Brief encounter: Skye Duncan

By Sarah Daniell

Skye Duncan, Global Cities Designer.
Skye Duncan, Global Cities Designer.

Skye Duncan is a Kiwi living in New York as a Global Cities Designer.

What's the first building you fell in love with?
Many buildings I first fell in love with were on paper, through books and photos. When I finally visited them, it was more a confirmation of that admiration. The Chrysler Building in NYC is still a favourite of mine, and one I'm lucky enough to see it every day from my office. I first saw it from afar as my aunt drove me into the city for the very first time. It stood tall in the skyline - embodying elegance and aspiration - and so thoughtful in how it touched the sky.

Where in the world is the greatest embodiment of harmony, health and fitness, people and buildings?
I was recently in Copenhagen and it really did live up to all of the hype. With access to the waterfront that runs through the city, with swimming holes and beaches, the ample green parks, the public plazas, the city oozed a sense of calmness and access to nature. It was very easy to get around, there was an abundant supply of healthy food options. The air felt fresh and clean. With the majority of the population biking each day, it was such a delight to see 95-year-olds and 5-year-olds accessing their city without the need for cars.

It's very exciting to hear they are now leading the way with goals to be carbon neutral by 2025.

The best NZ city to walk around in is?
I'd have to say Wellington. It's the city I first experienced and was consciously
aware of the true benefits of urban living. It's great to be able to take a hike up Mt Victoria, head down to the beach at Oriental Parade, then along a bustling urban waterfront edge or large city park, then finish at Lambton Quay or for dinner on Cuba St.

Who have you run into on the sidewalk in New York City you never expected to see?
I saw architect Frank Gehry once. I had just arrived in the city, so of course I didn't say anything to him. I passed by before I knew it, but that was pretty exciting for me as a budding young architecture geek who'd just moved to NYC.

How has living in NYC changed you?
It's made me a little tougher, focused and resilient, especially in terms of living in
close quarters to millions of people.

Sadly, you learn to put your blinkers on sometimes to shuffle through the crowds and make your way to work. But at the same time, you get to share extraordinary places like Central Park as your backyard with so many fascinating people. It's also opened my eyes to such a rich diversity of cultures and experiences.

Most entertaining experience on the subway?
The "show time" dance acts are always pretty impressive as dancers weave and flip between the crowded subway poles, but a different type of entertaining was probably when a guy fainted at my feet one day. It was winter and everyone was wrapped tightly in their giant sleeping bag jackets and woolly scarfs. I guess this guy overheated and fell to the ground. Of course all of us sitting around him quickly helped to open his top to give him some air, to sit him up, and to check he was all right. The poor guy was fine a few minutes later, although a little embarrassed. But what was amazing was that nobody ever talks to each other on the subway and suddenly everyone was chatting away, sharing stories and acting like long lost friends. I guess there's definitely something to be said for shared experiences to bring people together.

What's the most exciting thing about being alive right now?
Anything seems possible and people seem to be proving this every day.

Skye Duncan presents Changing Streets to Change the World at Auckland Conversations, March 8, see to watch her presentation or to register for the event.

- Canvas

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