Join Industry Leaders at the 2018 International Urban Design Conference

The 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Topics will include exploring the potential of mixed use places, spaces and precincts/districts, urban design best practice, designing safety into a city, future proofing, connectivity and design quality outcomes. The conference will also explore the links which create the concrete physicality of the built environment, the complex social, economic, political and cultural processes through which the physical urban form is produced and consumed.

The conference has been held annually since 2007 in Brisbane, Sydney, Gold Coast, Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne. Be inspired by innovations and projects that are transforming cities. This conference is an opportunity for design professionals to exchange ideas and experiences, to be creative and visionary and to contribute to redesigning our urban futures. The program aims at developing a framework of ideas to provoke debate and speculate on new forms of practice.

Conference Topics Include:

  • Potential of mixed use places, spaces and precincts/districts
  • Regulating urban design
  • Safe city design
  • Transport
  • Design quality

Featured Speakers for 2018 Include:

  • Mr Peter Poulet, NSW Government Architect, NSW Government
  • Ms Sue Weatherley, Director Strategic Outcomes and Development, City of Parramatta
  • Ms Sarah Hill, CEO, Greater Sydney Commission, NSW
  • Mr Andrew McWhinney, Manager, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory, Intelligent Risks
  • Ms Caroline Stalker, Design Director Urban and Principal, ARUP Australasia (QLD)

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference, topics, to submit your application to present, registration and more please visit the conference website at urbandesignaustralia.com.au

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How many people make a good city? It’s not the size that matters, but how you use it

Australia’s population clock is, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, steadily ticking away at an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 23 seconds.

Many are debating what the ideal population is for a country like Australia. But because most of this population growth is concentrated in our big cities, perhaps we should be thinking less about that and more about the ideal size of a city. Historically, there have been many theories on what this would be.

From Aristotle to Albanese

For Aristotle (384–322 BC), for instance, the key was balance. Cities had to contain a minimum number of groups, such as citizens and slaves, to work politically. Similarly, a city’s population had to be balanced against the size of the territory it drew its resources from to enable each citizen (but not slave) to have what he called a “good life”.

Aristotle reputedly drew on the constitutions of what were then known as city states. These aren’t directly comparable to today’s cities but do make for good test cases with which to examine urban models. City states of the time, in the vanguard of urban life as they were, were equivalent to small towns of today and less connected and more homogeneous.

During the 20th century, as the world’s population grew, planners around the world tried to deliberately limit the size of cities. But how did they decide on the ideal size?

Planning theorist Lewis Keeble wrote in the late 1950s that the ideal UK city size could be determined by setting the distance for citizens to reach the countryside. So, a resident in the centre of a town could reasonably be expected to walk to the edge of the city for a distance of two miles (3.2km).

In the lead-up to the 2016 federal election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aimed for a deal to be struck between all levels of government, to deliver suburbs where residents can get to school or work within 30 minutes. And in a speech to the National Press Club two years earlier, Labor’s shadow minister for cities, Anthony Albanese, said he was “particularly attracted” to the concept of the 30-minute city.

It’s not the size that matters

But a city’s liveability isn’t equal to its appeal for living and working in. Tokyo, the largest city in the world, will never top the liveability scale. Its infrastructure challenges are of a different order compared to Australia’s cities. The equivalent of Australia’s population passes through the ticket barriers of Shinjuku, its busiest station, in a week.

Under this concept, with a density of 50 people per hectare, the ideal city size would be 160,000. For a city, where the population would have access to public transport, Keeble estimated this would be around 4 million.

Keeble was the first to admit these calculations were naive. Yet a calculation of city size based on the biological limits of the human body, mixed with the use of public transport, echoes contemporary thinking. Cities that often top the liveability scale – such as Melbourne and Vancouver – are universally mid-sized (around 4-5 million people) with low population density.

More recently, in the late 1990s, the Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti’s term “the 30-minute city”, first proposed in a relatively obscure paper, has been drawn into policy language.

But these challenges are being managed quite successfully.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.


Discover more about the importance of urban planning

The International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW from Monday 12 – Tuesday 13 November 2018. The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Find out more about registration options here.

Making a global agenda work locally for healthy, sustainable living in tropical Australia

Life in the tropics is often seen as “living in paradise”, a place where everything grows and flourishes. This picture-postcard environment is not the year-round reality. At certain times of year, intense heat, humidity and the wet season affect liveability, making outdoor activity unattractive and thereby reducing social cohesion.

Urban living can already be pretty insular these days. People move from temperature-controlled houses to temperature-controlled cars to temperature-controlled offices, and vice versa. There’s no need to talk to anyone really. And exercise? It’s something you try to fit in if you can – but you probably don’t.

An ideal city life might be one in which you walk or cycle to work easily, say hi to a neighbour, and pick up some fresh produce for lunch along the way. While it is nice to expect that people will do this for a healthier self and planet, the truth is that daily life choices depend on convenience.

Furthermore, the planning and design (or haphazard evolution) of urban spaces largely dictate the way we live. This in turn affects our health in many ways. It can, for instance, encourage or discourage active lifestyles, social cohesion and access to healthy food choices.

This is where the New Urban Agenda comes into play.

The New Urban Agenda and why it matters

The New Urban Agenda, drafted by UN-Habitat and endorsed in late 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly, aims to help everyone to benefit from urbanisation.

Through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), the agenda provides a guide for developing safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable new cities that promote social integration and equity. It can also provide the impetus for conversations about the growth, redesign and redevelopment of existing urban spaces.

Making the New Urban Agenda work locally depends on more than overall regulations, or “importing” southern Australian solutions to the tropics. Even within the Australian tropical region, the climate varies. Cairns experiences a tropical monsoon climate (wet tropics), while Townsville is exposed to a tropical savannah climate (dry tropics).

The way public spaces should be designed must, therefore, also vary within the tropical climate zone. We need to listen to locals, understand their behaviour and preferences, then promote these preferred public space qualities through urban planning and design.

Good design can improve the choices we make. But what is good design? And how do we adapt general guidelines to specific places and cultures?

Urban diaries to understand each city

Urban diaries are premised on the importance of local history, values and knowledge. This approach aims to “distinguish underlying organic relationships between people and cities from indiscriminate prescription imposed upon place”. Urban diaries are a powerful tool for personal observation, raising awareness and creating positive urban change.

In our investigation, participants are invited to shoot and caption photographs of their surroundings, noting what makes their lives healthier, happier and stronger, and what does not. These images will be shared through social media and used to capture ideas and start conversations.

These urban diaries will help clarify how Cairns and Townsville function as tropical cities. At the same time this approach will help bring to light ways of improving local lifestyles by implementing the New Urban Agenda principles in this local context.

Place-based urban planning and design

Climate-responsive planning and design are important to make sure people can incorporate incidental exercise into their everyday routine. People will use public spaces if these are designed in a way that mediates the negative impacts of tropical climates.

What type of spaces and features will encourage people to walk even if the temperature outside is 40℃? We are particularly interested in three overarching questions. These concern how existing urban infrastructure and amenities promote or restrict:

  1. active lifestyles
  2. social inclusion
  3. healthy eating.

These questions will be explored through public participation in the upcoming UN-Habitat World Urban Campaign Urban Thinkers Campus events in Cairns on June 8 and Townsville on June 15. Drawing on urban diaries, these events will provide the fundamental basis for understanding these places through a local lens.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

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.

Step outside for a moment: the value of pedestrians in healthcare precincts

Michaela Sheahan, Researcher, HASSELL

Bump space, serendipitous encounters: whatever the label, the name of the game in healthcare design is connecting people. But the focus on internal collaboration has some unintended side effects: buildings get bigger, and people spend more time inside.

External space is shrinking as large clinical and research buildings bring teams closer together via soaring atria, internal streets, and sky-bridges. Good connections are vital to a well-functioning hospital, but as public realm diminishes, so does walkability and street activity. Nothing kills a precinct quite like a deserted street.

My research shows that as these precincts grow, two indicators of pedestrian activity – Walkscore and intersection density – decrease. The bigger a precinct becomes, the more difficult it is for people to walk around.

Large buildings and impermeable blocks obstruct pedestrians, and limiting land use to only healthcare decreases small business opportunities. If every nearby building is a health facility, people won’t go outside to grab lunch or drop into the bank. In Boston’s high density Longwood precinct an internal pedestrian network is being developed in response to traffic danger and a need to connect teams across buildings and streets. In Houston’s vast Texas Medical Center, the combination of a sky-walk system, a car-dependent location, and exclusive healthcare land-use leaves the footpaths empty. The meticulously landscaped gardens and public spaces are wasted.

Designers and administrators are working to overcome the barriers to vibrant precincts; high land costs and burgeoning healthcare space requirements limit opportunities. But modest initiatives in external space can deliver large benefits.

At the Gold Coast University Hospital, courtyards provide opportunities for fresh air and quiet conversation.  The Necker Hospital in Paris is replacing obsolete buildings with a park.  In Boston, small public spaces host musical performances to coax staff outside. In Melbourne’s Parkville, public seating has come a long way since the old wooden park bench, and at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital precinct, a new vision that prioritises walkability and community integration is just beginning.

These small acknowledgements of the importance of street level activity suggest a willingness to invest in public realm projects for the good of patients, staff and the community. High quality design of the spaces between buildings plays a crucial role in inviting everyone to step outside for a moment.

This research project was funded by the National Association of Women in Construction, and Cult Design. The full report can be accessed here: http://apo.org.au/node/53548