Hassell Talks

S4, Ep1 Why designing for spontaneity is what cities need now

August 23, 2022

Welcome back to Season 4 of Hassell Talks! This season we're taking a look at Designing for a New State of Togetherness.

We believe good things - great things - can happen when people come together through seemingly spontaneous experiences.

The emotional response we get when we’re surprised or delighted is hugely powerful. It can help us feel more connected to others, and our cities. It can inspire and move us toward great change - and great change is something our cities, communities and planet urgently needs.

But how do we design for spontaneity? Is this not inherently contradictory?

We asked Principal and previous Hassell Talks host Jon Hazelwood to return to the microphone for a conversation with FreeState’s Su Lim around the role of spontaneity in our cities and how we can curate spaces for the unplanned.

Su and Jon discuss how to design for experiences that we don’t always know we need but that can connect and reconnect us in novel and essential ways that will create memories and reset cities.

We discuss the role of landscape and nature in creating surprise and delight in cities and, with Hassell Principal Chong Wang, explore how one of the world’s great cities, Shanghai, has woven spontaneity into its DNA. We also hear from Hannah Fox, the creator of Melbourne’s renowned Rising Festival, about how spontaneous interactions feed creativity.


Journalist, author, theorist, and activist Jane Jacobs
Psychologist James Gibson


Parts of this episode were recorded on the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people of the Kulin nation. We pay our respects to elders past and present. We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the land where we live, work, and learn.

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