D2: Over the Street, the Beach: Infrastructure and Placemaking

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

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

Joining us at the conference is Mr Thomas Rivard, Associate Director – Head of Urban Strategies at Mcgregor Coxall who will present on ‘UD2: Over the Street, the Beach: Infrastructure and Placemaking’.

Mr Thomas Rivard


We consider three challenges when discussing urban regeneration: ecology (natural systems), infrastructure (technical networks) and community (human relationships).

Migration, growth and rapid urbanisation place Australia central to these challenges: effects on environment, urban evolution and inclusive communities. Our cities must directly confront these challenges, as synergistic links between land, infrastructure and production have established unique patterns and forms of development, while continued quality of life demands a corresponding increase in social amenity. Importantly, because of the pressures applied on landscape and its complicit ecologies within urban centres, cities must perform more progressively on environmental issues.

The contemporary city is built on a paradoxical relationship with these two existential pressures: development and environmental impacts. In response, McGregor Coxall works at two scales: the large-scale realm of regional economic development and ecosystemic operations, and the scale of the person, the street and the neighbourhood. The systemic understanding provides the contextual basis by which projects perform, both economically and environmentally, while our understanding of the needs and desires of communities and their inhabitants provide the cultural impetus to make each project unique, identifiable and a genuine product of its place.

Connecting these extremes is the infrastructure required to accommodate each. In urban regeneration projects, we identify, adapt and transform existing and new infrastructure and operations to foster evolutionary development, create innovative approaches to sustainability and afford local inhabitants’ agency in constructing their future communities.

This presentation will explore in greater detail processes of urban design and city-making that establish genuine urban resilience by drawing from local systems, whether commercial, cultural or ecological. It will be illustrated by McGregor Coxall projects that combine sustainable enterprises, cultural diversity and the re-integration of natural and man-made ecologies, creating places from the ground up, driven by strategies for urban regeneration at many scales, and at all levels.


Thomas A Rivard is an urbanist, artist and educator, engaged in a multi-disciplinary practice making cities, urban interventions, buildings, productions and fables, and bringing together diverse collaborators in the pursuit of the impossible and the improbable. His work in the fields of city making, public art, ecosystem design, performance, architecture, installation and media is dedicated to re-imagining the links between provocative cultural acts and the inhabitants of the urban environments in which they thrive. He is head of Cities Research and Innovation at McGregor Coxall where he guides the practice’s design leadership in integrating habitats, communities and infrastructure.

He is the founder of the Urban Islands program (www.urbanislands.net), a global urban workshop initiative. He teaches and lectures regularly at universities and conferences in Australia and internationally, and is currently undertaking a PhD titled Performative Urbanism, exploring the relationships between public space, urban society and narratives of heterogeneity and independence. His diverse interests in cities and the environment will see him contributing to the urban layout of the Burning Man festival this year. He has also been accepted into Al Gore’s Climate Ambassador Training program this year.

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference and to secure your spot visit the conference website at urbandesignaustralia.com.au


New resilience strategy highlights the disasters that could bring Sydney to a shuddering halt

AUSTRALIA’S largest metropolis has simply been “lucky” to avoid a city stopping disaster, a group of resilience experts have said.

But Sydney’s luck could be about to run out, and if the city isn’t felled by extreme heatwaves and terror attacks, more insidious creeping catastrophes such as housing affordability and chronic illness could do it in.

That’s the conclusion of a landmark analysis released on Tuesday that aims to shake Sydneysiders out of their stupor and prepare for a range of foreseeable disasters that could bring the city of five million to its knees.

The “Resilient Sydney” report, launched by City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, details a slew of “acute shocks” and “chronic stresses” that could or are already occurring, and how the city can avoid falling foul of them.

Extreme heatwaves are one of the major disaster risks Sydney faces. Picture: Dr Roger Allison-Jones

Sydney is the second Australian city to sign up to the global 100 Resilient Cities program, Melbourne has had a head start of two years to get its act together. Backed by the Rockefeller Foundation, the program aims to help cities manage disruption and respond to disasters.

“What we mean by resilience is how we adapt, thrive and survive from shocks and stresses,” Beck Dawson, Sydney’s nattily titled chief resilience officer, told news.com.au.

“A shock can be a short, sharp disruption, like a flood for a terror attack, but a stress is a long, slow burning issue that can turn in to a disaster or magnify those other events because of the underlying vulnerabilities in the city.”


But the city is facing a double whammy of issues that could prevent it from coping in the face of disasters, either acute or chronic, Ms Dawson said.

One was the city’s fragmented government, with Sydney having no single city-wide council; the other was the false sense of security that can pervade a city that has faced fewer disasters than counterparts overseas.

Not that Sydney hasn’t faced its own shocks — the report lists 2014’s Lindt cafe siege, the Cronulla riots of 2005 and the 1998 disease pandemic that left the tap water of three million people contaminated as well as ongoing extreme weather.

However, the Harbour City hasn’t gone through the terrorist attacks or natural disasters that have befallen other 100 Resilient Cities members such as London, New York and Christchurch, said the executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber Patricia Forsythe.

Ageing infrastructure could undo the city in an extreme weather event. Picture: iStock

“Sydney has been so lucky up to now; often it’s said we’ve never been tested in terms of natural disasters or other issues that face other cities.

“But we have to ensure if we are ever tested we learn the lessons from other places and that is when businesses can’t open, when people don’t have jobs, when they are disrupted, that impact flows through not only those people if affect so many people. “

The report listed Sydney’s chronic stresses as the growing demand on health services, housing affordability, social cohesion, lack of employment diversity, financial inequity, chronic illnesses, transport diversity and drug and alcohol abuse.

The acute shocks, listed below, were harder, sharper hits that could throw the city into crisis at a moment’s notice.


1. Extreme weather

2. Financial institution failure

3. Infrastructure ageing and failure

4. Terror attack

5. Cyber terrorism

It’s a similar problem to Melbourne which released its resilience strategy in 2016. It concluded the city’s acute shocks could be bushfires, floods, heatwaves, pandemics, infrastructure-related emergencies and cybercrime. A rapidly growing population was a chronic stress for Melbourne.

Organisers of the report recommended households download the Get Prepared app, developed with the Red Cross and insurer IAG, which enables Sydneysiders to store emergency contacts and identify their nearest emergency services.

Ultimately, Ms Dawson said, her job revolved around three key questions: “what will stop this city, who will bear the risks and what will the cost be when it goes wrong?”

Originally Published by News.com.au – read full article here.

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.

Reclaiming the Street: A Decade of Recreating America’s Streets and the ‘Sadik-Khan’ Effect

Be inspired by innovations and projects that are transforming cities this November at the 2017 International Urban Design Conference.

Ms Rebecca Finn, Urban Designer Tract will be discussing “Reclaiming the street: A decade of recreating America’s streets and the ‘sadik-khan’ effect”.

In 2007, in response to decades of car-centric planning, New York City’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan led change that completely reimagined the city’s streets and drastically improved conditions for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the city.

Rebecca Finn

The most notable project was in Times Square where large swathes of the street were turned into a pedestrian plaza and blocks of Broadway were closed to traffic. The changes happened quickly and the materials were inexpensive. In a stroke of brilliance, New York City Department of Transportation referred to this one and the many other similar projects as ‘pilot projects’.

If they proved not to work they could be removed and the street could easily be returned to its former state. But, for the most part the changes did work. Times Square and other initiatives, including the miles of new dedicated bike lanes have now been turned into permanent features and the public realm in New York City has been transformed.

What Janette Sadik-Khan and her team did in New York City was admirable, but the nation-wide phenomenon that followed is nothing short of incredible. Similar projects popped up all around the country. The mood was euphoric in transportation and design circles. The concept of streets as places solely for the automobile was finally being seriously challenged. While the idea of trying to improve streets wasn’t new, the speed of delivery was. The ‘pop-up’, ‘temporary’, ‘pilot’ culture had arrived. A decade on, this culture has made a huge impact on city streets both around the country and around the world.

In particular, this presentation examines how streets have been reimagined in Los Angeles as a result of this movement. Los Angeles has long been the poster child for the car-centric city, but this image has been seriously challenged over the last decade. Three projects that show this change will be showcased: CicLAvia (LA’s car-free streets program), MyFigueroa (Figueroa Street Streetscape Project) and Sunset Triangle Plaza.

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.

K2K: Integrating Infrastructure Delivery with Urban Planning

Mrs Stella Agagiotis, Coordinator Strategic Planning at Randwick City Council will be joining us this November at the 2017 International Urban Design Conference, discussing “K2K: Integrating Infrastructure Delivery with Urban Planning”.

Kensington and Kingsford town centres in Sydney’s East are undergoing major transformation with the Sydney CBD to South East Light Rail under construction, scheduled to open in 2019. Not only will this new transport infrastructure be a key driver of population growth, but it will also create opportunities for public domain improvements that will shape the character and function of both town centres.

Randwick City Council has undertaken an innovative and proactive approach to managing both short and long term change and planning for the future of the two centres, recognising that the precinct can benefit from having greater accessibility and planning for improvements to local infrastructure, urban design excellence, sustainability, innovation, new public spaces, green streets and buildings and diverse and affordable housing.

In the short term, collaboration between Council and the NSW Government has delivered temporary public domain interventions (such as Meeks St Plaza and a creative public art program) to improve the public domain and support the local economy during construction of the light rail.

To address the corridor’s long term planning needs, a strategic vision has been established through an International Urban Design Competition that called for fresh ideas to enhance the community’s quality of life, create sustainable growth and drive economic prosperity.

The design competition process, which recently won the Greater Sydney Commission’s inaugural award in 2017 for “A Great Plan”, was undertaken with a high degree of community participation ensuring that outcomes would reflect local aspirations for the town centres.

Council’s bold planning and consultation process has established a best practice approach to integrating infrastructure delivery with urban planning to create well-designed and liveable places.

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. This year there are 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.