[dropcap]The[/dropcap]challenges for Australian cities and towns over the next decade and beyond are great, even assuming no undue influence as a result of the much greater pressures on other countries. We have lived through a period of steady growth based on political stability, cheap energy, resources and access to land. Australians have an enormous 21 tonnes per capita carbon footprint, because of our heavy reliance on brown coal for electricity and the energy required for mining and transport. We are also the driest inhabited continent and predicted to be one of the first countries in the world to suffer serious effects of global warming. Our big cities are growing rapidly, but many small rural towns that are distant from the influence of the big cities are in decline. We have a major task ahead to accommodate growth and retro fit our cities to cope with future change while maintaining our quality of life. Current Federal Government missing in action Urban design, and urban designers, should be an important part of this evolution of our towns and cities, but can we be effective and influential? The practice of urban design is difficult whether one works in the public or private sectors. It is not even on the agenda of the current Federal Government when they could be doing so much in regulating and funding a sustainable cities agenda that could have very positive economic results. At the State level, urban design thinking is occasionally visible but always patchy and inconsistent. Election cycles and poll driven decision-making, together with the influence of big business seem to swamp long-term urban design vision and policy. The current Victorian Government has been particularly short sighted with planning and transport decisions on matters of urban design over the past two years, and they are not alone. At Local Government level, the bigger councils with resources and career paths for urban designers have the most opportunity and the City of Melbourne, and more recently Sydney and Brisbane, are doing a good job of managing development and improving the public realm – when they are not over ridden by State politicians with different agendas. They also have the expertise and revenue to make a difference to the urban places they control. These Council’s however are the exception and urban design thinking and action is not present to any degree in the great majority of suburban and rural councils around Australia. Limited design literacy Typically, elected councillors have very limited design literacy and CEO’s and senior managers in local government are dominated by accountants, engineers, and people with economic development and social services experience. This means that even if they engage expert consultants to develop strategies and design proposals they generally lack the understanding and skills to implement or negotiate urban design actions. Add to this the pressures of election cycles and ever-increasing rotation of CEO’s and senior managers from council to council, it is not surprising that very little is achieved on the ground beyond maintenance and keeping roads and services working and safe. Urban design consultants have become a growth industry over the last decade or so because of the influence of the theory and practice that is now widespread, if a little prone to fashions and fads. We now have a number of university courses with varied agendas and many architects, engineers, planners and landscape architects claim the territory of urban design without any additional formal training. Private practice of urban design is necessarily short term because of the incredibly wasteful compulsory public tender process required by government as a result of the Trade Practices Act. Consultants find it difficult to advise
government over the extended periods that urban design policy and projects often take. Most work produced by consultants stays, at best, part implemented, or forgotten on the shelves of government. This summary of the difficulty of advancing urban design influence in Australian cities and towns may seem unduly pessimistic, especially considering the challenges we face. Urban Design Forum has seen, (and influenced,) the urban design debate come from nothing to where it is now in 25 short years. The foundations are laid and the influence of urban design can only accelerate exponentially from here. The next decades promise to be very exciting for the new generation of urban design practitioners who will need to respond to the immense challenges and possibilities that will be required to develop sustainable or ‘resilient’ Australian towns and cities of the post-carbon age. Hafen City Hamburg Hafen City Hamburg -A design led model for quality high density redevelopment of inner cities.
- This project has a fully resolved master plan with building use, envelopes, and public space all developed through design competitions and consultation and adopted by government.
- Precinct plans developed in detail incrementally ahead of staged development.
- Heritage precincts are fully restored and fitted with new uses.
- Tall buildings strictly limited with tightly controlled urban form and mandatory and competitive sustainability standards.
- Public space between buildings is limited and fully designed to primarily serve as pedestrian and recreational space. Uses are mixed horizontally and vertically through the development and precincts or quarters have individual character. Provision is made for school, community, arts and cultural facilities, with subsidised housing required in key sites.
- The achievement through design to date is fine grained active neighbourhoods that are a great success economically and socially.