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

Boroondara Neighbourhood Character Study Goes Online

A big problem with large scale planning and design projects is the need to get feedback from hundreds if not thousands of people at once. Boroondara, one of the largest inner municipalities, is updating its Neighbourhood Character profiles and has decided to embrace the power of web-based data gathering for feedback on the draft Precinct Profiles.

This kind of questionnaire is a great way to get fast feedback from a wide range of people in a format that is easily analysed and synthesized. It also allows Boroondara to attract people who may not usually be able to make it to after-hours community sessions, or simply may not be concerned enough to want to devote too much time to such things.

It's a concept that's being implemented more rapidly in other countries, yet is only an emerging idea here.

You can check out the website and questionnaire here, and if you're a resident - I encourage you to read your draft profile and give some feedback! Naturally, you can still give feedback the 'old school' way, via a pdf download and snail-mail, or requesting a hard copy over the phone!

In the interest of full disclosure, this is a City of Boorondara project that David Lock Associates is working on, with Harvest Digital Planning working among other things on the online tools, and in collaboration with Collaborations. That's probably why it's so awesome.

Planning Minister Proposes Beefed Up CBD

Well here’s the Ministers “big plan”.
Click for full size

He’s saying that the area above “could” be rezoned to CCZ and taller development streamlined through to create a 'Manhattan style' uber-CBD.

Notably, the area he’s highlighted is the area that’s already undergoing significant higher density redevelopment - at quite a pace. Understanding issues of population growth and the need to reduce sprawl on the fringe, there is also need for careful consideration of tower design, placement and other urban design issues. 

My bet is this is Mr Guy's attempt to cash in on an existing development trend by doing absolutely nothing whatsoever (I question whether he’ll do any actual rezoning), and simultaneously take pressure/focus off of all the middle-ring 'burbs full of angry NIMBY's who may actually cause him problems.

Questions remain - how does this fit into his new 'metro strategy'? Apart from old man Doyle, apparently no Councillor's and no Council planning departments had any idea this announcement was going to occur.

While lacking any real policy or content, the underlying gist of the announcement itself isn't too outrageous.  The Hoddle Grid is near maxed out, Melbourne's CBD is organically beginning to sprawl because Melbourne's growth is so strong. I'd agree there is a need to examine the orderly expansion of the CBD (and all that entails) itself. But it's a separate issue to the growth that needs to occur in the inner and middle ring suburbs.

Let's just hope Mr Guy doesn't think a beefed up 'Manhattan style' CBD will negate the need to develop Melbourne's activity centres. 

Stop Wasting Time Writing New Urban Planning Documents!

Your planning problems are not unique!

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of towns, cities and areas grappling with the same problems you're facing.

Everyone's trying to get more people walking and cycling.

We all want Transit Oriented Development.

There are millions of areas needing 'renewal'.

High density housing design is not a unique issue to your municipality. looks at the problem of re-inventing the wheel:

Cities around the world may all be struggling with the same problems, from building affordable housing to boosting internet access, but a lack of dialogue means that local governments rarely copy each other’s successful ideas.  The world’s “567,000 mayors are reinventing the wheel, every single one of them with everything” they do, says Sascha Haselmayer, general director of Living Labs Global, a Copenhagen-based non-profit that encourages collaboration among the world’s cities.

Part of the problem is political pressure to contract with local businesses only, which makes it hard for city governments to look to outsiders for advice and solutions. “The logic behind that is it helps local companies grow,” says Haselmayer, but it can cost up to fifty times as much to recreate a product or service instead of importing it from elsewhere
The way to fix it, it's suggested, is to spread the good ideas around. That's being attempted - through a competition that encourages you to steal good ideas.

Read on.

Why Does Infrastructure in Australia Cost So Damn Much

I've been asking this question to myself a lot over the last few years. Someone proposes a new rail line - awesome I think to myself - but then I look at the cost. Multiple billions of dollars per kilometer of underground rail line. Seriously, 'billion', with a 'B'. The budget for NASA last year way about $17 Billion. So for a few km's of metro, we could space program the size of NASA.

Thankfully, calmer minds than mine are discussing the problem over at Alan Davies blog, The Urbanist. In a two part examination of rail costs and general infrastructure costs. Check them out, very interesting and worthwhile reading.

Problems With a View

So you've purchased a new apartment in a big tower somewhere in Melbourne. Congratulations, you've joined a growing number of apartment dwellers in our fine city. But, a problem arises, when you bought it you had views of the entire CBD and across Port Phillip Bay - but now a building is going up next door. Soon, your view is of a slightly balding 30-something year old who's also just his first apartment. And he's like, 9m from your window.

Tower separation is a serious urban design topic around the world - how do you ensure adequate amenity in rapidly a densifying city? A 'rule of thumb' in the urban design world is frequently the 9m rule. Melbourne City Council still has existing provision for far greater than this to separate towers, but I understand that it's been all but disregarded.

A key problem is that Melbourne is riddled with tiny lots in great locations. In the interest of fairness, everyone is allowed to try to get a planning permit for their own lot - amalgamation is not enforced or required. In strategic locations (Southbank, the CBD, docklands, the inner north etc etc), everyone wants to maximise the amount of apartments on their land and feed the seemingly insatiable beast that is Melbourne's housing market.

Simultaneously, new development must consider issues of 'development equity' - that is, ensuring a development does not unreasonably prejudice the ability of each abutting lot be developed.

Anyway, the Age is highlighting the issue with this article about Rosa and her apartment at Freshwater Place.

Exhibition Road Re-Opens in UK, Looks Great

Exhibition Road, England, that runs from South Kensington to Hyde Park, has been re-opened as an amazing looking shared space. From the website:

Exhibition Road... is home to some of the most important visitor attractions in the country, a unique collection of cultural and educational institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and Imperial College London. Since the Great Exhibition of 1851 Exhibition Road has been a major destination and now attracts over 11 million visitors each year.
Though used by millions of visitors, as well as students, local workers, and residents the public realm was filled with street clutter and vehicle traffic, it was confusing to visitors and unfriendly to pedestrians.
We have changed this unwelcoming road into a world class streetscape - a stunning public space that can be enjoyed by all.

Check out the slide show here.

It's an interesting little case study, given the work we are doing on Swanston Street in Melbourne - which is again making the news.

Ned Kelly Sculpture Stirs Controversy Despite Being Awesome

A Ned Kelly statue carved from a single Canadian Cedar Tree has caused controversy in a Boroondara street. I've dug up a before shot, a nice tree it was but apparently was required to be removed. The sculpture is stunning in my opinion. What do you think of it? See more pics:

Read about the 'controversy' at the Whitehorse Leader.

Geometric Road Painting

It's not even a boring looking neighbourhood, but hey, it looks mad anyway.

Apparently it's in Vercorin, a small ski Village in Switzerland. They do it every year with a different artist.

Does Urban Sprawl Actually Make Us Fat?

Alan Davies aka The Melbourne Urbanist, in his new digs at Crikey (congrats Alan!) has this great article to kick things off with. He examines a study that basically says: living in the suburbs doesn't make you fat, it's just that fat people choose to live in the suburbs. It's a slightly confusing concept, and a bit of a chicken/egg scenario, so read on to learn more!

Take a Walk on the High Line From the Comfort of Your Chair!

Alan Davies points out that you can now take a google street-view walk along the New York High Line in glorious HD. The High Line is New York's most popular recent piece of urban design mastery, the reclamation of a disused elevated railway into a stunning kilometers long linear parkway, dissecting the city like mother natures scalpel.

For those of us who aren't able to jet off to New York every time they do something cool, we can now experience it for free thanks to Google's desire to just be downright nice guys with all their technology.

Click here, or the image above, to cruise the High Line.