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.

Brisbane named on exclusive list of ‘New World Cities’

The Courier Mail

Alina Jarvinen from Finland at Kangaroo Point Cliffs. Picture: Mark Calleja
Alina Jarvinen from Finland at Kangaroo Point Cliffs. Picture: Mark Calleja

One year after making a stunning debut on the international stage at host of the G20, Brisbane has notched up another victory by joining the exclusive “New World City’’ club.

The Queensland capital arrived onto the coveted list, compiled by global real estate giant JLL in partnership with London-based “The Business of Cities,” partly because of its strong investment climate.

But Lord Mayor Graham Quirk believes an emerging cultural scene is combining with a thriving, 21st century economy to make Brisbane one of the world’s most desirable places to live.

“Last year during the G20 Leaders Summit Brisbane was showcased to the world and it is no surprise that Brisbane is now internationally recognised as a New World City,’’ he said.

“Brisbane truly is one of the few cities in the world with everything _ we have the perfect combination of great weather, enviable green spaces, lively bars and restaurants, world class art galleries and premier events.”

JLL, with headquarters in Chicago, and The Business of Cities, with partnerships with the World Bank and the OECD, complied the list using data from over 200 city indices and have a classification of “emerging,’’ “new” and “established’’ world cities.

New World cities are smaller, often specialised but highly globally oriented while boasting an attractive quality of life with fewer social, environmental or economic “externalities’’ such as crime, pollution or congestion

Following the international exposure of the G20, Brisbane received one million annual international visitors for the first time ever in 2014/15, with expenditure reaching a record high of $1.8 billion.

John Aitken, Chief Executive Officer of Brisbane Marketing said that Brisbane, like those in a select group of 24 cities possessing new world city attributes, was an energetic, emerging global gateway competing for talent, capital, innovation, students, visitors and major events.

“What separates New World Cities from established and emerging world cities is a realisation that lack of space and affordability, high pollution and city congestion have emerged as significant problems for future growth, quality of life for residents and the ability to attract talented people,” Mr Aitken said.

Mr Aitken said one of the key characteristics defining a new world city was the lifestyle quality its urban environment affords.

Read more.

Do trees really help clear the air in our cities?

The Conversation


It may sound like a no-brainer to say that trees improve air quality. After all, we know that trees absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO₂), and that their leaves can trap the toxic pollutants nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), ozone, and harmful microscopic particles produced by diesel vehicles, cooking and wood burning.

Yet some recent studies have suggested that trees may in fact worsen urban air quality by trapping pollutants at street level. A closer look at the evidence – and how it was collected – reveals the root of this dispute, and can help us come to a more nuanced understanding of the impacts of trees on our urban environment.

First things first; it is not trees that pollute the air of cities in the developed world. As car manufacturers are all too guiltily aware, it is mainly road vehicles that cause pollution. And their impacts are compounded by the choices we make about how and what we drive.

Many features of the urban landscape influence how air moves around a city. Impervious objects like buildings, and permeable ones like trees, deflect air from the path imposed by weather patterns, such as high and low pressure systems. The urban landscape turns freshening breezes into whorls of air, which can either contain pollution near its source – where it affects vulnerable hearts and lungs – or lift it away from ground level.

Whether the landscape traps or lifts air will depend very sensitively on the exact positioning of roads, buildings, gardens, street trees, intersections, even billboards and other street furniture.

Trees affect the urban environment in several subtle ways. From altering air flows, to collecting pollution deposits, to affecting the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, their impacts are both pervasive and difficult to pinpoint.

Experimental studies can certainly show that pollution ends up on leaves. But it is no easy task to convert such measurements into an estimate of how the concentrations – that is, the amount of pollutant per cubic metre of air – change. And it is this concentration change that really counts, since we breathe air and – generally speaking – don’t lick leaves.

Asking whether cities should have trees in it is a bit like asking whether a suit should have a person in it. There is every chance that urban trees could provide a “nature-based solution” to several pressing problems with the urban environment, but perhaps not in the way scientists and policy-makers seem currently to be thinking. Rather than providing a technical fix that disguises our obsession with the diminishing returns of the internal combustion engine, increasing urban tree numbers could change our entire perspective on cities, facilitating the creation of liveable cities that value nature as an integral part of social, economic and environmental capital.

Read more.

Brisbane City Walking Tours

The 8th International Urban Design Conference is fast approaching! The conference will be held at the Sofitel Brisbane from Monday 16 November to Wednesday 18 November 2015, with Wednesday 18 being optional walking tours.

Optional walking tours will be held on Wednesday 18 November 2015 from 9.00am to 12.00pm and are $70.00 per tour. Bookings are essential. Tours can only be booked upon your registration – click here for more information.

Tour 1: Riverfront Revival CityCat TourRiverfront Revival CityCat Tour

The weaving waters of the Brisbane River have been the focus of Brisbane’s transformation from big country town to New World City.

Over the course of this trip, you’ll hear about the revitalization of Brisbane’s riverfront over the last 20 years including how Brisbane City Council’s Urban Renewal Brisbane program has been central to the process of urban transformation and how Council is continuing to plan for the future through the City Centre Neighbourhood Plan and River’s Edge Strategy.

Tour 2: Vibrant Laneways and Outdoor Gallery (FULLY BOOKED)Vibrant Laneways and Outdoor Gallery

This tour showcases completed and ongoing transformations in city laneways and small spaces as part of Council’s Vibrant Laneways program, an initiative of the City Centre Master Plan.

Explore Burnett Lane, King George Car Park student art gallery, Rowes Lane, Hutton Lane, Eagle Lane and more, and discover how this program identifies and rejuvenates under-utilised spaces and reintroduces them to the community in a fun, imaginative and engaging way.

Tour 3: Outdoor Gallery and City ArtworksOutdoor Gallery and City Artworks

This tour showcases Brisbane’s exciting art program incorporated into laneways, streets and key infrastructure in South Brisbane and the City West area.

Explore Fish Lane, the Coronation Drive pillars project, Tank Street artworks and more, and learn about the concept behind Council’s Outdoor Gallery initiative that plays host to an ongoing program of exhibitions produced by both locally and nationally recognised artists.

We hope to see you at the 8th International Urban Design Conference in Brisbane this November, if you would like to register for this fantastic event please visit our website.

All tours proudly sponsored by the Brisbane City Council



The Role of Urban Reserves in the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan Region.

Mr Edward Sullivan, Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University, USA will discuss The Role of Urban Reserves in the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan Region at the 8th International Urban Design Conference being held at the Sofitel Brisbane from 16 – 18 November 2015.

Edward Sullivan

Abstract: Unique among American planning systems, Oregon has developed a comprehensive growth strategy. Rural areas are separated from urban areas by an urban growth boundary (UGB) concentrating most urban uses within the boundary and fostering policies to provide urban levels of facilities and services, as wells as varying housing densities and intensities of industrial, employment, recreational and commercial uses. The UGB encompasses existing and anticipated urban uses over a rolling 20-year period. Expansion of the UGB requires extensive study and public process and is frequently contested. Those expansions often centre on the issue of whether adding land to the UGB might be avoided by requiring more intensive use in the existing UGB.

Planning beyond the 20-year timeframe includes “urban reserves,” i.e., those lands to be given first priority for UGB inclusions beyond the initial 20-year UGB horizon. Designating urban reserves is controversial, because it allows for inclusion of lands that are suitable for farm or forest use and would otherwise be assigned to a much lower priority for UGB additions. This is especially apparent in Washington County, a Portland suburb where intense demand for additional lands for the expanding electronics industry onto excellent adjacent farmland.

This presentation will discuss the practical issues involved in seeking to provide for both employment growth and preservation of an agricultural economy in the same region. The criteria for urban reserves are intentionally loosely drawn to provide policy makers with flexibility in determining both need and the precise lands to be designated for long-range urban use. The presentation will chronicle the eight-year experiment for use of this long range planning tool and conclude with some lessons learned from that experience.

For more information on this years’ 8th International Urban Design Conference and to secure your registration  to this fantastic event please visit the conference website.