How Kid-Friendly Urban Design Makes Cities Better For All

Promoting urban planning projects often relies on an inspiring narrative: what are we as a community trying to accomplish, and how do we want our neighborhoods to evolve? Few stories are as universal as building a better future for our children. But in urban design, it’s too often a tale untold.

A new research report focused on child-first urban planning, Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods, argues that designing for children can be the anchor and central theme animating a larger progressive urban agenda. Written by the international engineering, planning, and consulting firm Arup, the report offers numerous case studies, sobering statistics—such as the fact that 1 billion children live in urban settings right now—and visions for tackling what they see as the main hurdles to more youth-friendly metropolises: traffic and pollution, high-rise living and sprawl, crime, isolation and intolerance, and unequal, inadequate access to the city’s benefits.

How kid-friendly urban design makes cities better for all
Image: article supplied

Most importantly, it suggests a child-friendly lens can help leaders, planners, and designers envision a better city for everyone, one that offers a wealth of social benefits (society gains $8 in benefits for every $1 spent on early play-based education, according to a University College London study).

“Perhaps uniquely, a child‐friendly approach has the potential to unite a range of progressive agendas—including health and wellbeing, sustainability, resilience and safety—and to act as a catalyst for urban innovation,” the report notes.

Many sweeping, and optimistic, modern movements to change metro design focused on children. From the Garden City movement to the post-war suburban boom, updated living environments have often been sold with a promise of healthier living environments for our kids.

But today, urban environmental and health issues are increasingly on the rise, a crises when experts believe that by 2030, 60 percent of all city dwellers will be under the age of 18. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of overweight children globally will skyrocket to 70 million by 2025, from 41 million in 2016, and rates of childhood mental health problems, triggered by the stress of urban life, is also on the rise.

To reverse these trends, Cities Alive proposes a combination of parks, play, equitable planning, and making nature more prevalent. Cars, specifically the amount of real estate given over to roads and vehicles, presents a big problem. This infrastructure often form borders between children and freer access to playspaces, and limits other mobility options.

This was originally published by Curbed.

Click here to read the entire article.

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What’s Next for Melbourne: Victorian Planning Authority Urban Renewal Director Emily Mottram Looks at the Big Picture

Emily Mottram practices what she preaches. The city planner is an enthusiastic inner-city dweller. She likes to walk to work and seldom uses her car.

“My son gets excited when he gets into the car because it happens so rarely he thinks it’s a special occasion,” she says, laughingly.

Mottram is the director of urban renewal at the Victorian Planning Authority, the government body that looks after the big-picture planning for the state and she focuses on inner-city projects.

Coincidentally she was one of the pioneers of CBD living and moved into Majorca Building on Flinders Lane in the 1990s.

“Melbourne is such a magical, amazing place to live – it’s so diverse and fantastic.”

She now lives in North Carlton and feels like the city’s parks, gardens and museums are in her backyard.

“It’s a city of hidden gems – all the work around the laneways that the City of Melbourne has done so well in terms of reframing the city is fantastic.”

Working in the VPA offices at the top of Collins Street means that Mottram knows all the best places for coffee. Walking down Flinders Lane, she peers into Cumulus Inc – too busy – then ducks into Tom Thumb cafe for a chat.

Photo: article supplied

The city planner reveals she had a very urban upbringing, growing up in a London terrace house in the 1970s. She remembers idyllic childhood days playing outside in the terrace’s triangular communal garden.

Her dad was an architect who often brought her along to see his work. Later on, the family lived in Oman for eight years when her dad was converting a fort into a museum.

Not surprisingly, Mottram developed an interest in cities and buildings and decided to study social and environmental planning when she moved to Melbourne.

“I was very passionate about environmental issues,” she says.

Her first job was as a social planner for Hobsons Bay City Council, then on the edge of Melbourne, where she oversaw the development of the Seabrook Community Centre.

“The city I came to in the mid ’80s has changed so dramatically,” she says.

She returned to the UK in the early 2000s to provide advice to councils on redeveloping public housing estates.

“When I flew in the last time to Gatwick Airport, I could see out of the window of the plane part of the city that I had a hand in.”

One of the difficult things about working as a planner is that it takes so long before you see your projects completed, she says.

This was originally published by Domain.

Click here to read the entire article.

Hear Emily Mottram speak at the 2017 International Urban Design Conference this November!

Secure your seat now!

The Missing Centre, Or (To Put It Another Way), What’s Missing From Our Centres?

Clear your calendar this November for the 10th Urban Design Conference! 

Ms Amy Degenhart, Architect and Director at degenhartSHEDD Architecture and Urban Design joins us to discuss “The missing centre, or (to put it another way), what’s missing from our centres?”.

There is much talk about “The Missing Middle” in relation to the densification of our suburbs, but the conversation about adding density to our urban centres in a manner that encourages diversity, reinforces home ownership, embraces the street, enhances safety and respects community legacy is also largely missing from our current city-building tool kit.

Amy Degenhart

Adopted by many urban dwellers, high rise living is not loved by all, but often serves to create a vacuum in our city centres, challenging housing diversity by alienating first home buyers, owner occupiers, legacy residents and some cultural demographics. Further, both mid and high rise structures also neglect a key affordable domestic construction resources readily available on the Gold Coast…the “nail bag builder”.

Starting life as an exemplar of “Small Lot Housing”, ENVI Micro Urban Village, a 10-micro-lot urban-infill subdivision, was the vision of a partnership between an architect and a planner, inspired by their joint love-or envy-of the terrace housing form found in celebrated cities like Rome, New York, Melbourne, London and Vietnam.

The ENVI story began in 2014, and, as of August 2017, will achieve a milestone through the settlement of its unique freehold urban-infill lots, averaging 60m2 in size and 3.6m in width. As each lot is front-loaded, making the most of every resource, it is not just land area and frontage that denotes the innovation of this project, but it is also the three lots that have no provision for on-site car parking, being instead supported-by, and supportive-of, the new Gold Coast light rail public transport system.

As ENVI houses are now under construction, from the Pico Pod that sits on just 38m2 of land, to the Village Home, designed to rival the suburban dream, this uniquely Gold Coast densification, renewal and innovation story is ripe for the telling.

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.

Register for the 2017 International Urban Design Conference here.

From Brownfield to Green Walls: The Creation of Central Park

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.

Dr. Stanley Quek and Nicholas Wolff from Greencliff will be at this year’s Conference, discussing the origins of the awarding winning Central Park project in Sydney, developed by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House.

Working at Frasers in 2005 they identified the outstanding opportunity presented by the then vast Carlton and United Brewery site, bordering Chippendale and possessing a 400m frontage to Broadway, being the main western approach to the CBD. The property was in the process of being vacated and put up for tender by the long-term owner of the site, Fosters Group.

On the property was a ramshackled series of warehouses, administration buildings, powerhouses, a number of former public streets and a collection of mid-19th century terrace houses  – all with varying degrees of heritage significance and spread across some 5.8Ha. Having secured the property, Frasers faced substantial negative sentiment from much of the local community, a revolving door of state planning ministers, little initial support for the project at the local government level and a Part 3A Concept Plan approval in place for a masterplan which had its own unique challenges.

Stanley and Nicholas will outline the strategic thinking and actions –  including a commitment to international design excellence, a full and frank engagement process with stakeholders, a unique marketing strategy and an unwavering commitment to the inclusion of leading environmental sustainability initiatives and major public art installations – all of which led ultimately, to reversing the negative sentiment and turning the project into the extraordinary success it is today.

This year the International Urban Design Conference offers optional tours available on Wednesday 15 November. These will include visiting two of the precincts that have been designed and built for the 2018 Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast in April 2018.

Find out more here.

Design Smart: Achieving High Quality Design Through Collaborative Processes

Mr Omar Barragan, Manager of Urban Design at Brisbane City Council will be attending this year’s International Urban Design Conference, discussing “Design smart: achieving high quality design through collaborative processes”.

As Brisbane grows as a New World City, the aim is to achieve a responsive subtropical design that speaks on behalf of the city – design that demonstrates the best elements of living in Subtropical Brisbane.

Omar Barragan

Brisbane needs exemplary projects that respond to an embrace our subtropical climate and showcase our city’s urban character and outdoor lifestyle. To achieve this strategic goal Brisbane City Council has created a new initiative that seeks ways to partner with the development industry and key stakeholders.

The Design SMART service is intended to be a pre-lodgement service from the initiation/inception phase of significant development projects. Council officers attend multiple pre-lodgment meetings and work with applicants to review the design opportunities and constraints of a site and to discuss how these might inform the development of the concept design for the site.

There are two key of differences in this process that set apart Brisbane’s approach to other cities. The first is the high level policy guidance provided by the recently adopted document, ‘ New World City Design Guide: Buildings that Breathe’. This forward thinking guide illustrates how residential and commercial buildings in the city centre, mixed use inner city, transport corridors and principal regional activity centres should be designed to respond to our subtropical climate and improve sustainability. This gives clarity to the industry on the expected three dimensional built outcomes for the city.

The second is the direct involvement from the initial stages of the city’s Independent Design Advisory Panel (IDAP). This panel provides Council with independent advice on design, quality, sustainability and appropriateness of strategies and projects of importance to Brisbane’s future growth. In this way, Design SMART facilitates direct feedback from industry-based professionals, real world advice, to developers from early stages of the design process.

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!