Why I’m leaving Sydney, the city that actively punishes people for living in it

It was love at first sight when Sydney and I met properly a dozen years ago. I fell hard with the sort of giddy infatuation that makes it easy to overlook the odd flaw or two, and to blithely ignore those flaws even as they crumbled into mighty chasms over the subsequent years.

But now I’m ending things and moving out. And let me be clear: it’s not me, Sydney. It’s you.

But that wasn’t the tipping point – well, not completely.

There’s also the way that the city has been blithely looking to make a quick buck by selling off priceless pieces of its heritage – whether it’s the Sirius Apartments or the Powerhouse Museum – with no plan other than “how swiftly can we convert this public asset into private profit?” It used to horrify me, but that shock has long since curdled from anger to sorrow to deep, unrelenting disgust.

So has the deliberate scuttling of public transport corridors in favour of WestConnex, with the state government essentially imposing a new tax on the western suburbs for the privilege of being able to get to work. That perhaps more than anything shows precisely how little this place cares about the environment, its people or its own future.

There are a lot of little things that have been bugging me for a while. The wholesale destruction of the night time entertainment scene, especially for live music, on exaggerated public safety grounds that just so happened to free up prime real estate at firesale prices to be picked over by the government’s developer mates, was one sign of how little this city cares for the people that live in it.

Even the things that I love about the place aren’t enough any more.

Getting to the beach or the Opera House or the Art Gallery or Taronga has become longer and more difficult with roadworks and the future white elephant light rail. And trying to get about on the overcrowded trains with a toddler usually involves carrying prams up stairs at the station – a massive wheelchair accessibility problem which just about every other Australian city dealt with decades ago – making it comprehensively more hassle than it’s worth. What sort of city penalises its inhabitants for wanting to actively enjoy living there?

The biggest factor, though, was the most predictable. Housing prices – specifically, the spiralling rent increases since buying had long ago ceased to be an option for our two professional income household.

Continue reading on Domain.com.au here.


Save Our Minds, Bodies and Souls, Not Just Our Town

Ms Robina Crook, Associate at HASSELL joins us at this year’s International Urban Design Conference to discuss  “Save our minds, bodies and souls, not just our town”.

A tale of how a small rural community taught their urban cousin a thing or two about “Building an Age Friendly Community”

When Ian McCabe, CEO of the Shire of Wyalkatchem, requested the Western Australian Planning Institute of Australia assist them to address the complex challenge of an ageing community, we jumped at the opportunity to help (1).

When you are the CEO of a local rural shire you are not just advocating for the citizens of a community, often you will have a personal connection. The Shire of Wyalkatchem is 194km north east of Perth. It is a community of only 516 souls in 314 private dwellings; with a handful of those dwellings forming the town centre. More than 46% of the “Wylie-ites” are aged 55 years or more, with a median age of 53 years. Ageing infrastructure combined with catering for an aged population is a major issue for the Shire.

Robina Crook

With issues associated with an ageing population becoming a daily reality the Shire of Wyalkatchem took the lead. They invited local government community development officers and chief executives from around the Western Australian Wheatbelt to address a common issue “Building for an Age Friendly Community”

The people of Wyalkatchem are predominately farmers and a few town’s folk, with no particular interest in urban design but a passion for community. They are however a very pro-active community. When the only butcher closed in town, the community came together (2). In drought stricken times, the farmers still managed to diversify and learn new skills becoming master chefs in all things meat. It was this determination to keep their community alive that has driven the decision to “Build for an Age Friendly Community”.

In a workshop environment, local government community development officers and chief executives embraced urban design philosophies to identify age friendly strategies for this passionate, be it small country town:

  • Guidelines for the Development of Dementia Friendly Communities (3)
  • Healthy Active by Design (4)
  • Healthy Built Food Environments (5)
  • Curtin University Universal Design Guidelines (6)

    This is the tale of David and Goliath, unperturbed by the massive challenge ahead a small town has started the journey to create the type of community they want to grow old in.

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017. 

Secure your seat and register today!

Tropical Urbanism – Supporting a City in a Rainforest

Study awarded highest honour at National Planning Awards

In Cairns, the relationship between built form, city planning and landscaping is expressed as Tropical Urbanism and is a defining characteristic of the region’s identity.

The Tropical Urbanism: Cairns City Image Study was a combined effort of Cairns Regional Council and a consultancy team comprising Tract Consultants, Follent, Peddle Thorp and local firms CA Architects and Total Project Group Architects.

3D of the Abbot Street Hotel by CA Architects

Tropical Urbanism was incorporated into the CairnsPlan 2016, which was adopted in March 2016 with the inclusion of assessment criteria for development in a number of codes and a supporting Planning Scheme Policy (The Policy) to provide additional guidance.

The Policy includes requirements for development to achieve 15% vertical landscaping and 50% shading on each façade, as well as separation and promotion narrow buildings for ventilation, increased heights and a generous street canopy to provide ventilation and shading and allow for pedestrian movement in response to tropical climatic considerations.

The policy has been well accepted by industry, winning the 2017 National PIA Award for Planning Excellence – the highest accolade for planning in Australia. This followed success in two Queensland PIA awards, including the Best Overall Award for Planning Excellence across all categories. Judges commented that “the study represents a significant contribution of tropical expertise that can be offered, transferred and adapted to suit the needs of other tropical cities, with Cairns defining itself as a leader worldwide in the area of Tropical Urbanism”.

Local Architects have embraced the policy, with several planning applications having been made under the CairnsPlan 2016 that will result in improved urban place and tropical design outcomes. This will result in enhanced aesthetics, shading, sustainability, increased landscaping in the horizontal and vertical planes and improved amenity, leaving a great legacy for planning in the City

The policy encourages designs that better reflect the sense of place and Biophilia, or connection with nature, which can energise residents and the experience of tourists visiting Cairns’ unique tropical environment.

One example is the Abbott Street hotel and apartment building by CA Architects which has been designed to explicitly embrace the principles of tropical urbanism whilst capturing the flavour of Cairns. An architecture of high canopies, filtered shadows, water play and large volumes capture the essence of the rainforest and reef, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors. The activated street fronts, covered public spaces and landscaped edges provide a uniquely Cairns experience.

To support the implementation of the policy, particularly the provision for 15% vertical landscaping, Council intends to engage further with the building and construction industry to explore how to the policy may be further refined through guidance on species selection, vertical gardens, podium planting, and shading devices.

Cairns is currently developing a new City Centre Master Plan, which will further integrate Tropical Urbanism principles into the urban domain through a series of identified urban design projects.

The Tropical Urbanism Policy provides a framework to express the unique tropical environment on two levels; firstly by providing a physical representation of the brand of Cairns as a City in the Rainforest (where rainforest meets the reef); and secondly by ensuring that the urban domain remains climatically responsive and is a place that people want to live and visit in generations to come.

This article was kindly provided by Sophie Barrett, Coordinator Strategic Planning, Economic Development & Sustainability, Cairns Regional Council

How do we create liveable cities? First, we must work out the key ingredients.

Liveable communities and resilient cities are buzzwords of the moment. But exactly how do you define a “liveable” community or city? Our research focuses on this exact question.

In an extensive review of liveability definitions used in academic and grey literature in Australia and internationally, we found some consistent factors. Critical factors for liveable communities are:

  • residents feeling safe, socially connected and included;
  • environmental sustainability; and
  • access to affordable and diverse housing options linked via public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure to employment, education, local shops, public open space and parks, health and community services, leisure and culture.

These are the essential ingredients for a liveable community. They are needed to promote health and wellbeing in individuals, build communities and support a sustainable society.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services agrees with our definition. It has been adopted in the recently released Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2015-2019. This plan provides the overarching framework to support and improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorians.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

Do we get the maximum value from our urban environment in SEQ?

The Urban Developer

Do we get the maximum value from our urban environment in South East Queensland? The team at Scotty Valentine Design have taken on this question to develop a concept for the South East Queensland of 2031 and for the continued liveability and economic prosperity of the future.

We’ve developed an innovative concept that explores tourism opportunities in South East Queensland, exclusively for the SEQ Regional Plan Review. We’ve called our concept FLEXURBAN, a conceptual set of ideas for the development of our region to benefit the people of South East Queensland by creating flexible connections from our major port infrastructure, to our communities and our natural tourism resources.


Connecting South East Queensland

FLEXURBAN proposes to connect all international airports to each other via a high speed rail link to drive more value out of our existing port infrastructure and to link our best tourism destinations, which would drive the growth of visitors to our region and the ability for visitors to enjoy world class tourism destinations minutes from our cities and airports. The implementation of a faster commuter rail and additional light rail systems connecting valuable coastal communities to airports, high speed rail and second tier cities will offer growth opportunities outside of our city centre creating a flexible city that spans the region. It will offer all who live and visit South East Queensland easy access to exciting destinations to grow, live and enjoy.

Growing Our Communities Responsibly

Our study on the Moreton Bay region highlighted the need for 91,000 dwellings by 2031 (that’s dwellings not people). To continue to develop as we have in the past and present could have catastrophic effects on our natural environment and our economy.

Read the full article from The Urban Developer here.