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.

Queensland Government Plans First Inner-City Brisbane School In Decades

Two new schools will open in the inner-city in Brisbane and another significantly expanded as the Palaszczuk Government committed $500 million to the Building Future Schools Fund.

The fund’s purposes centres around building new schools, securing land in Queensland’s fastest growing regions and creating the necessary jobs to accomplish the projects in place.

Image: A ‘vertical school’ in Melbourne – the emerging concept throughout Australia to deliver more educational institutions without requiring vast amounts of land. Courtesy Hayball.

“We will build the first new high school in inner Brisbane since 1963,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“We want every child to benefit from a quality education no matter where they live. That’s why we are investing $500 million over five years to help deliver world class education facilities where they are needed most,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said through the Fund, the Advancing Inner City Schools initiative will:

  • deliver a new state secondary school at the former Fortitude Valley State School site in partnership with Queensland University of Technology
  • establish a new high school in the inner-south working with the University of Queensland to take enrolment pressure off Brisbane State High School
  • support the expansion of West End State School to meet enrolment demand

The Palaszczuk Government also claimed to have plans already underway for new state high schools in other growth areas across Queensland including Mt Low in Townsville, North Lakes/Mango Hill north of Brisbane, Calliope near Gladstone and Yarrabilba in South Logan.

Deputy Premier, Minister for Infrastructure and Planning and Member for South Brisbane Jackie Trad said over the last 50 years, Brisbane used all available land to expand existing school sites, but she said you can only expand so much.

This article was originally published by The Urban Developer.

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Adopting the Sustainable Development Goals is a Business Opportunity for Australia

It has been 25 years since Australia last experienced a recession. We’ve had an extraordinary period of uninterrupted economic growth – the longest in modern history – and this has greatly increased our prosperity.

Thanks to the abundance of natural resources needed to build roads, railways and skyscrapers in fast-growing cities across Asia, Australia’s economy has had a good run over the past quarter century.

But an expanding list of environmental, health and social burdens risk undermining our growth model. Business as usual is not an option. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, are 17 goals for ending poverty, transforming health and education, improving our cities and communities, addressing gender equity and tackling urgent challenges such as climate change. Collectively, they propose a new development pathway, based on partnership between governments, civil society and business that could transform our societies.

Photo: article supplied

Take our cities, for example. Cities are the economic powerhouses of our country, especially since the end of the mining boom (our capital cities alone generate around two-thirds of our GDP). Cities matter more than ever to our future employment and prosperity, but our urban quality of life is deteriorating. We spend on average 85 minutes a day commuting, up from 50 minutes half a century ago. Congestion already costs our capital cities $16.5bn annually, and that could double by 2030. The affordability of housing nationwide has more than halved since 1980, locking many out of the Australian dream.

Our urban lifestyles have become a growing burden on our health, too. A rising set of noncommunicable diseases, such as obesity, are posing massive challenges for the health system. In 2015, almost two in three Australian adults were overweight or obese.

The labour force is changing dramatically. A report completed by AlphaBeta for the Foundation for Young Australians found that 70% of young people currently enter the workforce in jobs that will be radically affected by automation and imports over the next 10 to 15 years.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

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Growing Food in Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure has many purposes. Among them is food production, but do we use green infrastructure for this as much as we could?

Given proper management, there is plenty of scope to make better use of rooftops, walls and water sensitive urban design assets as sites for growing edible plants. These opportunities range in scale from modern twists on traditional home vegetable gardening to behemoth commercial operations.


A typical city rooftop is under-used. It is wasted space, wasted light and wasted rainwater, and an obvious site for urban gardening or farming. Rooftops can be used for food production in at least three ways:

1.   Commercial rooftop farms

Many commercial rooftop farms use soilless hydroponics systems. There are impressive examples internationally, in cities such as New York, Chicago, Montreal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Amsterdam and The Hague, and it seems to be only a matter of time before they flourish in cities such as Guangzhou. Commercial rooftop farms are yet to take off in Australia where, despite frequent discussion over the last decade, we still lack a practical understanding of what it takes to establish rooftop farms in Australian cities.


2.   Rooftop community gardens

Community-style rooftop vegetable gardening has sprung up in many places, many of which feature a traditional type of container-based gardening, albeit at greater heights than most gardens. In a residential setting, a rooftop community garden is an opportunity for residents to connect with nature and to each other. In a commercial setting, it provides health and well-being benefits to staff, great marketing for the company, and direct benefits for the community if the produce is donated to charity. One of the key challenges in managing a rooftop community garden is keeping enthusiasm among the gardeners high, because their active participation is critical to success.

This article was originally published by

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What architects can learn from designing with children

By Maria Patsarika, University of Sheffield

It makes perfect sense. If you need to design a new school or playground, who better to help than the children who are going to use it? Gradually, more architects and landscape designers are bringing young people into the design process. Now a new study has looked at what architects learn from children about how to break down their own creative barriers. As one architect put it, children can: “bring an energy, an imagination, an honesty, a moodiness sometimes which I quite like”.

The value of children’s participation in design has been acknowledged in research studies since the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977, the urban planner Kevin Lynch launched the groundbreaking UNESCO project Growing Up in Cities which was at the forefront of showing off children’s creative capacities.

But until now little research has focused on the impact of children’s ideas on the design process, or on the architects themselves. Our research project at the University of Sheffield’s school of architecture has looked at the way architects and children communicate with each other.

Now half-way through the research project, we have completed two case studies and surveyed 16 architects and landscape architects who have worked with children aged one to 18. They were commissioned to design anything from a playground installation and a children’s museum exhibition to a school science pavilion and a school library.

Creative detours

Design has often been associated with what’s called “possibility thinking”, which requires openness and the ability to think through possible scenarios. According to one architect who has worked extensively with children designing schools, these skills are close to what children do in their own creative moments. He said:

I think all creative processes in some ways are a childlike kind of process that allow you to engage with something in a more immediate kind of way. So in some ways I think everybody involved in design has to be in touch somehow with some of those kind of facilities.

The architects we interviewed overwhelmingly thought that children brought fresh perspectives and uninhibited curiosity, leading them to explore alternative scenarios. “We always try to make creative detours with the children and try to trigger their imagination and work – on purpose – outside their everyday life,” one explained.

Whereas adults were perceived by the architects to be limited in their thinking by the practical concerns of the everyday – from time pressures to the liability culture within the construction industry – children were able to concentrate much more on experiencing and exploring space. This widened the scope of creative exchanges with the designers.

Children respond in the moment, and are less likely to self-censor their ideas and responses. Architects said that children were spontaneous and honest about what has been successful and what hasn’t. This gave the architects the freedom to embrace unexpected scenarios.

As one architect put it: “you’re less concerned about saying the wrong thing or if other people have other agendas.” Dialogue with the children “is always unpredictable”, another architect commented, which arguably explains the emergence of new communication modes in their exchanges, such as improvisation.

Losing control

The architects in our research watched as children bolted things together, glued bits of wood, plastered or bricklayered. One of the architects said it “very much felt they were kind of co-designers in the process”. Another landscape architect thought that “children can handle virtually everything in a design process”, having experienced first-hand their creative inputs in designing a multi-functional outdoor space.

Carving poles at Wilderness Wood.
Dan Morrish, Author provided

But it is not always a totally rosy process. Children can be disruptive and unpredictable to work with. An architect who worked with primary and reception stage pupils designing schools and and playgrounds said:

I am less comfortable in those environments where […] you’re going into the unknown really. But I know from experiences that having done that, time and time and time again, working with kids through community groups on their projects, that it’s a really valuable thing to do. I do think it has potentially changed how I engage with private clients.

Such tensions, according to this architect, nurture the transformational potential for architects to introduce a renewed imaginative approach to their work and, ultimately, their professional identity. This potential is big. We will continue to explore it.

Thanks to Rosie Parnell, Jo Birch and Maša Šorn, who contributed to this article.

Maria Patsarika’s research ‘Children Transforming Spatial Design: Creative Encounters with Children’ is funded by a three-year Leverhulme Trust research project grant (2013-2016).

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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