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