The Urban Design Alliance of Queensland Inc has been making its mark in South East Queensland. It is unique in Australia as a truly multi-disciplinary group around the one urban design table. As such, it is even the de facto urban design chapter of the Planning Institute of Australia in Queensland. Now well into the tenth year, we warmly welcome the 100th member – Peter Browning of the Hornery Institute. For a diverse group which is not a heart warming charity, where members do not join to primarily further their own interest and broaden commercial networks, but to share concern for the most public of humanity’s institutions – the city and town – that deserves some applause.
Of course that was not quite like that from Day 1. In a highly bunkered community of the built environment professions ten years ago, there was opposition, indifference and even derision. Come to think of it, if we were to start something similar today, it may not be all that different. Urban design ‘arrived’ in Australia 22 years ago with the first post graduate course at QUT. However, well established practitioners are still heard asking today “what is this thing urban design”?
A few passionate hard-heads persisted in their belief that it makes no sense for groups of specialists to be presumably concerned with the same issues and challenges of urbanism and never come together to sit around the same fire. As Peter Richards has iconically drawn in his daisy, urban design – making good places for people – is the uniting centre which must link us all.
After six or seven years of what sometimes seemed like an effort from one meeting to the next, an important landmark was the drafting and publication of our ‘agenda for urban quality for Queensland’ document – the first of its kind in Australia. The next courageous step was to become a formally incorporated organisation. It has advantages in going ‘public’, but it also places responsibilities and some legal obligations. Nevertheless, there are initiatives that could not have been taken were we not publicly accountable.
Many ideas, not enough time
Probably the boldest move, without a generously pocketed benefactor, was to contract a part time executive officer. We had so many great ideas but not enough people with time to push them along. With most practitioners having to be more productive (working ever harder for their day jobs) and armouring themselves against the GFC, we were fortunate to secure the services of Donnell Davis who has injected the energy for what retrospectively will surely be seen as a renaissance. Without Donnell’s enthusiasm and seemingly endless networks, who knows when we could have reached our 100 members strength?
We also wish to acknowledge that without strong corporate support, especially from the South Bank Corporation and Brisbane City Council, we could not have got to where we are now. We trust that our associations will continue and grow stronger.
What have we actually been doing? Apart from making public submissions and representations, doing general advocacy work, providing the intellectual as well as organisational leadership of various workshops, updating the agenda and reconstructing our web site www.udal.org.au, the life blood of UDALQ has been the monthly forums with appearances of leading local identities and attendances of 50+. Here is a short list from 2009: SEQ regional planning; Lessons from subtropical cities conference; Urban design and the new government; Which way north? Professional education; Riverfront futures design studio and book launch; New urban precinct design; SEQ stimulus package – recession rescue; Youth roundtable; Housing the homeless think tank/design studio;Urban acupuncture for the city centre. If that menu does not have something for almost everyone, you are off your intellectual nourishment!
Queensland University of Technology has generously provided us with a Forum venue that is not only the envy of many but also has one of the most tantalising views of Brisbane city, especially at Forum time at sunset. That alone is worth the attendance.
So, to give the UDALQ tail a final arrogant shake, if you have not been attending the forums, you have not been part of the professional urbanism conversation in SEQ. That is the only place where it is happening in public in Brisbane. Be there for the next one! And for the chance of becoming UDAL’s 200th member, contact Donnell at [email protected]
Finally, thanks to the dedicated management committee, lead by James Tuma, which was confirmed for another year at the October AGM.