Interview: Eva Vaništa Lazarević
Awaiting the start of the Places and Technologies 2014 conference, prof. Eva Vaništa Lazarević, PhD, Technical Director of the conference, talks exclusively for CAB blog about her experiences on preparations for this event.
What is the goal of this conference?
The goal is, first of all, meeting and networking of young scientists, who nowdays have a hard time finding resources for travel and broadening of knowledge, meaning that they work less and less with their colleagues from the academic world. Younger scientists and schollars will have an opportunity to meet well-kown experts at the conference and learn what is new, but also to check where they are with their research; to realistically understand their achievements compared with others. That is something that no country in the World can do without: the strenghtening of its’ scientific potential through comparation and competitiveness.
What is special about the Places and Technologies, compared to other conferences? Is it mainly an academic or expert - architecture and urbanism event?
Among numerous conferences that take place worldwide, we wanted to organize a slightly enhanced fusion of three areas: science, education and technological knowledge derived from the practice. Ambitiously conceived, the conference was not easy to organize: to gather the highest representatives of academia from the region and wider – the deans of architecture faculties, who meet in Belgrade after more than two decades, and foreign experts from the practice and top professors – experts from reputable faculties from across Europe.
Why is it important to connect places and technologies? The place as term is still rarely spoken of in the domestic practice, dominant terms are areas or spaces.
Places in English depicts a much wider context than our firs associative translation: space (prostor), although it probably describes it better: place (but also non-place) of cities, with the technology strongly implemented in it. Nothing is as it was a few years ago – especially in the sphere of high technologies, with rapid progress. Museums no longer contain artefacts, they are virtual, people no longer communicate directly, but through social networks, public spaces are equipped with chargers for mobile devices and interactive maps. Tourists no loger buy maps, but follow the information on their smartphones, who are rendered obsolete every year and constantly need to be replaced with newest models.
Even older generations use more and more technological terms, and the communication of two people, even on a date or a business meeting at a restaurant, is impossible without constant checking of the mobile phone. This gesture, previously considered as the sign of bad manners, has spread over the Planet: even the German chancellor did not resist looking at her smart phone while standing in the first row of CeBIT conference. This phenomenon is also related to the society of extreme individualsim, that we live in today.
How did you select the key speakers and guests of the conference? In what direction are you trying to stear the conference?
International conferences are based on previous long-term acquaintances and collegiality. The board of this conference is formed – due to certain circumstances – of a completely female team, and the members are distingushed professors (prof. Milica Bajić Brković, PHD, who provided the support of ISOCARP, prof. Aleksandra Krstić, PhD and prof. Aleksandra Đukić, PhD). It was their privilege to invite the reputable colleagues from Europe: the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Great Britain and Italy. The scientific board members are, besides our dean and our professors, Worldwide experts: from Greece, Portugal, Spain, Cypruss, Great Britain, Poland, Turkey, Czech Republic and Lithuania, as well as members of the academic communities from the region, including professors of philosohy and other technical faculties.
To make sure that the conference is not solely academic and perhaps a bit boring, we invited the guests from the practice: the French team Nodesign.net, who come from Paris and will show their achievements in creating virtual museums. Even the very active archeologist Rade Milić, the author of the first interactive board in Belgrade and the researcher of Belgrade underground spaces, will participate.
The messages of the conference will be focused on the following: what we have acheived, what we can do and the possible ways of acheiving it today.
In what way do you believe that the local academic and professional architectural communities can benefit from this conference? What benefits do you foresee for the development of Belgrade and other cities in the region? Has the conference met the support in the public, especially in terms of sponsorships and donations? What kind of support did the institutions (ministries, local authorities and government agencies) promise to provide?
Telekom Serbia understood the importance of this event and offered to be the general sponsor – confirming the importance of new technologies as one of rare companies that does not have to worry about survival in the hard year we live in.
The majojrity of embassies we contacted recognized the topic of the green aspect in implementation of high-tech improvements in space and clearly institutionally supported the conference. Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis, only the French Embassy wanted to help with the travel and accomodation arrangements of French guests.
Savski venac was the only municipality who accepted to participate financially. Vračar resigned at the last moment for political reasons, and many municipalities did not even bother to respond to our letters.
The Urban Planning Institute of Belgrade, as the largest urban planning enterprise in the country, institutionally supported the conference, with the technical manager of the Institute as a member of our scientific board. On the other hand, places where the results of the conference could be implemented – local governements, did not respond, not even from Vojvodina.
Private companies, like Arhipro, provided the always-welcomed finantial support and showed understanding, always based on the enthousiasm of one man, in this case a woman, my dear colleague architect Anja Milić.
I speak of this as the gathering of finantial resources for the conference proved to be hard and somewhat degrading work, as it took seven months. The organization team, first of all Milena Vukmirović, PhD and myself, wrote, pleaded and met around five hundred institutions, companies and embassies.
The Chamber of Engineers of Serbia showed a lot of understanding as our lead financier. The ministry of science also provided important funding.
We expect support from companies like Philips and Lafarge, as well as the Emabassy of Netherlands, as the most prominent donors in Serbia.
The benefits of the conference will probably not be visible instantly, but will surely provide long-term strategic impact. Our intention is to prepare a book and a manual with guidance based on conference results and easily applicable in local communities, related to the application of technologies in cities, with chapters by selected authors from the conference.
Besides the proceedings with all hunderd and fifty papers, two more important publications will be prepared afterwards: Cambridge offered to print free of charge selected conference papers. Also, the elite journal Energy & Building will publish a special issue with the most important papers from our conference.
The whole conference will be recorded and a video will be prepared for YouTube, and Twitter and other social networks will be used to transmit the information from the conference.
The first international academic conference Places and Technologies 2014 will be held at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade on April 3rd and 4th 2014. The Centre for Architecture Belgrade is the official new media partner.