London Underground - reimagined!

Alternates to the London Underground map

The Death and Life of...

Planning for our future (figuratively speaking)...

Urban greening in high density environments

Creating 'Vertical Forests' in high density residential developments

The Sky is the Limit

By Amruta Purohit

England has introduced drones to check planning applications.

Image source: The Urban Developer
While drone use is not a new concept, a survey found that almost a dozen councils are now using or hiring drones for various purposes, for example, where access is difficult or hazardous, there is a need for inspections of high buildings, bridges, dangerous structures and coastal erosions. Further, Epping Forest and Moray Council are going a step further and will be send drones to enforce planning applications and to inspect properties under application review. 

Moray Council have used drones in past, in open farmlands and construction sites, but not near residential areas. However, after testing and seeing the benefits they make in the overall planning process, they are looking to introduce the use into residential areas as well as for seeking site consent with developments like windfarm applications. Council is in the process of preparing process and policy guidelines as well as training their operators and acquiring licenses to ensure safety and privacy needs are met.

To ensure residents are aware of the use of drones, the Council will notify them at the same time as they are informed about the planning applications. Council feels that residents are more relaxed about aerial views, however, some residents raise concern about its overuse without having a clear purpose and justification around data protection safeguards. Epping Forest Council has indicated that drones will be used by both the Planning Enforcement and Emergency Planning departments.

In other parts of the world, drone use is becoming increasingly popular to complete aerial inspections, to detect illegal extensions and construction, mapping and surveying and site surveillance.  

Drone use is increasing in use worldwide. Do you see it integrating with planning in Australia in the next five years? We are interested in your thoughts.

Giving the streets back to residents

By Claire Whelan

Barcelona has a bold new plan to reduce car use, increase physical activity and improve the environment of the city through the introduction of ‘superblocks’. Smaller streets will be partially reclaimed as public open space for pedestrians, with car use limited to local residents at a speed of 10km/h. The super blocks are approximately 400m in width, and bus services will be increased along the main roads to provide bus stops within 300m. 300km of new bicycle paths are also part of the plan.

Image source: The Guardian
Melbourne is heavily based on the grid system, most famously within the CBD but also throughout many inner and middle ring suburbs. We’ve already seen examples of under-utilised roads or car parks being re-purposed as public open space such as the creation of new pocket parks in Richmond (Richmond Terrace), Collingwood (Peel Street Park) and North Melbourne (The Bee Park). These projects were not without opposition, and yet have been successfully implemented and well used by local residents.

Is it time we started aiming higher? 

Read more here.

London underground - reimagined!

By Kathryn Cuddihy

I love maps and recently the Guardian 'Cities' has published an article that looks at alternate London underground maps based on a series of factors including:

Cost of Living - this shows the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom flat at every stop on the network.

Geographically accuracy - believe it or not the London Underground map doesn't actually run in parallel lines. Below is an accurate representation of the layout of the network - a little different!

Distance between station on foot - often it is quicker to actually walk between stations then ride the 'Tube' in central London. The normal network map doesn't indicate distance between stations, the map below does show distance.

These are just a few examples.

There is plenty more maps to look at online and some interesting videos too - my favourite is a 'Day on the London Underground' which captures the number of journeys on the network in a 24 hour space - check them out here.

New lease on life for the little red box

By Brad Foletta

Image source: inhabitat
The red British telephone box has been voted - on many occasions - the greatest British design ever and is a quintessential symbol of the country’s culture. However, with rapid changes in communications technology, is this icons days numbered?

Apparently not… the solution – upcycle!

Bar Works a New York based co-working space company is planning to upcycle telephone booths in London, Edinburgh, and Leeds into small offices for entrepreneurs. The ‘Pod Works’ spaces will be equipped with a 25-inch screen, wireless mouse, printer/scanner, power bank, Wi-Fi, and a drinks machine (and they are even heated).

Bar Works CEO Jonathan Black said: “Entrepreneurs and others constantly on the move need a convenient, affordable and private place to work.”

How much would you expect to pay? A mere £19.99 per month (AUD $29) for unlimited access 24-hours a day, which really is a bargain for your own Tardis.

In Australia in recent years, we have seen old telephone booths repurposed as wi-fi hotspots that make use of the existing infrastructure and make them fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Want to read more:

Urban greening in high density environments

By Kirsty Smith and Julia Bell

High density living is increasingly becoming the norm for the millions of people that want to live in our global cities. People assume that they must give up their connection to nature in order to live in central locations within our cities. However, given the increase in the amount of high rise residential apartments, designers are starting to shift towards locating high density development in locations adjacent to parklands and open spaces and are including tree planting within high density residential developments in city centres creating the “Vertical Forest”.

Image Source: Dezeen

The first project born from this concept by Boeri Studio is now nearing completion in the Isola area of Milan's fast-developing Porta Nuova district. Two towers, measuring 80 and 112 metres, are set to open later this year and are already home to 900 trees.

The Vertical Forest has at its heart a concept of architecture which uses the changing shape and form of leaves for its facades, and hands over to the vegetation the task of absorbing the dust in the air, and creating an adequate micro-climate in order to filter out the sunlight. This is a kind of biological architecture which refuses to adopt a strictly technological and mechanical approach to environmental sustainability.

Vertical Forest is an anti-sprawl measure which aims to control and reduce urban expansion. If we think of them in terms of urban densification, each tower of the Vertical Forest is equivalent to an area of urban sprawl of family houses and buildings of up to 50,000 square metres.
Image Source: Dezeen
Examples of “vertical gardens” can be found across various Australian Cities, including One Central Park in Sydney, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel who teamed up with botanist Patrick Blanc. The building's facade features one of the tallest green walls in the world, spanning over 1,000 square metres, the 21 plant-covered panels are made up of 35 different species

Image source: Dezeen
There is a great opportunity in sub-tropical countries to create these vertical forests which will improve the quality of life for residents of high rise residential developments.

The death and life of...

By Sean Hua

Great American Cities? Perhaps, but not quite. Try substituting the word 'ourselves' instead. Think a little closer to home: literally, figuratively and spiritually. Then you might come across Bunurong Memorial Park.

Image source: The Age
Situated in Melbourne southeast, the park has recently completed its redevelopment from a cemetery to be a 101 hectare centre that celebrates life, observes its ending, and commits it all to memory. The centre has a host of facilities atypical of a final resting place, within its grounds are various event spaces, places for reflection, children’s play areas, gardens, non-traditional grave spaces, and even a café. Several weddings have already taken place here.

Jane Grover, chief executive of the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, says:

“There is a change of narrative here – cemeteries are for the dead and memorial parks are for the living, and the families. They need to not be relics of the past… Generation X and Y are a death-free generation – they haven't had the Vietnam War, the Korean War, [or the world wars]… So how do we tap into them to say 'This is a really important place about how you navigate death?'”

As we celebrate the centenary of Jane Jacobs, Jane Grover is echoing her planning namesake in a way: the places we create should foster all manner of activities to create 'urban life' as we know it, rather than broad swathes of single uses that limit interactivity.

She also raises a deeper question about permanence, change, and morals. As an industry, we are tasked with thinking ahead for our communities, often beyond the end of our lifetimes. What we put on the ground effectively becomes indelible insofar as our own consciousness is concerned. As such, in a time of peace for a death-free generation, would it not be appropriate to create spaces that say, “This is a really important place about how you navigate life”?

Walking in the footsteps of Jane Jacobs

Image source: Jane's Walk
By Jessica Guirand

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist best known for her writing on cities. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) modernised city planning and architecture. Her vision and focus on 'ten big ideas' provided a guide for planners to create diverse and vibrant cities.

Following her death, a number of her close friends developed a free walk, Jane's Walk, to celebrate her life and work. Held annually, it has expanded from her home town of Toronto and today boasts 1,300 walks, held in 189 cities across the globe.

This year as we celebrate 100 years since her birth, a number of cities across Australia will join the global festival on 6-8 May 2016. To see a full list of walks on offer throughout the festival, click on the links below:

Jane's Walk Australia


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:

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

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.