential collaborations.

  1. Sustainable urban design
  2. Vulnerable communities
  3. Food and Nutrition Security
  4. Transitions in urban waterfronts
  5. Landscape and human health
  6. Urban Renewable Energy
  7. Infrastructural Ecologies
  8. Smart Cities
  9. Urban Biodiversity
  10. Water and Wastewater

Six working group sessions were scheduled across the two days. Back-to-back scheduling of four of these allowed working groups to engage in tours to project sites of interest around Sydney and/or extended workshop sessions.


Plenary Sessions

The conference opened with a series of official welcomes from significant leaders, including Auntie Maxine Ryan who welcomed delegates to Country. These official welcomes were followed by two plenaries which introduced delegates to social, environmental and planning issues in Sydney. Emeritus Professor Heather Goodall spoke to Sydney’s transnational social and environmental history. Environment Commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission Roderick Simpson spoke about current plans for conceptual reshaping of metropolitan Sydney into three cities, largely based on their distinctive landscape characteristics.

The subsequent three plenary sessions addressed opportunities for research partnership and engagement from three perspectives.  Jacinta McCann, Global Design Advisor at AECOM, spoke about engaging with practice-based research. A  panel moderated by  Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard discussed Yuwaya Ngarra-li, a community-led partnership between the Dharriwaa Elders Group and various groups at UNSW. The final panel moderated by Catherine Evans featured university administrators, research managers and academics who discussed strategies for building international research links. In what has become a tradition for the SCL Hub, the final plenary session included an overview of the 2020 Conference and reports from the Steering Committee and Working Group leaders.


Public Event

A public opening event, held on the evening before the opening session of the conference, featured Brett Moore, Chief, Shelter and Settlements, United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as the guest speaker. Brett spoke about the opportunities for planners and designers to engage with the complex challenges refugees experience, particularly in relation to the concepts and delivery of urban development. Brett Moore’s presentation was followed by a public cocktail reception.


Student Participation

One-third of delegates in 2019 were students who engaged directly in the conference through participation in the working groups. We note that this reflects strong support from academic staff and their institutions. To encourage and sustain student engagement, a PhD Symposium will be introduced at 2020 APRU SCL Conference in Auckland.

Student engagement in this year’s conference was also encouraged through the integration of a global student design ideas competition titled ‘Cities and Refugees.’ The competition was jointly hosted with the Rapid Urbanization Grand Challenge at UNSW (Sydney), the Australian Red Cross, UNHCR, ARUP International Development, and APRU.

Twenty-eight entries were received from fifteen different economies. The three competition winners and three honourable mentions were announced at the public event following Brett Moore’s presentation.



Significant progress was made for the Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Handbook to be published by Routledge and edited by SCL members Anne Taufen (University of Washington) and Yizhao Yang (University of Oregon). The scope of the book has expanded to eight sections with 6-8 chapters each. Publication is scheduled for 2021.


Strategic Advocacy Workshop 

A half-day strategic advocacy workshop for the APRU SCL Hub’s Steering Committee was facilitated by Tim Arnold, CEO of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. A key outcome of the workshop is the establishment of an SCL Hub Advocacy Committee, which will meet quarterly with Adam DeHeer and Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard as co-chairs.


Conference Planning Workshop

A meeting with representatives from the APRU Secretariat, the SCL Hub and conference organizers past, present and future provided an opportunity to review and discuss conference aims, logistic and support for the next two scheduled conferences. The workshop took place on Friday evening over a working dinner in the UNSW Staff Lounge. The discussion covered finances, conference structure, best approaches for student involvement and processes for working groups.


Social Engagement

Social events included the public lecture and cocktail reception, walking tours of key examples of sustainable landscapes in Sydney and a Sydney Harbour Cruise for the Conference Dinner.

53 unique pieces of content were shared across various social media platforms which resulted in 344 individual levels of engagement with this content.