Friday, 21 October 2011

Ideas First - and a talk on our work in Libya 2008-11

Yesterday's news was an important tipping point for the new government in ending the job of war and beginning the perhaps more difficult job of future building. It will also give confidence to the Libyan people to disarm and return to work, and with leadership and security comes stability and growth.

However this is also a dangerous moment for Libya's future. An emerging government with so much to do so quickly may find the pressure of big business at the gates very hard to resist. But resist they must for there is too much at stake in Libya - archaeology, biodiversity, wild landscapes and coastlines, social needs and fragile micro-economies - to let a period of unmanaged growth compromise the promise of a new future for the deserving Libyan people.

Nowhere is there more need to plan carefully for sensitive growth than in the Green Mountain, east of Benghazi, where we spent almost three years working (and at times, living) alongside our Libyan friends and partners, helping to write a plan for the region's future. Our Shahat Garden City project was a worked example of many of our ideas for new economies, renewable energy, valued public spaces and low energy housing, offering both privacy with density. All this took care to demonstrate the value of archaeology, farming, biodiversity and climate as treasured parts of the region's natural but so often forgotten assets.

Without leaders who know the value of the work that has already been done towards Libya's sustainable future, and who have the courage to manage development until approved strategies are in place, the moment may pass with an opportunity missed.

The next phase should be about ideas not contracts.

[Goodenough College, (London, WC1N 2AB) will be hosting an evening talk on our work in Libya 2008-11 on Monday 24 October at 8pm, titled: "Libya's 'Foreign' Cities: how lessons from the ancient world, fascism and the sustainability agenda could inform an appropriate Libyan urbanism after Gadaffi."]