The recent Urban Design Forum in Melbourne focused on urban design in regional cities and towns. The first session was chaired by John Byrne, an urban designer based in Queensland, who said that there had been little dialogue on the nature of regional cities, but that this was changing. He said a key issue was the petro-driven nature of development in regional cities.
John Phillips, Acting Director Planning and Policy, Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development set the broad context for the forum with regional growth plans. Malcolm Snow General Manager of Design and Place Making at Places Victoria succinctly set out his ten commandments for 21st Century Urban Design.
Dan Cass, advisor and advocate for renewable energy and sustainability, and Director of community-based Hepburn Wind, set out a positive approach to the challenges of a low carbon future that included the tools of smart technologies and political patronage. He pointed out just how much progress has already been made in many countries, and the specific challenges facing Australia.
Liz Johnstone, from Municipal Association Victoria outlined research being done on financing for the infrastructure and services challenges facing local government in meeting community needs. The report addresses where and how we grow, settlement types, the capital costs and ongoing service costs, and helping Councillors understand what development types mean for rates.
Rob Moore from the City of Melbourne pointed the importance of selling urban design, linking health and prosperity, putting a price on good design, and explained the Ghel research indicating there was more prosperity in the city because of the level of intensification. He also emphasised the importance of being clearer about what we want and where we want it, and having a plan and sticking to it.
Kylie Legge, from Place Partners, emphasised the importance of touching the ground lightly, testing ideas, having shared responsibility for delivering places that are appropriate and achievable, with clear benefits. She also advocated for post-occupancy reviews of public spaces.
Bill Kelly, artist emphasised the importance of recognising and responding to local culture, and developing and maintaining places that are distinctive, unique and culturally representative.
Hisham Elkad, Head of Department at Deakin University, joined the forum online from Geelong. He emphasised the importance of education-led re-generation, and the contribution of higher education to regional cities, and the importance of multidiscipline education and practice.
Session Two was chaired by Peter Boyle Principal Urban Designer Urban Development Department of Planning and Community
Development. Rod Duncan, Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Deakin University, spoke about Australian ‘midi-cities’ and proposed a theoretical framework as a way to understand the influences and drivers operating on the towns, and the networks and relationships needed to better integrate planning for people and place.
Phil DeAraugo, Place Manager with the City of Greater Bendigo, discussed how Bendigo has focussed on being a ‘strategy led’ organisation. In consultation with their community they have actively pursued the development of plans to guide growth and change in the physical, social and economic fabric of the city. Based on rigorous data collection and analysis, this approach has enabled Bendigo to provide certainty to the community, business and agencies while allowing council to better manage the delivery of services, infrastructure and investment. He provided examples of capital works improvements across the city that have contributed to increased activity and vitality.
George Wilkie, Executive Manager City Design at Hobart City Council, explained that Council engaged Gehl Architects to prepare Hobart 2010, Public Spaces Public Life, a high level analysis and strategy for improvement of the public realm in central Hobart. Recently, George has been translating the recommendations of this report into a series of recognizable actions able to be achieved across a range of locations within the city. This approach demonstrated particular application for regional cities where resources are limited and interventions need to be grasped as opportunities present themselves.
Emma Appleton, Director of the recently formed Victorian Design Review Panel, spoke about the design review process, with panel members drawn from across the design and planning professions, and from public and private sectors.
Bruce Echberg brought over 30 years urban design experience, much of it in regional and rural locations. He particularly highlighted issues around procurement of regional projects and the burden that competitive tendering places on them.
Judita Mieldazys, coordinator of the DPCD PLANET program, outlined the extensive training courses run each year by the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development. Jessica Paolini is studying post-graduate planning at Deakin University, and is also office manager at Roberts Day. She presented a case study of a ‘charette’ or enquiry by design process carried out by their office for an urban growth area in Bendigo, and emphasised the value and importance of the process for enabling active participation by all the players to achieve a more integrated, coordinated, effective and sustainable outcome.
Enthusiastic general discussions followed the presentations. More details of some of the presentations are in adjacent articles.