Urbanism for the Torrid Zone

So hot in summer your head throbs waiting for a traffic light.  Rain so heavy you’re up to your ankles on the street in minutes. Colours so intense they make your heart sing. The most gorgeous winters imaginable. Cylone Yasi! 

Ms Caroline Stalker

How do you make an urbanism for the Torrid Zone?  Townsville and Cairns are pretty relaxed places and this translated last century to a pretty disengaged and un-engaging urbanism.

However in this century, whilst facing face severe consequences of Climate Change and substantial (but different) economic pressures, both City authorities are now considering the question of ‘how do we create more compact, people-oriented and sustainable cities in a way that makes sense to our climate and culture?’.

Two recent projects have offered us the opportunity to work with City leaders to position solutions for both a Wet Tropical and Dry Tropical Urbanism which have resonated with City authorities; the Cairns City Centre Master Plan and James Cook University Discovery Rise.

The projects describe an urbanism where buildings are more like perforated green shade screens than solid volumes, and the public spaces of the city become cool Tropical Living Rooms which offer respite and invite occupation even on extreme days.  It’s a looser-fit urbanism than the walled urbanism of southern cities that emphasises landscape integration with mega-shade trees and woven or layered shade to mark and create urban places – albeit differently in Wet vs Dry Tropical conditions.

The paper will describe these two projects and their implementation to underscore a very regionalised and place-specific urbanism as an alternative to a perceived increasing ‘formularisation’ of the practice of Urban Design.

 Ms Caroline Stalker, Director, Architectus, Brisbane will speak at the:

5th International Urban Design Conference – The Hilton on the Park, Melbourne, Victoria
10th to the 12th of September – 2012

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