Activation of Auckland’s Wynyard Central

Development in Wynyard Central in Auckland’s waterfront allows buildings of up to 28 storeys. The Council’s objective to create a “vibrant neighbourhood” here could be compromised by a series of tall buildings that have the potential to deny spatial intimacy at the ground plane.

Wynyard Central vibrancy is a reflection of the number of people walking in public space and the time they spend in that space. Activation of the public realm is an activity response to the “functional” environment and to the “physical” environment.

So, whilst the initial activation brief was heavily focused around a “mix of ground floor activities” it was clear that the majority of Wynyard Central’s streets could not be activated by retail, given the relatively small size of existing and future on-site markets.

Defining the extent of retail capacity

The demand for functionally (retail) active edge was estimated at 280 linear metres from a total linear edge of 2.6 kilometres in Wynyard Central. The balance of ground floor activity will therefore be either office or residential. Functional” activation contributing to a “vibrant neighbourhood” is therefore limited in its influence and determining the “physical” environment becomes relatively more important.

Motivations to walk are affected by attraction or pulling power of the walk-to destination and by physical features or building elements that influence the quality of the built environment and therefore the visual richness of the walk.

“Plane Transition” (Drawing by Steve Thorne, Design Urban)

The spatial brief

In order to achieve Waterfront Auckland’s Vision and objectives, buildings in Wynyard Central are proposed to be brought to ground in a manner that supports the visual perspective of the pedestrian.

This more intimate pedestrian perspective requires a “plane transition” so that the lower levels of each building begin to engage with the street and become buildings “common in conversation” (as shown in the image). This transition is proposed at level three of all buildings.

At this point the use of dominant vertical proportions and higher level of detail in the composition of the building facade will assist to render the buildings as more pedestrian friendly.

Panuku Development Auckland is using this approach to manage the delivery of its objectives in Wynyard Central.

By Michael Cullen, Principal of Urbacity, Sydney

Michael attended the 2015 International Urban Design Conference.

Transformative Urban Development Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Marc Bartsch BTRP M.L.Arch RPIA RLA

Since the delivery of the presentation ‘Public Transport Revolution: The Making of Place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’ in Brisbane in 2015, work on the Riyadh Metro has continued at a rapid pace, and by early 2017 most of the required tunnelling is complete. At the surface, throughout the city there are numerous access shafts and structures which will provide for station access.

Marc Bartsch

The disruption to the already chaotic traffic of testosterone fuelled Riyadh (remember only men can drive, badly) is not really evident. A few advertisements in the city newspapers was the sum of the public consultation, and word of mouth provided the rest, so that the traffic funnels its way around the extensive barriers and obstacles.

The fate of pedestrians, which are a significant proportion of the over 6,000 deaths on the road per annum in Saudi (one every hour), continues to remain less important. Pedestrian crossings across the station sites are limited to a sign, and the priority is maintained for vehicles which for someone on foot requires breath-taking accuracy and fitness to achieve a crossing.  When the reconstructed roads and “public” domain along the metro route are completed based on the German precision of the Albert Speer and Partners design guidelines (more akin to a design manual which forms part of the design and construct process), the opportunities for pedestrians will improve dramatically.

The new metro will truly recalibrate the footprint for urban development with a hierarchy of centres now focussed on a public transport, rather than based on the floor space of a free-standing retail box set within a sea of car-parking. It will also facilitate shared use of a transport mode in a society with strictly gender segregated shopping and entertainment areas, and transport modes (the new metro will have family only carriages however). There are many critics of the social and political structure of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however as a country transformed by the discovery and exploitation of oil, the commitment to the delivery of public transport has provided the opportunity for a new agenda in city design.

The current LA style arrangement of regularly choked freeways will be given some relief, and recast the city as a place more accessible for those who don’t own a car or who can’t drive. Ironically the ban on women being able to drive (enforced car-pooling) while acknowledged by the west as undemocratic and sexist ,has probably saved Riyadh from complete extinction by traffic congestion. The advent of twenty first century public transportation accessible to all, and which does not come to a standstill after prayer, gives the city a fresh and welcome start.

Marc was Senior Planner and Advisor to the Metropolitan Planning and Urban Design Department, of the Arriyadh Development Authority, KSA in 2014 and involved in the team responsible for a number of Transit Orientated Development planning projects to accompany the $25 billion metro which is currently under construction.

 

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

How urban bushland improves our health and why planners need to listen

Urban bushland has health benefits beyond being a great place to go for a walk. It filters our air and water, helps cities avoid extremes in temperatures, and is linked to lower rates of chronic disease.

But these and other health benefits are virtually never accounted for in local and state land development processes.

Urban planners need to consider these health benefits when making decisions about the future of our cities.

Urban bushland, like this in the Western Australian city of Joondalup, provides health benefits to locals who access it and the wider population. Author provided

What do we mean by urban bushland?

Urban bushland ranges from a bush park of native trees, to wetlands – in fact any native vegetation characteristic of the local region. With its undisturbed soils and associated wildlife, urban bushland is more diverse than other types of green spaces in our cities, like parks. So it adds significantly to neighbourhood biodiversity.

The more unfragmented the landscape, or unaltered the bushland, the more likely it will be to retain its biodiversity. Hills, watercourses and gullies, or a mixed forest, have greater biodiversity than flat land or a plantation of trees. Landscapes that change by the season add to that diversity.

The health benefits of green spaces (and urban bushland) partly comes from this biodiversity.

In cities, health benefits work at two levels. Not only do local residents receive health benefits when they use urban green spaces, the wider urban population also feels the health effects.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

Cities for Healthier Lives

We are sitting in worsening traffic jams, breathing in car fumes, living in isolated suburbs with no shops or services to walk or cycle to, and spending hours travelling to work because jobs are concentrated in unaffordable inner city areas.

The way we are planning our cities is causing a host of preventable health problems, from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases to diabetes and stress.

But we now have a blueprint for change. An international team of researchers, led by the University of Melbourne, have quantified for the first time the massive potential health benefits to be had if we finally just started planning our cities around the needs of humans and not cars. The researchers say it is a call for politicians to take action and set targets.

Published as three papers in The Lancet medical journal, the research was launched by the United Nations in New York on September 23, 2016, where the authors addressed a meeting of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Planning cities around cars is damaging our health and is unsustainable. Picture Pexels.

Central to the research is the promotion of “compact cities” in which people live in higher density neighbourhoods closer to local shops, public transport, services and jobs, and complemented by increased infrastructure for walking and cycling instead of relying on cars.

If the compact city blueprint was implemented they calculate that a car-dependent city such as Melbourne would cut the burden of cardiovascular disease by 19 per cent and cut the burden of type-2 diabetes by 14 per cent. Overall the equivalent of 679 years of extra healthy life would be gained in Melbourne per 100,000 people.

The gain for Boston in the US would be 826 healthy years, in Delhi the gain is 620 healthy years, and in Sao Paulo 420 healthy years. There is no set size for a compact city – what matters is the planning and design of safe walkable local neighbourhoods.

“For the first time this research quantifies the relationship between land use, urban design, population density and transport systems, and the impact they have on our health,” says lead author Professor Mark Stevenson, epidemiologist and Professor of Urban Transport and Public Health at the University of Melbourne. “It shows that by adopting a compact cities model that places an emphasis on active transport, we can achieve a huge reduction in the burden of chronic disease.”

The compact city model is based on increasing land use density, and the mix of uses on that land, by 30 per cent, while decreasing the average distance of housing to public transport by 30 per cent and increasing the use of non-motorised transport by 10 per cent. For example, jobs and services should be accessible within 30 minutes of home by public transport. Homes should have bus and train stops nearby, within no more than 400 metres and 800 metres respectively.

Originally Published by Andrew Trounson, University of Melbourne, read the full article here.