Urban design is a key element in that task and Urban Designers, combined with all the other planning and design professions, should be employed by the Unit to illustrate to people that they can find work close to where they live, socialize, be entertained, pursue their sporting interests and find their community to be their greatest resource. In fact it is that final element – the community – that the Unit needs to emphasize as a great city is little more than a great collection of strong and resourceful communities.
Addicted to the car
Most people are addicted to a lifestyle that revolves around the motor car and the achievement of the great Australian dream, an individual house on a quarter acre block of land, and so the Unit needs to hone its communication strategies that help us all understand how our cities continue their sprawl through the maintenance of those addictions.
The Major Cities Unit needs to consider the decentralization of health, education, policing, art and entertainment and various government services to enable, and ensure, that within reason people can live where they live and so work hard to develop their community and so only actually leave it for rather special reasons.
The 20th century saw the centralization of services, particularly health, that forced people to leave their communities, even for rudimentary health care that could easily be provided through community health care centres that are staffed by skilled and highly trained nurses (male and female), electronic connection to health care specialists and so fewer doctors. Policing is similar. The Unit needs to consider decentralizing our police force creating small community located police stations with after hours emergency calls all going to a central base. I see something similar with retail – our national retailers would have one major central store-house in each city that would supply smaller stores in each community, ensuring the convenience and price offered by the big stores. The truly enjoyable and free street life encouraged by strip shopping far exceeds that of a private experience that comes with the big box stores – the real social benefits of strip shopping as opposed to emaciated social experience of the big box stores needs to be communicated to the population.
Public transport is among the top priorities for the Major Cities Unit – it needs to be so good that people will willingly and happily leave the cars in the garage. People should be able to move quickly and easily around their communities and throughout their cities should the need arise.
The Unit needs to think deeply about housing density and people should be encouraged to live in their community, rather than retreating to private sanctuaries. Subsequently, determined effort need to be put into creating interesting, desirable, relaxing and attractive public spaces built in such a way that people want seek relaxation in the public park/space, rather than those private domains.
Communication is critical
Again, communication is critical as it is important that people are helped to understand that their lives will be richer and more dynamic when they mix and blend with their community rather than live an isolationist life. In 1846 Gustave Flaubert said: “To be stupid, selfish and have good health are the three requirements for happiness. Tough if stupidity is lacking, all it lost.”
We were somewhat stupid in the 20th century, we were definitely selfish and most considered us happy, but that selfishness brought on by stupidity has left us with cities that have not brought us happiness and they never will until we understand and create community – the overwhelming responsibility of the Major Cities Unit.