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HY William Chan


HY William Chan 陳浩賢 designs for dignity in our cities. The Hong Kong-born, Sydney-based urbanist and futurist works at the intersection of innovation, social entrepreneurship and urban development. A dual Convocation and University Medallist in architecture, he holds degrees in design, science and sustainability from Australia and Italy.

William’s body of work spans Olympic stadiums, metro transit systems and entire urban masterplans. But it’s his passion in creating inclusive and resilient cities for vulnerable communities that drives his innovative practice. With 10 years of experience, he empowers people as partners designing for social impact and justice.

His projects have exhibited across 40 cities, including the Venice and Rotterdam Architecture Biennales, Oslo and Milan Design Triennales, Salone del Mobile, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Vivid Sydney and the UN World Urban Forums.

A recent Ambassador for UNICEF, William is a headline TED Speaker and World Economic Forum Global Shaper. He was appointed a Fellow in innovation with the World Innovation Summit for Education in 2017, and in sustainable cities with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network in 2019.


William is named an “inspiring visionary” by Forbes and a “game changer” by The Daily Telegraph. He is featured by Qantas in the top 20 of 100 extraordinary people globally who epitomise the spirit of Australia.

What is an Alternative Thinker for you?

An Alternative Thinker relentlessly challenges the status quo, isn’t afraid of confronting the world’s most pressing issues, shares their passion collaboratively, and leaves a lasting actionable impact.

What are you bringing forward in your work?

I look forward the most to bringing a fresh approach to foresight and innovation that’s grounded in design, policy, leadership and action for long-term system change. We need to be audacious enough to learn, unlearn and relearn, so that we can play a proactive role in influencing a more resilient and just future, rather than only reacting to the present.

What would you like to see change in the current economy?

I envision an economy where progress is measured by equality, empathy, wellbeing and sustainable development. This includes economic growth led by cultural and community capital, and where science and the circular economy is valued to create new business models. Above all, I’m ambitious for an economy that is in the best interest for the next generation – one that is developed by meaningful youth participation.

Tell us what your vision of the new world – post COVID-19 – is like?

We won’t have business as usual again and we shouldn’t want it. Business as usual wasn’t working. By recognising that the global pandemic has accelerated 10 years of digital disruption all into one year, we can evolve business (and cities, governance and individuals) to be and do better.

Paradigms in our cities will be shifted. This includes: the refocus on humanity in ‘smart’ cities, a radical redesign of sustainable high density living, the development of better public spaces that support green and personal active transport, addressing gaps in our food supply chain with more localised urban ‘farm to fork’ approaches, and solving homelessness with permanent supportive housing that prioritises amenity.

Refugees as Architects of Their City and Future

HY William Chan is not only interested in designing the cities that we live in, but how we can all be a part of the process. But what might surprise you are the kind of cities he’s talking about. He challenges us to disrupt our understanding of refugee camps as future cities and incubators of innovation.

Refugees as Architects of Their City and Future | TEDxYouth@Sydney


People Building Better Cities

People Building Better Cities

Too many people globally are excluded from decent housing, security of tenure, and access to water and sanitation. People Building Better Cities travelled to 20 cities, activating action on inclusive urbanisation and climate change. Working with low-income households and communities can unlock the benefits of development. This project was a partnership with Dr Anna Rubbo, Global Studio and Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development.

Wall House 1:1

Curated by Sir David Chipperfield, the full-scale model tested technological and spatial innovations led by Dr Anupama Kundoo. The Wall House critiques architectural conventions by privileging the sensory, the material and the experiential. Through the development of the design and construction, the building juxtaposed vernacular, low-tech sustainable materials with advanced engineering and manufacturing techniques.


Wall House 1:1


Sydney 2050 Citizens Jury for the City of Sydney | Brett Boardman

Sydney 2050 Citizens Jury for the City of Sydney

What if randomly selected people from the community determined the future of our city? Facilitating as part of the Expert Panel to the newDemocracy Foundation and the City of Sydney, 50 everyday citizens were entrusted to craft Sydney’s 2050 strategic vision in a deliberative process. This direct democracy approach devolves urban governance by tapping into the shared wisdom of the crowd for the greater good of everyone.