Cars are submerged on a flooded road in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville in 2012.
A massive residential development in a flood-prone inner-city suburb sounds like a recipe for disaster. But good urban design can deliver higher density and reduce the flood risk.
Without medium-density housing being built in the established suburbs – the ‘missing middle’ – the goals of more compact, sustainable and equitable cities won’t be achieved.
Residents of established middle suburbs are slowly coming round to the idea, but governments and the property sector lack the capacity to deliver compact cities that are acceptable to the community.
A drain carries water but does little else, but imagine how different the neighbourhood would be if the drain could be transformed into a living stream.
Drains take up precious but inaccessible open space in our cities. Converting these to living streams running through the suburbs could make for healthier places in multiple ways.
So much for context – authorities are allowing large out-of-place buildings in the higher-density retrofitting push.
Planners wish to correct past errors by increasing densities, discouraging car dependency and mixing land uses. But imposing imported strategies on Australian cities is producing unhappy results.
Green space, easily accessible to everyone no matter what their income, should be a priority in designing high-density residential areas.
Marcus Jaaske from www.shutterstock.com
Being crowded into poor-quality high-density units harms residents' health, but design features that are known to promote wellbeing can make a big difference to the lives of low-income households.
Much of what is being built is straightforward ‘investor grade product’ – flats built to attract the burgeoning investment market.
The inexorable logic of the market will create suburban concentrations of lower-income households on a scale hitherto only experienced in the legacy inner-city high-rise public housing estates.
When disputes and other problems of apartment living arise, low-income households’ options are often limited.
In the push for more compact cities, don't forget the ways apartment living is different. And often the downsides of these differences weigh heavily on low-income and disadvantaged households.
Forty years on, there is still resistance to mixing with the ‘sort of people’ who were segregated in social housing tower blocks.
Even where communities are mixed, many inner-city families go to extraordinary financial and geographic lengths to ensure their children do not go to school with children from 'the flats'.
The traditional backyard provides a retreat from the pressures of city life.
Australians are losing the backyards that once served as retreats from the stresses of city living. Our health is likely to suffer as cities become less green and much hotter.
The uniquely weak regulation of high-rise, high-density development exemplifies the market-driven growth of Australian cities.
Achieving the goal of sustainable cities depends on rolling back the market after decades of privatisation and deregulation.
Whether it’s pressures of space or a warmer climate, which is affecting Melbourne’s elms, urban greening must respond to the challenges of 21st-century urban living.
Greening cities that are becoming denser is a major challenge. City-dwellers' health benefits from both well-designed green spaces and urban density, so we must manage the tensions between them.
Planning policies in many cities advocate higher-density housing for reasons of sustainability and efficiency.
Research suggests stakeholders' understandings of urban consolidation vary. And they often subvert policies to suit their own ends.
How is apartment living changing the way we get to know our increasingly diverse neighbourhoods?
As increasing diversity and density come to characterise our cities, how can we build harmonious communities within apartment complexes?
The rapid growth of Melbourne is threatening the very liveability that makes it attractive to so many people.
The increasing global focus on essential services and public space as a key combination for successful city-making is relevant to fast-growing Australian cities too.
A quirk in the planning rules enabled the Primaries Warehouse in Fremantle to be redeveloped as a model of progressive higher-density design.
Exceptional projects can emerge when regulations are sensibly relaxed due to context. A Fremantle project is a model of progressive higher-density possibilities resulting from flexible planning rules.
The Collective Old Oak co-living block in London has more than 500 apartments with bedrooms and bathrooms. All other spaces are shared.
While some forms of co-living seek to match modern lifestyles and a desire to downsize, other profit-driven models simply exploit a lack of affordable housing alternatives.
Officer Woods’ competition entry shows how the wasted spaces of suburban road verges and front yards could be put to much better uses.
The front yards, footpaths and verges of Australian suburbs are spaces overdue for reinvention.
More than cluster of people and buildings, urbanity is a concentration of encounters and connections.
We're still in the early days of understanding how cities work. But we do know that creative, healthy and productive cities have certain things in common – and it's all to do with their 'urban DMA'.
The continued preference for detached housing in new suburbs is driving Perth’s urban sprawl and means two-thirds of dwellings built over the next 15 years need to be on infill sites to meet the state’s target.
Government and industry need to demonstrate the benefits of well-designed higher-density housing. Rich residential display projects may be the ideal catalyst for creating smarter cities.
Suburbia or skyscrapers?
Instead of looking up or out, we need a combined approach.