Ten Steps to Better Sports Investment

Across the world, governments and sports fans continue to be enamoured of huge sporting events and the ambitious new infrastructure that goes with them. We all understand the health and wellbeing benefits and the value to local economies. But without careful planning they can equally become dead places, or end up a drain on public funds.

Matt Lally 

Taking a global perspective I’ve arrived at ten rules for creating vibrant sporting destinations that have real long-term value:

1. Think beyond the finish line. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was planned to provide a huge variety of on-going uses in its post-Games phase. It’s now a much-loved leisure destination for Londoners, bordered by a new neighbourhood that was originally the Olympic Village. Athens 2004, by contrast, demonstrates how not to do it.

2. Take the wider view. A successful venue must connect to the world beyond its doors or gates. That’s why the 2012 Games in London included regeneration plans for much of East London’s surrounding waterways and parkland.

3. Sustainability in each mode of operation. Set clear achievable targets for energy, waste, materials, water and mobility, from base-build, through event and legacy modes. These will safeguard long-term operational costs, while doing the right thing by the environment.

4. Not just sport. Enduring footfall relies on local enthusiasm. In its first year of operation the Singapore Sports Hub, with its mix of sports, entertainment, office, retail and community uses set in parkland, attracted more than one million people on non-sporting-event days.

5. Embedded urbanism. Be a valued neighbour. The Emirates Stadium precinct in London, squeezed into an unforgivingly tight site, has managed to incorporate mixed-tenure housing (including more than 1,000 affordable homes) helping its bottom line while meeting community need.

6. Partnership in delivery. Public and community bodies need to work with private ones. After London’s 2011 riots all key stakeholders came together to find more inclusive ways to use public space. Coinciding with local Tottenham FC’s redevelopment plans, the result is a proposed enlarged stadium that integrates with the surrounding area, creating new, more engaging public spaces.

7. Focus on the ‘Last Mile’. Get the first and last leg of the journey wrong and a facility might be doomed. Ensure good public transport connections, pedestrian ease, wayfinding and accessibility.

8. Beyond the front door. Facilities need to embed attractively and intuitively into their immediate surroundings, with a focus on the quality of public spaces.

9. Build a broad business case. A venue should have breadth of commercial audience and purpose all year round, from sport to music, art to business.

10. Think local. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NYC, has embraced local food and drink vendors, building a reputation for supporting neighbourhood artisans and entrepreneurs, rather than relying on the usual giants like KFC and McDonalds.

Taken together these rules provide an approach that ensures the whole community, from sports fans to local businesses, contractors to local government gains long-term benefits from sporting infrastructure investment, socially as well as financially.

This article was supplied by Matt Lally, Associate Principal of Integrated Design + Planning for Arup.

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The Future of Architects

How we will move between and around our Cities?

I believe Architects in the future need to be more interested in what makes cities work rather than style individual buildings. That is certainly born out by the work of Weston Williamson which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

On looking to the future it is sensible to reflect on the past. As Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. “

I am an avid reader on the subject of ancient history, the Persians, the Ancient Greeks, the Egyptians. But I am particularly intrigued by the Roman Empire. A comparison of our cities today and Rome two millennia earlier is interesting to consider. If Tiberius was to return to Rome now he would be astonished by many things. The growth and influence of Christianity for instance and the scale of the buildings dwarfing Augustus’s Pantheon. But also computers, televisions, radio, mobile phones, cameras and other technological advances would amaze the visitor. Building materials and construction techniques unimaginable in ancient Rome allowing much greater possibilities.

But the biggest shock might be the way we move between and around cities. The cars, buses, trains, airplanes, helicopters. This has probably had the biggest affect on our cities as it has dictated land use and planning and will continue to do so. Some of these changes can be predicted but others allow such immense possibilities it is only possible to forecast change without the knowledge of what that change will be.

Whatever the changes are they suggest great possibilities to architects.

The economist Paul Buchanan explains that we have traditionally travelled around 1 hour to work. This would be true in 16 AD as it is now. The workers of Rome might have walked or rode to the fields or construction site or port for an hour to their employment each day. With new technologies that hour increases distances enormously.  Weston Williamson have recently drawn up a scheme for a hyperloop, a vacuum tube with a maglev train travelling at 1000k per hour between Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane which will change the way people commute and choose to live in the east of Australia. The need to combat climate change will be a spur to these advances. If we want to move people out of their cars we have to make public transport much better. We have also envisaged how new cities based around high speed transport could be car free, green and pleasant environments.

“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.” Marcus Aurelius

Chris Williamson
Founding Partner
Weston Williams+Partners

Report card on urban transport projects

Growing the economy – not city planning – has become the government’s main rationale for building urban transport infrastructure.

Soon after becoming prime minister in September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull declared:

I will be an infrastructure prime minister.

Subsequently, his government’s focus seems to be largely on infrastructure projects – including urban transport infrastructure – “which drive … growth and jobs”.

Transport infrastructure is seen as a facilitator of growth and competitiveness in our cities. This is where much of Australia’s economic growth is generated. But, while important, promoting economic growth is not transport’s only major function.

Until recently, it was generally accepted that urban transport and land development needed to be planned in an integrated way, having regard to what city future was desired. Transport infrastructure investment would then help to achieve that city future.

While city planning was once a “tool for correcting and avoiding market failure”’, it is now much more about promoting economic growth by providing certainty for the development industry and reducing regulation.

Under this increasingly dominant view, city planning (by governments) is seen as a generally distorting influence on property markets. Regulation is a “transaction cost”.

Major urban transport investment is increasingly divorced from achieving broader city planning objectives. This includes equitable access to services and facilities.

For example, there is a disconnect between the TransApex major road program and urban planning in southeast Queensland. This program of four major road projects in Brisbane aimed to improve cross-city travel and keep the economy strong. However, TransApex was at odds with the southeast Queensland regional plan’s aim of promoting sustainability and reducing car dependency.

Instead of an integrated city planning approach, governments are increasingly basing transport investment decisions on cost-benefit analyses.

Cost-benefit analysis for transport projects involves weighing up the costs (construction and operating costs) and benefits (travel time savings, vehicle operating cost savings, crash cost savings and wider economic benefits). If the dollar value of the benefits exceeds the costs, the project is considered justified.

It has recently been suggested that all transport projects where benefits exceed costs by some margin should be built, apparently with little regard to the effects of those projects on city planning.

The significant limitations of cost-benefit analyses are well documented. It is particularly troubling that, for transport projects, these analyses rely on a flawed assumption that motorists aim to minimise generalised costs.

Cost-benefit analyses also provide limited guidance in deciding which projects advance broader city planning objectives. Decisions about transport investments are really about what kind of future city we desire.

These are decisions about values as much as they are about economics. American philosopher Michael Sandel is concerned that conversations about the future are largely framed in technocratic (often economic) terms. This leaves public discourse “hollowed out”.

The Gold Coast light rail project neglected the social equity effects of a roughly $1 billion public investment. AAP/Dave Hunt
The Gold Coast light rail project neglected the social equity effects of a roughly $1 billion public investment. AAP/Dave Hunt

The social equity effects of transport investment are not usually taken into account. The public investment of about A$1 billion in the Gold Coast light rail disproportionately benefits residents, landowners and businesses close to the stations. Other Gold Coast residents – including many disadvantaged people – have to drive or make do with a relatively low-quality bus service.

With cities now urged to market themselves, “flagship” projects like the light rail are valued as means of giving cities an advantage in a world of footloose businesses and investors. These projects are considered important for growing the economy.

The Gold Coast light rail is an 18-year public-private partnership (PPP). PPP contracts frequently include “non-compete” clauses (no new competition with the PPP infrastructure). These can constrain future city planning decisions, however desirable they may be.

Read more.

Professor Graham Currie to Speak on the Transformation of Cities Through Light Rail

prof CurrieWe are pleased to announce Professor Graham Currie, Professor of Public Transport, Public Transport Research Group, Institute of Transport Studies as a Keynote Speaker at The 9th International Urban Design Conference; Smart Cities for 21st Century Australia – How urban design innovation can change our cities to be held at Hyatt Canberra from 7th-8th November 2016. He will be speaking on; ‘Transforming Cities with Sympathetic Light Rail Transit Insertion – Lessons for Australia’.

This paper summarises findings to date on an Australian project exploring best practices in design of streets for improved placemaking as part of light rail transit  development including a summary of current performance of the Melbourne light rail and a review of the revolutionary developments in France as part of the Nouveau Tramway movement.

Prof Currie is an international Public Transport research leader and policy advisor with over 30 years experience.  He has published more research papers in leading international peer research journals in this field than any other researcher in the world.  Professor Currie has worked for some of the world’s leading Public Transport Operators including London Transport, and he has managed numerous Public Transport research and development projects internationally.

He is Chair of the US Transportation Research Board committee on Light Rail Transit and is currently leading a research program on Place Making and Street Design for Light Rail in Melbourne.

The 9th International Urban Design Conference; Smart Cities for 21st Century Australia – How urban design innovation can change our cities  will be held at Hyatt Canberra from 7th-8th November 2016 with optional tours available on Wednesday 9th November.

Registrations are now open. CLICK HERE to register for the Conference. Early bird closes 26th September 2016 so be quick to receive a discounted rate.

This years’ theme, will focus on an understanding of what makes a city ‘smart’ from a urban design perspective and how the built environment develops during the city planning process.

Last Chance Speaker Opportunity – Speak alongside other leaders in their field

Authors or organisations interested in presenting at the 9th International Urban Design Conference are invited to submit an abstract. To submit an abstract CLICK HERE. Abstracts close 25th July 2016.

Remembering the Brisbane Tramways

Everything old is new again

The 8th International Urban Design Conference will be held at the Sofitel Brisbane from Monday 16 November to Wednesday 18 November 2015. Wednesday 18 being optional walking tours.

This years’ theme titled Empowering Change: Transformative Innovations and Projects will focus on inspirational changes in urban environments – see more at: http://urbandesignaustralia.com.au