Australia’s population is growing rapidly, and careful urban design – linked to an understanding that life in the decades to come will be different from what we have enjoyed for the past century – is critical.
An article in the last Urban Design Forum (UDF 89 March) argued for the creation of a national Integrated Design of the Built Environment Commission (IDBEC). Although a national IDBEC would be a wonderful start, the commission alone would be inadequate as in addition, and importantly, help should be given to ordinary Australians to enable them to understand, and accept, realities associated with the decades ahead.
Predictions about our growing population (up to 35 million by 2050?) will stress everything about life for Australians – from transport to food security, and working and housing. Simply sharing existing public and private space will be a priority we don’t yet truly understand, and so it is that which will compel the introduction of a national IDBEC.
However, there is more to consider – climate change and peak oil are forces we don’t yet truly understand, but are both things that can be answered, or at least substantially answered, through careful and thoughtful urban design. Hence, even further need for a national IDBEC.
The Australian dream of a detached house on a separate block is fading, so quickly it is becoming a nightmare, and so one of the first tasks of a national IDBEC would be to explain to Australians the need to increase our density of living and in doing that show them how that could be done in a manner that enables them to retain, as much as possible, many of the pleasantries of their present enjoyable way of life.
A change of mindset
Challenges ahead will demand a massive change in mindset: obligatory changes to how we live, where we live, where we work, what we do, how we move about, where we shop, how we shop. In fact, understanding and accepting that a future that brings limitations brought on by climate change and peak oil will force us to live where we live – that is have and find all the resources for happy and sustainable life within, mostly, walking or easy cycling distance.
The journey from where we presently are to that new, and sustainable, way of living will require an unprecedented understanding and acceptance of thoughtful urban design that capitalizes on the efficient use of public and private space.