Designing for urban resilience in Australia

DAN HILL ON DESIGNING FOR URBAN RESILIENCE IN AUSTRALIA

Great piece by Dan Hill at ArchitectureAU on the Australian Government’s National Urban Policy discussion paper, arguing that it doesn’t ask searching-enough questions to enable real change or resilience:

Without addressing these core aspects of why cities exist, or indeed a wider range of policy approaches, a national urban policy focused on the traditional tools of urban planning, architecture and urban design may work for, in Tim Williams’s words, “good times and easy places,” but is unlikely to make Australian cities resilient in the face of real challenges.

He addresses the way that cities can’t be isolated from their surroundings:

There’s also a figure-ground relationship between cities and regions and, at best, a symbiotically linked ecosystem. Paradoxically, any national urban policy should have the regions at its core, finding ways to keep flood plains, allow rivers to run freely, preserve food basin soil to strengthen food security, and replant forests to reinforce flood-mitigating topsoil and act as a fast growing natural carbon sink.

And he questions the excessive reliance on public transport schemes as urban panacea:

[W]hy move so many so far in the first place? Public transport is an easier lever to pull – at least in theory it should be – but surely a better goal is ensuring that everyday needs are met locally, within walking distance, rethinking how we co-locate housing, jobs, services and amenities.

At least the Australian government is attempting to have an overarching discussion of this kind. The Auckland Plan and the Central City Plan for rebuilding Christchurch are a start, but flawed in many of the same ways as the document Hill criticises, and limited to the parochial concerns of single cities.

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