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

Google Maps Finally Includes Bike Routes

Finding the best bike route around just got easier! Google maps have recently included a bike option when you search for directions.

The maps include dedicated cycle paths (dark green), dedicated on road cycle lanes (light green) and 'preferred' un-segregated roads used by cyclists (dashed green).

Not only does the map take bike paths into account, it also helps you avoid hills (though I hope it's just the up hill part).

I also like that  the site gives you a pretty accurate estimation of the duration of your ride.

It's about time bike routes were this easily mapped - anything that makes cycling just a bit easier for people has gotta be a good thing!

More info available here

Zoning Reforms: Devil's in the Detail?

Last week, the Minister for Planning released a suite of planning reforms for Victoria that include some big changes to our planning zones.  According to DPCD, these reforms seek to allow a broader range of activities to be considered, improve the range of zones to better manage growth and simplify requirements.

These changes to the zones (self proclaimed many, many times as 'sweeping') are summarised in the table below:

The major changes are for residential, farming and commercial zones.  Here's a quick run down on the residential zones.

The existing Residential 1, 2 and 3 Zones will be replaced with Neighbourhood Residential, General Residential and Residential Growth zones.

The Neighbourhood Residential Zone aims to restrict housing growth in areas identified for preservation.  According to the Minister, in this zone, you can expect to see single dwellings with some dual occupancies.

The General Residential Zone will be used 'in most residential areas where modest growth and diversity of housing is provided' (consistent with existing neighbourhood character).  Here, you can expect to see medium density housing, with a mixture of townhouses and apartments.

Lastly, the Residential Growth Zone will be applied in 'appropriate locations near activity centres, train stations and other areas suitable for increased housing activity'.  In this zone, you can expect to find apartments and town houses of up to 3 storeys and higher.

Schedules to each zone provide more information about no. of storeys and height controls.

There's been a few commentaries dotted around the media, including one from Michael Buxton (The Age)Miller and Dowling (The Age) and Peter Mares of the Grattan Institute, also published in The Age.  The articles are well worth a read!

Your take on the new zones will depend on how you feel about the notion of using zones to convey built form controls and to determine levels of change (as opposed to simply land use controls, with levels of change and built form controls dictated by overlays).

Overall the zoning changes seem fairly sound, and are not dissimilar from earlier policies of development concentrated in and around activity centres (including this).  The zoning changes are likely to provide more certainty for residents, developers and councils alike; with these zones there should be less ambiguity about what is appropriate and where.

However, like in many other instances, the devil is in the detail.  Implementation is of particular concern, and there is little on how the zones will be implemented other than that local councils will determine how and where the zones are applied, and they will have 12 months do so.  

How will the application of the zones be tested?  Will zones be fairly applied between various municipalities? Will councils be hesitant to apply the Neighbourhood Growth Zone?  Furthermore, who is going to pay for these changes?

What do you think?  The Minister's changes are open for comment, so have your say.  Just follow the links below.

Read up on the zoning reforms here.
Comment here
You can view the latest media releases from the Planning Minister here

Urbanized: A Lesson in Engagement and Communication

Last night saw 900 Melbournians crowd into the beautiful Capitol Theatre for a screening of 'Urbanized: A Conversation About Urban Futures'.  The film was followed by a panel starring Rob Adams (City of Melbourne), Gretchen Wilkins (RMIT) and Michael Trudgeon (Victorian Eco Innovation Lab).

The 90 minute flick included some seriously gorgeous images showcasing many of the case studies we've come to learn about in the industry. These include biking in Copenhagen, bus-rapid-transiting in Bogota, highlining in New York and slumming in Mumbai for instance.

The film was simple but rich.  It communicated a number of urban design principles in a way that was super accessible for those without experience in the field.  Better still, the movie was far from an architect/planner/designer love fest (as some of these kinds of movies can be).  It conveyed different perspectives and viewpoints on key issues affecting most global cities such as urban sprawl and transport and community engagement.

It also really emphasised a bottom-up approach to design (with examples from South Africa, Detroit and Chile to name a few).  The focus was on small interventions that can make a significant difference in the way people experience their city.  This leads to some really important questions; do we really listen enough as designers, or are we too bust trying to get OUR message across?

What I also took from this movie was a nice way to present ideas to the general population about urban design, planning, landscape etc., that was informative, visually appealing and most importantly - engaging.  This is really important in an industry like ours, that tends to use a lot of jargon and planning/design-speak to tackle issues that affect everyone.  Generally, more should be done to make planing and design more accessible, but films like this can only help.

Watch it here (charges apply for the full version, but a short preview is freely available)

To Drive or Not to Drive? The Influence of Parking

Australian Planner recently published an article exploring the link between employee parking in  Melbourne's CBD and sustainable transport options.  The research undertaken by Amruta Pandhe (DLA) with University of Melbourne's Dr. Alan March, conducted surveys of almost 200 commuters (mix of car and PT) quizzing them about their choice of travel to work.  Results showed that over 50% of car users would no longer drive if parking was unavailable, with the lions share (35%) reporting that they would shift to PT.

Primarily, this study shows that restricting parking in the CBD is potentially the most powerful mechanism affecting travel choice.

Parking is the 3rd largest user of floor-space in the CBD, do we really need all this prime space for cars that carry one person to work?  Should parking be further restricted and force that 35% to shift to PT?

The full article is available here

Welcome to Copenhagen 2025

The opening page quotes "predicting is very difficult, especially about the future" but apparently not for Copenhagen who has produced a shiny guide welcoming us to their city in 2025.

This guide is based on principles of sustainability, and covers everything from architecture, design, transport, environment and economy (even referring to themselves as the 'green tiger' - love it!) to ageing populations, child friendly activities and urban agriculture (including bee keeping).

The only thing I'm not sold on is the city's plans to build a massive mountain outside the city.  Seriously.

"Construction will take more than 200 years, but once finished, a 3.5km mountain will be located just outside the city".

Reasons for this are cited as an increase in biodiversity and potential for hydropower from snow run-off.  Now I'm no expert, but surely constructing a huge artificial mountain will have considerable environmental impacts (you know, altering eco-systems, that kind of thing).  Strange that this is surrounded by 120 pages of 'sustainability' rhetoric.  The other side of the coin is that we've been messing around with nature for centuries, right?

Crazy mountains aside, page 80 also makes for interesting reading, mentioning the city's international inspirations - where you'll find Melbourne listed alongside the likes of Portland, New York, Curitiba, Singapore, Hamburg, Beijing and others.

"Melbourne: The Worlds most liveable city, a success story in stopping urban sprawl"

Hmmm.  Have they visited our urban growth boundaries lately?

Anyway, the thing I like about this document is that its a really simple idea, but it is really effective.  You get a really good sense of what the city might be like in the future if certain ideologies and policy objectives are followed (encouraging bikes, renewable energy etc).  You can really see how proud these people are of their city.  And overall, there is clearly a lot to be proud of!

Have a look at Guide to Copenhagen here.  For more info on Mount Copenhagen click here

Flashy Helmet for Cyclists - Now You Can Have Indicators Too

If you can get over the embarrassment of wearing a giant flashing thing on your head (and lets face it, cyclists should be well able to handle it given the copious amounts of lycra often worn), this helmet could be your latest bike accessory.

According to The Age, this super razzle dazzle helmet includes sensors to detect the motion of your head, as well as 104 multicolour lights that change when you move.  That means you can use your head as an indicator - with lights on the helmet gleaming your direction of choice.  

Watch the video and read the article here

Farewell Dancer, Farewell

Alas, Plantastic’s founder and author Rupert Dance has moved on to nerdier pastures.  He is returning to full time study in his latest passion - computer science.  The team at DLA will aim to maintain the standard set by Rupe.  We will continue to report on all matters planning and design related.  Hope you continue to enjoy Plantastic and Designeriffic News!

Council Driven Round the Bend

The Age has reported that the Minister’s plans for the development of Fishermans Bend have Port Philip City Council up-in-arms.  The article cites concerns that Council weren’t included in the process, and that their own plan (Montague Structure Plan – developed over 2 years including community consultation) may be sidelined.
The acting Mayor (Councillor O'Conner) was quoted:
“We find it very surprising we weren't given any forewarning - the City of Port Phillip … is far better placed to understand the key issues and the impacts on the community''.

The media release from City of Port Phillip adds:

 “Today’s announcement sidelines the rights of Council and its residents to properly plan for the renewal of this area. This decision by the Minister to ignore our carefully developed vision is of significant concern in relation to what the future might bring in these planning matters.”

Overseen by Places Vic, the Plan for Fishermans Bend includes rezoning up to 240Ha of land to Capital City Zone.  The area has the potential to accommodate 50,000 residents and 25,000 workers. 

The region’s inner city location, large size and lack of residential neighbours mean that Fishermans Bend presents a considerable opportunity to provide much needed housing in inner Melbourne.  However, some fear a Docklands style result, raising concerns over facilities, open space, schools and public transport.

For a site of such importance, it’s worrying (although perhaps not surprising) that there seems to be a lack of transparent, genuine partnerships between State and Local Government.  How can we promote positive outcomes for the broader community if we can’t work through conflicts at different levels of Government?

And on that note - in the interests of transparency, a disclaimer that DLA assisted Council in the production of the Montague Structure Plan.

Read the Age article in full here
View the Minister’s recent Media Release here
Port Phillip's media release is here

International Examples of Online Engagement

An NGO, Janaagraha, is aiming to strengthen community participation in local urban governance in Bangalore, India by using an interactive online website called i change my city.  This website allows you to provide spatially tagged information and feedback (including photos) to council.

This is not a new concept – a similar initiative is underway in Toronto.  Most of these apps and websites focus on graffiti and complaints (also covered in ‘I change my city’).  However, what I really like about ‘I change my city’ are the vast array of features that allow you to tag community groups so the public can more easily connect with others,  comment on public forums about local civic issues and better interact with local civic service providers.

Another example of this is Min Stad (My City) from the Swedish city of Göteborgs. What I love about this site is the sweet 3D graphics that show a range of services and facilities tagged by users.

These examples show a nifty way to promote interactive community consultation.  Whilst several Victorian Councils are moving towards a greater online presence more could be done to promote digital interactive engagement.  There is an opportunity to combine such new tools with face-to-face engagement as part of an integrated and holistic consultation program.  Perhaps we should consider greater use of tools like this for Regional Plans and our Metro Strategy?  

Click here for more information on I change my City, and here for more on Göteborgs.


The first week in July is NAIDOC week (NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee).  This celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and recognises contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.

Several local councils in Victoria and interstate promote (and sponsor) NAIDOC activities such as Parramatta, Hobson's Bay, Darwin and Moreland to name a few.  However, it got me thinking – indigenous issues seem under represented in urban planning.  I have seldom heard of seminars and workshops regarding how urban planners can aim to reduce indigenous inequalities.   What can planners and designers do to support positive outcomes for indigenous people?  This is a tough one – and some organisations have started to address this through mentoring, training and development opportunities (such as offered through PIA), outreach programs or through pro-bono work with indigenous communities (often facilitated through NGOs such as Engineers Without Borders).  

The photo below shows the Yorta Yorta Nation NAIDOC week celebrations in Barmah, regional Victoria.

I’d like to see more development of cross cultural partnerships and more information circulated about indigenous issues - and what better time to reflect on this than NAIDOC week.

Learn more about NAIDOC week here

Cycling to School a Thing of the Past?

Alan Davies reports on the concerning lack of students utilising active transport to get to school – focusing on cycling in particular.

“In Melbourne, just 2.7% of primary school children and 2.7% of secondary school children ride to school. It’s as high as 5.8% among inner city secondary students and as low as 2% of outer suburban primary school children, but there’s no getting away from the fact that bicycles aren’t a popular choice.

Research mentions concerns about safety as a considerable deterrent to active transport including cycling.  The catch is, the more people avoid cycling and active transport, the more dangerous it is for others to ride or walk to school (more cars on the road, less surveillance of the street).  Weather and proximity to schools are other commonly cited deterrents.

Starting to ride/walk/PT to school is the hardest part – but to encourage active transport, it’s important to ensure housing is located within walking/cycling distance, and has good access to public transport.  Better cycling facilities (such as bike paths) would also help, and school led initiatives to promote active transport (such as that undertaken by Boroondara).

Get the full article here, or link the to Department of Transports research here.  

A cool peer-review journal on the issue is available here.

Green Roofs: Singapore and Australia

I have recently returned from a trip to Singapore where I saw possibly the most fun green roof ever.

I have never seen a green roof quite like this – accessible to all from ground level.  Walk up, saunter down.  Or even better – embrace your inner child and roll.  Chill out on the grass.  Have a picnic.  If only more buildings included green roofs as accessible and functional as this!

Planning policy in Singapore requires new developments to replace the area of site coverage with green space on site – and this is often done with roof top gardens and vertical greenery.  

Australia is also beginning to see more rooftop gardens, such as this one at the City of Melbourne offices (shown below).  

Green roofs and vertical greenery have their issues; they are costly and can be tricky to maintain.  However, they convey a range of benefits from storm water management, reducing energy costs and contributing to a reduction in C02 emissions.  Perhaps best of all, they also create a place for activity and fun!

See here for more info on the Nanyang Art School green roof.  

Follow this link to read a recent age article about green roofs in Melbourne and Sydney.  

Check this out to see more about the benefits of green roofs.