Hit the Wall

Treatment of walls - contemporary and cost effective

Predicting Coastal Flooding with Mapping

How Australian Cities may look in the future

Getting the most out of transport technology improvements

Innovation in technology has seen changes in our interactions with cities in recent years

Testing the timeless principles of Jane Jacobs

Were Jane Jacobs key ideas right?

Hit the Wall II

Following on from our post last week 'Hit the Wall' by Jessica Guirand, we've been sent a great example of wall art contributing to the urban fabric in South Korean city of Busan and we felt the need to share it.To see more photos click on the link here.

Image source: Whudat
Image source: Whudat
Thanks to our readers for sending your examples.   

Predicting Coastal Flooding with Mapping

By Kathryn Cuddihy

Australians love to cycle to work, but what about a swim to work instead? Mapping data is enabling us to see how Australian cities may look in the not too distant future and the results are quite startling in some areas.

Climate Risk Australia has compiled their data with a series of Google Maps to show the effects of climate change on Australian cities and predicts where a rise in sea level could be felt the most through using a combination of tide and elevation data. This, as well as predictions for sea level rises under low, medium and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios shows how our coast would change with each scenario.

Under a high emissions scenario you can see that Melbourne would look quite different:

Image source: The Guardian Australia
In Sydney, a high emissions scenario would see the world famous landmark, the Opera House submerged:

Image source: The Guardian Australia
Image source: The Guardian Australia

Click on the link below and simply type in your address to see how the different scenarios may affect you and your property.


Hit the wall

By Jessica Guirand

We have talked about walls in the past and the importance of their treatment in this forever changing environment.

We’ve seen innovative solutions being implemented in different parts of the world. Some of them might prove to be expensive, in particular from a building cost management perspective. Luckily, other interesting, contemporary and cheaper treatments can be used to spice things up. I came across this colourful mural completed by Artists Iker Muro and Louis Lambert (also known as 3ttman) on a building in Santa Cruz. (To be fair, I was not actually there to see it with my own eyes, but the images below speak for themselves.)

Image source: be-street.com

Image source: 3ttman (Instagram)
Have you come across eye catching artistic murals on existing or new development? Please share with us.

Getting the most out of transport technology improvements

By Claire Whelan

Innovations in technology such as ride sharing and real time public transport information have rapidly changed travel options over recent years. The ease of access to information provides consumers the opportunity to make a more informed choice by weighing up the factors most important to each individual, for example price, comfort and time. 

The Institute for Sensible Transport have researched the implications on these changes and their report looks to future technology improvements, including autonomous vehicles which are anticipated to be the most significant change to travel experience since the invention of the car itself.

Image source: Mercedes-Benz

The report raises questions for policy makers in the City of Melbourne on how best to anticipate and respond to changes in travel behaviour and implications on parking demand, congestion levels and public transport patronage.


An A-Z of Urban Design Concepts (and their misuse)

New Urbanism - Image source: David Lock Associates
Mark Sheppard had compiled a series of articles around the A-Z of urban design concepts (and their misuse). They have been compiled to create a handy guide that covers everything from active frontages to character to zero setback.

To view the document, click on the link here.

Testing the Timeless Principles of Jane Jacobs

By Mark Sheppard

The massive upsurge of readily-available data on cities has begun to spawn a plethora of urban analyses, bringing the notion of evidence-based urban design and planning to life.

Image source: MIT Technology Review

A data scientist from the University of Trento (Marco de Nadai) and colleagues have used OpenStreetMap, census data, satellite image-based land use data, Foursquare and mobile phone records to test the key ideas promoted in Jane Jacob’s seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities - namely, that urban vitality is generated by mixed use, small blocks, diverse building ages and density (see https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601107/data-mining-reveals-the-four-urban-conditions-that-create-vibrant-city-life/#/set/id/601103/).

Their findings: that Jacobs was right, at least for the six Italian cities studied.

What other opportunities are there to improve urban design and planning through empirical evidence?

She and Him

By Sean Hua

Image source: This Girl Can
You may have recently read about or attended a talk by Keith Brown from our UK office. Keith was extremely passionate about the urban design and masterplanning interventions that would promote greater levels of physical activity in largely sedentary modern societies. These could take place in the form of shared paths rather than car-centric ones, or perhaps through an increased provision in sporting facilities.

What struck a chord with me – for a variety of reasons – was the UK campaign called “This Girl Can”, aimed at encouraging women to be more physically active. Specifically, it aimed to neutralize the perception that organized sport and physical activity were “masculine” pursuits, and that women should find them just as acceptable in their daily life. As a marketing campaign this was wildly successful, with the initial ad racking up around 16 million views, and some 150,000 new female participants across a variety of sports. The Australian equivalent called Girls Make Your Move was launched very recently by the Department of Health, and it is still too soon to tell whether this campaign will have the same kind of impact that its UK counterpart did.

Image source: girls make your move
Image source: Girls Make Your Move
While I may not entirely agree with the marketing approach of both campaigns, I do believe it is an important goal to reassess our self-imposed, gender-based restrictions as to what we are capable of. Sport – any sport – shouldn’t be regarded as a masculine thing to do, or a feminine thing to avoid; and the campaigns’ attempts to highlight this are admirable.

However, organized sport is one thing, and everyday life is something else.

What I was curious about is the influence that planning and design can have on the gender neutralizing of everyday physical activity, outside of organized sport. For example, a few years ago I wrote a thesis on gender inequality in the Melbourne commuter cycling demographic. A large part of the existing literature I researched touched on how women tended to be discouraged from commuting by bike, as the prevalent infrastructure of on-road paths and sharing the road with cars, felt more confronting and less safe to them than it did for men. Specifically, women tended to much prefer bike paths that were physically separated from cars.

This raises a potentially thorny issue: is it enough just to promote general physical activity, without improving the infrastructure for women? I’m of the opinion that no, it is not enough, and that we would all be better served if physical infrastructure catered to the safety and well being of everyone. I also understand that some might think it patronizing to suggest women might need different facilities to be more physically active. Inclusivity and empowerment can be difficult to negotiate.

With this in mind, perhaps it is not enough just to say “Get active”, nor is it enough to say “Build it and they will come.” The reality would be somewhere in between wouldn’t it?

Melbourne set to get first Skypark

By Kathryn Cuddihy

Melbourne is set to get its first elevated Skypark in the city centre in 2018.

Image source: Concrete Playground
A green oasis set away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the 2000sqm public park which is part of a wider development and will sit elevated above the corner of Collins Street and Flinders Street. It will provide a new green space in the CBD and will be a space for office workers come and relax or take in the city skyline.

The Skypark is designed on the principals of biophilia, a link between human beings and other living systems. 

While public spaces are often incorporated into developments, a park that sits above street level and open to all users is a great initiative and will provide a unique space for visitors and workers alike.

To read more, click on one of the links below.

'Sistine Chapel' of skateboarding

By Amruta Purohit

I have seen quite few warehouses and other old industrial sheds being transformed into apartments and offices in Melbourne. At times it can be challenging to fit a functional apartment in these buildings, but the architecture of an old building creates a unique feel and adds character to a place.

The Spanish have taken the concept of transformation to a whole new level with an abandoned  church. The 100-year-old building has been transformed into a skate park and art installation. The project was led by Church Brigade, a group of enterprising individuals and is located in the northern Spanish town of Llanera. They started by collecting money to complete a basic ramp, however, as the word spread and they received more funds and the project expanded into a full skate park.

Image: Lucho Vidales

Image: Lucho Vidales

Image: Lucho Vidales
The project went through a two-stage process. The first stage involved installing an indoor skate park, the second stage involved painting bright and beautiful geometric figures to the walls and ceiling, giving the place a very iconic and distinct look. 

A space that had fallen into disuse as the end of the civil war has now become a place for skateboard pilgrims worldwide and a focus for the local community.

Read more here or to view more images of this beautiful transformation click here.

Starting them young

By Claire Whelan

When I was in kindergarten we got to plant a seed and grow a Sweet Pea. When the seedling had established itself we took them home to plant in the backyard. Within a week my pride and joy had been mauled to death by a caterpillar. I was devastated. My gardening skills have improved marginally since then, and I can generally keep basic pot plants alive and well for several weeks, and some I have even had for a few years. I hadn’t given much thought to my ill-fated Sweet Pea until I saw this article, which cultivates (pun intended) the idea on a larger scale.

Image source: Archdaily

There is so much children can learn through growing and caring for plants and animals. But I also started thinking about the project from a sustainability perspective. Could it have the potential to capture the curiosity of children and build a confidence in gardening and growing that could create a generation of urban farmers?

Just keep that bunny well away from the lettuce!   

The world we share

By Sean Hua

Federal Minister for the Environment and acting Minister for Cities and the Built Environment Greg Hunt has begun outlining a plan to increase tree coverage for cities. The effort is aimed at lowering the temperatures of our urban areas, and increasing the quality of life, especially for those most vulnerable to extreme heat like the very young and elderly.

Image source: The Fountain - slashfilm.com

There have been successful attempts to do this at the local level. The City of Melbourne initiated their Urban Forest Strategies in 2013, made famous by giving the public the ability to “email a tree” of their choice.

Council has various rationales behind their strategy: to begin replacing the older trees that are reaching the end of their lifespan; to increase biodiversity and resilience of the urban landscaping; and as a benefit for its citizens health and wellbeing. The extra canopy shade and mitigation from the urban heat island effect – where urban areas are warmer due to human activity and buildings trapping heat – are bonus side effects. This is especially evident when people try to avoid the heat and end up costing the economy millions of dollars a day from the drop in retail activity.

It is easy (relatively speaking) to enact such strategies at the local level, especially in a council that is as progressive (relatively speaking) as Melbourne’s. What remains to be seen is whether the Federal government can enact this strategy and how. They will have to negotiate the various planning systems of each State, not to mention the variances between local governments. This would be especially challenging seeing as the Cities portfolio is newly created without much precedence. Where does their jurisdiction start and end? And if we are looking at delivery of an environmental project of such scale, what example is the acting minister setting with this track record?

Questions abound…. That said, the Feds should not be solely responsible for looking after the country we share, nor should other levels of government be solely responsible for the functions of state and city. While my belief is sorely tested on a daily basis, I would like to think we are mindful of the world we live in, and of the futures of our descendants. I often ask myself 'To whom does the world and future belong?' and I usually answer, 'To everyone, and to no-one.'

It might be too large a question to ponder, so if you need a small target, how about this: go plant a tree. I just did!

Designing for Bushfire Protection

By Julia Bell and Kathryn Cuddihy

The ‘Victoria State Bushfire Plan’ states that Victoria is one of the most fire-prone areas in the world with a history of catastrophic bushfires.

The recent spate of fires over the summer months has brought planning and building in bushfire prone areas into the spotlight in recent weeks. I don’t want to get into a debate as to whether people should rebuild in areas of high bushfire risk, people don’t generally move to these areas with blinkers on. However, many of these houses are holiday homes which means that they aren't necessarily maintained on a regular basis. If people are choosing to live or buy in these areas, they need to be aware of their obligations to meet regulations set out in the planning provisions to ensure that their property and surrounding land are protected as best as they can in the event of a bushfire.

Another aspect of bushfire is the urban fringes. As sprawl has occurred in recent years, some of those that wouldn’t expect bushfires to affect their property are now on the front line. It is important that they understand their obligations and ensure that their property meets planning regulations.

Image Source: thinboyfatter on Flickr
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have a section on their website that provides valuable resources and information to assist planning and building for bushfire protection.

Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) applies to land that may be significantly affected by a bushfire. If a BMO applies to your property, you will need planning permission for certain developments and new developments require bushfire protection measures. To find out the steps involved in applying for a planning permit click here.

On 31 July 2014 Amendment VC109 introduced changes to the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes. To read more about the changes to bushfire planning provisions click here.

The DELWP also provides a series of handy practice notes that guides you through the planning process as easily as possible to ensure that items such as clauses related to landscape, siting and design, defendable space and construction and water supply and access are considered.

While it is vital to be vigilant in the lead up to and over the summer months and to have a fire plan in place and ready to enact if required, planning for future use can play a role in ensuring that your home and its surrounds are in the best position to survive a bushfire.

For further information as to how we can assist with you with permits, please contact Julia Bell  or call +3 9682 8568.

Planning for Social Interaction

By Claire Whelan

A comparison of two social housing projects in Winnipeg, Canada has analysed the possible reasons for the level of success of one project over the other. It is evident that despite the best of intentions, innovative ideas and quality architecture, one of the projects fails to create the desired outcome.

Image source: Archdaily
The lessons learnt can also be applied to planning for communal spaces more generally in residential development. Providing communal space is not as simple as showing it on a plan and assuming people will use it. There are some excellent examples of communal areas including practical uses that draw people to them, for example by incorporating clotheslines, barbeques, large dining areas and theatre rooms. In situations where the majority of apartments have limited outdoor living spaces these areas can be particularly useful to residents. That being said, there are also many poor examples of wind-swept roof terraces and uninviting concrete courtyards.

In all development, the emphasis should be on considering future residents, what will they want? What will they use? What will they need? 

Read more here.

The secret life of Paris

By Kathryn Cuddihy

The French capital’s Canal Saint-Martin is being dredged for the first time in 15 years, what is being unearthed from beneath the sludge is giving a remarkable insight into Paris life.

Image source: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Image source: Yoan Valat/EPA
90,000 cubic metres of water are being emptied into the Seine, a task that will take cleaners three months to complete. The last time the canal was dredged in 2001 cleaners found two 75mm shells from the First World War, safes, gold coins, washing machines, at least one car and 40 tonnes of rubbish.

On the first day, onlookers spotted a number of Paris’s Vélib hire bikes, motorbikes, supermarket trolleys, a children’s doll’s pushchair, street signs and wheelie suitcases to name a few items.

Paris City Hall has warned against people climbing in to look for lost possessions.

So does rubbish say a lot about the people that live in the city and the city itself? Do you think that what has and will be found in Paris would differ greatly to the type of items that would be found in other cities of the world, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai or Sydney?

Read more about the clean up here.

Scaffolding Wins

By Mark Sheppard

Sick of walking beneath gloomy, unattractive scaffolding looming over footpaths alongside building sites? In the most intensely redeveloping parts of our cities, where scaffolding is most frequent, it significantly detracts from the quality of the public realm. Why does it have to be so utilitarian?

Perhaps it doesn't. The New York Building Congress has conducted a competition to redesign scaffoldingThe winning designs maximise natural light and air, maintain shopfront visibility and bring an artistic quality to the temporary structures.

Which is your favourite?

Image source: New York Building Congress 
Image source: New York Building Congress  
Image source: New York Building Congress