‘Western Australia has a culture of Urban Design and Collaboration that is unique in Australia’ – so says Melbourne-based Mike Day who was one of the WA Urban Design Chapter’s key speakers in 2013. WA’s position in Urban Design was heightened this year by a new flurry of activity by PIA’s Urban Design Chapter in that State.
In a snapshot for 2013, the Chapter hosted eight Forums (featuring over 20 speakers), facilitated professional development, engaged in focussed policy advocacy, spread the word of WA urban design nationally and, above all, had fun doing so!
Its Forums (or rather, Fora) were held at the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, and through very low entry costs ($5.00) was targeted to a broad audience ranging from planners, kindred professions, students and the public. The year’s program kicked off with two major sessions on Perth’s Light Rail Project which were conducted in partnership with the Departments of Planning and Transport. Keynoted by Tim Horton (from Adelaide) and Evan Jones, the Light Rail Forum program revolved around a Design Charette which explored the urban design typology responses to half a dozen station precincts. The 70-strong participants included a who’s who of Perth planning and design (as well as students and young planners), and delivered a range of tangible plans and contributions to the Light Rail project (which has subsequently embraced some of the Forum ideas).
Other Chapter Fora over 2013 included Green Urbanism, Liveable Neighbourhoods, City Centre Placemaking, a historic overview of the design of early WA ‘New Urbanist’ projects…and concluded with a debate on whether the ambition of ‘beauty’ is still relevant to urban design. The Chapter was privileged to have speakers such as Tim Horton, Evan Jones, Mike Day, Bill Burrell, Julian Boletter, Tony Blackwell, Bill Grace, May Carter, Greg Grabasch, David Gulland, Russell Kingdom, Tom Griffiths, Carly Barret and Malcolm Mackay, whose voices all added to the diversity and depth of thought leadership in Urban Design in WA.
The value in this form of (affordable) discussion is that students and middle-order planners from a range of spheres are attending Forum discussions, where their limited organisational budgets may not otherwise allow them to attend such events. At last, we have planners talking and thinking about outcomes again!
A large feature of the Chapter’s other advocacy activity has also been its contribution (through the PIA Policy Chapter) to policy and governance initiatives affecting design such as Liveable Neighbourhoods. PIA has utilised the intellectual horsepower of the Urban Design Chapter to dissect and critique WA’s key design code, lending its contributions a knowledge and pragmatism that is seldom seen in design-based policy critique.
As for the year ahead, a solid program of Chapter Fora for 2014 in WA is presently being planned (which will include topics such as Activity Centre Case Studies, Coastal Design, Form Based Codes, and possibly another Design Charette). In addition, the Chapter will launch an ‘Urban Design Commendations’ – a semi-regular, semi-formal citation to commemorate outstanding examples of urban design of all scales and types. And for those who haven’t been able to duck across to Perth, there are plans afoot for the publication of a compendium of abridged versions of papers/presentations delivered over 2013 and 2014.
Time to join in (or to come over)!