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

Melbourne's Public Housing Debate

Melbourne's public housing has been a hot topic of conversation in the newspapers lately. At the core of this is the question, should our public housing estates be redeveloped to include a mix of public and private housing?  According to The Age, the brief also includes proposals for commercial development on space within the estates.  The article also mentions that the estates mentioned in the brief are in North Richmond and Fitzroy - some seriously valuable inner urban real estate.

Mixing private and public housing is not new.  This has already been put into practice in developments in Melbourne, such as Kensington.  The theory is that social integration removes the stigma often attached to public housing and can improve the condition of the neighbourhood.  According to a paper from the University of NSW, the fundamental argument for mixing public and private housing is that "by reducing concentrations  of disadvantaged residents through tenure mix the  dysfunctional behaviours associated with a concentration of poverty are dissipated".  The paper goes on to say that when this is used as a strategy by Governments, without thorough consultation with tenants and 'high quality' urban planning, it can often fail, or have a negative effect.  Read more both in support and against this theory here and here.

In the latest proposal, it is suggested that no public dwellings will be lost (or relocated), however, to make a 50/50 mix of public and private residents, and to include potential commercial space, there are concerns that open space on site will be lost.  Concerns have also been raised about the motives of the redevelopment.

This proposal opens up a whole range of questions; is it about social integration to create more cohesive cities?  Is it an attempt to bring in more cash?  How much open space is enough on these estates? And surely each estate is different, and what suits one could be a problem in another.  Will an individual approach be taken into account?  To what extent will the community have a say in the process?

The brief itself was leaked to the press, it's not publicly available.  Click here for the original article in The Age, and subsequent ones here and here.  Here is some info on the earlier Kensington Estate redevelopment.

Top Planning Trends from 2012

So, what were the buzz themes in planning 2012? Urban Times came up with a list, including placemaking, tactical urbanism, smart cities, walkability and infill development.  Here's some more on a few of these themes:

According to the article, place making (the process of creating squares, plazas, parks, streets and waterfronts that will attract people) was big in 2012, and is likely to thrive in 2013 as people (at least in the USA as people head back to cities).

Tactical Urbanism
Pop-up, guerilla, open-source, temporary or any other of the heap of names that refer to similar kinds of ventures became increasingly popular in 2012.  Some fun Melbourne examples include where?house, park(ing) day and the Stanley Street Markets.  So, more for 2013?  Yes please.

The Smart City
The article app-lauds the demand for more 'interactive and more technologically enabled' cities. Examples include free wifi in public spaces and availability and accessibility of data on a range of things (transport, parking, pollution for instance).

This list is nifty way to summarise some of the popular trends in planning and design.  It can also make you think, what's new? what have we seen before and what does that say about our cities?

Read on at Urban Times

A Day in the Office... in the Backyard

The Micro Office Systems Space (MOSS) designed by Victor Vetterlein is a new kind of flexible, portable contained office unit, designed to enable work-from-home options.  It's powered by solar and wind energy.  This offices are claimed to address the ills of the commute:

"Roadways are clogged, global emissions are high and causing unprecedented climate change and people are miserable from road rage".  So, the designers of MOSS suggest, what about working from home in one of these offices?

According to its designer, "MOSS provides each employee with a direct visual, audio, and data link to the main office and also a professional environment to hold small business meetings"

Why not just work in your study if you want to work at home? Good point.  But for those of the opinion that some kind of separation between home and office helps, this might strike a good balance. 

I think this design is really interesting because you can see how your backgarden can be transformed into something else - an office.  Whilst I don't think working from home is a big thing here in Australia, it can make sense sometimes.  Whilst there is no substitute for face to face meetings and interaction, do we need it all day every work day?  This CIO article explores the pros and cons of home offices, and whichever side you're on, the idea is well worth consideration.  According to CIO, workplace set ups are changing, with current trends favouring more communal space (and less private) and a greater shift to working from home.  If this trend continues, then the MOSS system just might make it to a few backyards near you.

Read on at inhabitat here, and dezeen here.  Read more on work place trends at CIO here.

Decaying Buildings Make for some Pretty Sweet Art Work

Yes, I know, we've all seen some pretty cool street art - but how do you like these examples from the Fench artist Oakoak that use decaying parts of buildings and streets (such as chipped paintwork, cracks and even road rubble) as part of their artwork.

I don't mind seeing a bit of wear and tear around town, I think it can make things interesting, adding a bit of curiosity to the surroundings.  Adding something like this to the mix would just make you smile. I'd be absolutely delighted if I noticed one of these little features, and be glad that urban creativity is alive and well.

Read on here at Atlantic Cities.