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A University of Melbourne project is addressing problems found in cities around the world through a design program which concentrates on the idea that sustainability requires social change as much as technological change. 

The Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab’s (VEIL) Masters students and staff worked in teams focusing on different sites in Florence as potential locations for Urban interventions, centred around locations like the River Arno. 

Their results included a plan for Florence’s 2015 fashion festival to be held on pontoons on the river.

The work in Florence was part of the ‘EcoAcupuncture’ project focuses on the idea that making small design interventions in cities, like putting in a market, can affect the whole system. VEIL first tested the project in Broadmeadows and Sunshine.

This led to local governments as far away as Florence requesting VEIL’s help to create sustainable futures and deal with existing problems. 

Professor Chris Ryan, Director of VEIL, said Florence was not well placed to deal with the realities of a changing climate and was vulnerable to extreme weather events such as high temperature days, water shortages and floods. 

“It seems strange to talk about Florence and Broadmeadows in the same breath, but when you look at them from the point of infrastructural systems thinking, you can see universal threads emerge,” Professor Ryan says.

“The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Florence realised the city faced increasing pressure from environmental issues.

“They have a massive strategic problem in preserving the historic city while adapting to the sustainability pressures of the next 25 years.

“The Mayor thought this form of work might have the effect he wanted to change the thinking of his staff.” 

Vision: Florence 2035 Eco-Acupuncture: Developing sites of Urban Intervention, an exhibition of the work completed in Florence, until 9 August at the Museo Italiano, 199 Faraday Street, Carlton.