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Tales of the City
Urban Design


Traffic and Melbourne's CBD
Aaron Hewett

Great article on diverting commuter traffic from some main parts of the CBD in The Age (online) today. Read it here.

Do you think changing traffic signals is better than charging a toll (which will effect poor people more than rich people)?

Who will be responsible for upgrading the city bypass roads?

Maybe we need to question why people (I'm talking about private commuters here, not service vehicles) travel through the CBD in the first place - especially when public transport in the CBD is so good.

Anyways... give us your thoughts.

Planning 28th August, 2003 12:28:09   [#] [2 comments] 

Some thoughts on Roxburgh Park
Russell Degnan

For those who missed it, there is an interesting, and quite long article on 'McMansion' suburbs like Roxburgh Park in this Saturday's "Good Weekend". Since we went out there, I've been trying to work out why I found the place so disturbing, but without much success, but I'll say what I think and see where we end up.

There are all sorts of problems on the environmental level. Firstly, they are on very small blocks, which means (far more than older outer suburbs) the rain will go into the creek immediately (instead of seeping into the ground, then into the creek). Hence, the need for elaborate lake systems to do storm water management. Secondly, they are often shoddily built with a lot of glass windows, and (again because of the small blocks) they have no surrounding trees and no eaves. Their heating/cooling bills will be enormous.

So to the article. They make two related points on the demographics. One, they are mostly middle-upper income families, not as you'd think that far out, on lower incomes. And two, their house sizes are almost double that of the suburban houses of only 10 years ago. This despite the fact that "average household sizes are shrinking - from 3.7 in 1981 to 2.7 in 2001".

This shows the problem with using averages to prove anything. What is known is that the age that people get married, and start families has been steadily increasing for the last 20 years. Roxburgh Park is the same demographic of young families that Blackburn was in the 1970s when my parents moved there. But, they are also older, and therefore financially better off. The actual number of family-sized houses required has not changed (although there are less large families than 20 years ago). As the Good Weekend article points out, there aren't any family-sized apartments in the inner suburbs, so, people move to the outer ring to get the space.

To summarise then, there are two ongoing housing pressures at the moment. A larger collection of (mostly single) young people trying to buy/rent into the inner-suburban lifestyle, resulting in a denser urban environment in those suburbs. A slightly older family group, looking for a family-friendly neighbourhood to raise their children. Contrary to what is sometimes implied though, this group is not going away anytime soon (eventually maybe, but predicting trends is practically impossible).

What is the problem I have with Roxburgh Park then? Well, obviously, in the absence of any of the family pressures that might make me want to live in a big house, with a big TV (did you see how many satellite dishes were out there?) and friendly neighbours, I don't feel inclined towards that lifestyle. Other people obviously do, even if it it's been constructed of plywood like an over-sized movie set.

What I think it is, is that their treatment of open-space and roads is just plain wrong. The two aren't disconnected (strictly speaking a road is open space), but I'll deal with them each in turn. (It may help if you open your Melway right about now, p.179).

The major roads (Roxburgh Park Dr., Donald Cameron Dr., Thomas Brunton Pde. etc.) are not in any way part of the community. Notice that all the houses had their rears to the road. Now, fair enough, no-one wants to live on a busy road, but the end result is as soulless as a freeway. I pity the schoolkids who have to wait for the bus on it - having waited for a bus on equally objectionable Springvale Rd., it is pretty depressing. The effect is to isolate each section of the estate. The bottom one, has roughly five road exits - exits to nowhere for a walker - and four - giving the benefit of the doubt here - places where the walking tracks cross the road. It is almost like a medieval town then, with meandering streets and small parks in amongst them, but with one crucial exception: except for the odd person tending their garden, or at certain times of the day, you aren't likely to see anyone on your walk. With the exception of a few larger parks, there is nothing on the street to see or do, and therefore, no-one at all.

Open space is a different problem. Councils have a few "measurables" for parks these days. They say everybody should be within 250-500m of one. Therefore, everybody has a park within 250m of their house in Roxburgh Park. In some of the other places we visited, they have the "English Common" between houses, with a playground for the locals to enjoy.

What this ignores is this: in every park I've ever seen that was any good, the vast majority of people don't stop. The park near my house is a constant source of interest, because it is on the way to shops and the tramline. Some people use it for recreation, but most of the people who stop just sit and watch other people go by. Now, this isn't a new idea, Jane Jacob's mentions it in her classic book and no doubt it has been said a multitude of different times by other people I'm not familiar with. Some of the parks in Roxburgh Park might be ok; they are on a walking route near the shopping centre or the schools. But, none of them are placed to relate to the main sources of people. They don't provide a view of their theoretical walker's intended goal, nor do they often provide the fastest, most pleasant and direct route to those goals.

The end result of this "planning" is to slap together a bunch of things that do work, in such a way that they, well, don't. Of course, most people who live there will drive everywhere, so they won't notice. Some of the ideas they thought they implemented will take a hammering though (like higher density, and walkable distances to shops), which is sad.

Planning 23rd August, 2003 14:14:36   [#] [1 comment] 

It doesn't take much...
Russell Degnan

...to cause a crisis. While the north-east United States suffered through a blackout, Phoenix had a different problem last week.

A fuel pipeline ruptured causing some major shortages for drivers. If you thought that would cause chaos here, imagine what happens in one of the most poorly serviced cities in the world for public transport. They might *shock horror* have to take the bus. Others (and I sympathise, because buses suck) resort to following fuel trucks to make sure their precious automobiles have petrol.

On a related note, Common Monkeyflower comments on a Planetizen op-ed claiming that suburban areas are better just in case there is a wide-scale blackout which stops electrified transport. What is important (and was mentioned in the comments to the op-ed) is diversity of transport options to prevent what engineers call 'single-point failure'. Arizona's new Light Rail system can't come fast enough.

Planning 22nd August, 2003 22:55:36   [#] [1 comment] 

Lecture Series - Shaping the Space of Time in Contemporary Cities
Andrea McIntosh

Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning
The University of Melbourne

The Dean's Lecture Series 2003

Peter Rowe
Dean, Faculty of Design and Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Harvard University, USA

Shaping the Space of Time in Contemporary Cities

Tuesday 2 September
Prince Philip Theatre
Ground floor, Architecture and Planning building
This is a FREE event

Peter G. Rowe is the Dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design. He studied at the University of Melbourne where he received a Bachelor's degree in Architecture, subsequently earning a Master of Architecture in Urban Design degree from Rice University and an honorary A.M. degree from Harvard. Prior to becoming Dean of the Faculty of Design at Harvard in 1992, Rowe served as Chairman of the Urban Planning and Design Department from 1988 until 1992, and Director of the Urban Design Programs from 1985 until 1990.

Rowe's research and consulting is extensive, diverse and international in scope, including subjects dealing with matters of cultural interpretation and design in both architecture and urban design, as well as the relationship of urban form to issues of economic development, housing provision and resource conservation. A recognized critic and lecturer in the field of architecture and urban design, Rowe is the author of nine books including: Civic Realism (1997); Modern Urban Housing in China: 1840-2000 (2001) and Architectural Encounters with Essence and Form in Modern China (2002); as well as three forthcoming books: Modern East-Asia: Shaping the Space of Time in Contemporary Cities; Building Barcelona: The Second Renaixença; and Shanghai: The Modern City.

Shaping the Space of Time in Contemporary Cities: Today, contemporary cities occupy broad urbanized and urbanizing territories, often vast in area and large in population. They are also often subject to dynamic pressures of both growth and change, where the temporal dimension of spatial possibility becomes compressed. Specifically, urbanization will be examined in three national contexts representing three different regions of the world. Speculation will be offered about several significant ways in which the conformation and re-conformation of urban space appears to interact with the passage of time to produce different spatial outcomes, including the manner in which temporal outlooks and resulting spatial orientations are expressed and despite widespread availability of similar construction and management practices. Discussion will also focus on basic spatial approaches that are deployed to shape urban territories with an emphasis on mixed and middle-ground procedures. Broader implications of this speculation for urban design and physical planning will also be commented upon.

Planning 21st August, 2003 12:28:17   [#] [1 comment] 

Field Trip
Citizen #381277

What a lovely view we got of yuppy back yards today. Not only that, but we caught someone breaking the stage 2 water restrictions, got lost in the labyrinth that is a housing estate and were all subjected to a dodgy attempt at marketing. All in all, a good contribution!

General 20th August, 2003 22:25:25   [#] [0 comments] 

Silliness of it all
Aaron Hewett

Russell asked me to write more on the website... so here I am... writing about shit and procrastinating about doing my Policy Briefing Paper and my Field Trip Report.

I realise I don't know you guys* very well. I didn't attend either of the study camps last semester. From all the gossip I have heard, I gather you got to know each other pretty well... some of you got to know each other extra well. Just keep in mind that we'll be together for 4 whole years during our journey through this course so don't ruin your reputation too early.

So get to know the people in your course (like me) who you don't know very well and who you didn't get to talk to at length around the camp fires. If you haven't the foggiest idea who I am have a look at my website. It's very old. I spent many hours working on it while unemployed and living in Wagga Wagga.

It's been a year since I moved to Melbourne. Yay! I'm originally from Perth and I spent 3 months in the interim (voluntarily) in Wagga. Most of my family live in WA and my mum is coming to visit me in a few months. Yay!

This whole coming to Melbourne thing has been a step in the right direction. I found somewhere to live, I got into uni, I got a job and I've met a whole lot of great people.

Anyway... I should really get some work done. Feel free to post responses to my speel or opinions about my website and its content.



* The term "guys" has become a word that seems to apply to everyone regardless of their gender. It's wrong to apply such a loaded and gendered term to everyone but no-one is making any effort to change the popular language in this regard. If I refer to everyone as "girls" all the guys out there will assume I'm attacking their masculinity and will beat their hairy chests in protest. No-one wants that. Why do you girls** put up with the double standard?

**Calling people "girls" is wrong when talking about people who are in fact fully grown women. For some reason it has become an informal way of refering to women along the same line as "guys". I find it is less offensive than "chick"... but then again I'm not a woman and I've never been called a chick so who am I to comment. As you can tell I went through a "read as many books on feminism as I can" stage. Followed by "read as many books on liberal Christianity as I can" stage and "read as many books on politics as I can" stage... so I'm your man on the topics no-one else wants to discuss around the dinner table.

General 19th August, 2003 19:08:19   [#] [2 comments] 

60L Green Building
Aaron Hewett

We were lucky enough to go to the 60L Green Building in Carlton as a field trip for our Sustainability course....

It was great!

The sheer amount of thought and detail that went into contructing this building was amazing. We went around with the project architect and she told us where they got certain materials and how things work.

For more information on the project go to the
60L Green Building website.

Places 19th August, 2003 18:29:29   [#] [0 comments] 

Happy "Today should be a holiday" Day
Russell Degnan

"And whereas it is expedient that the District of Port Phillip, now part of the Colony of New South Wales, should be erected as a separate Colony ... there shall be within and for the Colony of Victoria a separate Legislative Council"
An Act for the better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies (5th August 1850)

There are, of course, several days that could be used to celebrate Victoria's independence: July 1st (when it offically occured), or Separation Day (November 11th) when parliament first sat. But today, sitting, as it does, in the interminable gap between the Queen's Birthday holiday and Cup Day seems the most appropriate.

The original Legislative Council was partly appointed, and partly elected. And for the five year period of its existence (1851-1856) it was widely reviled. The Sydney Morning Herald was particularly unimpressed:

"I must say a worse regulated, worse governed, worse drained, worse lighted, worse watered town of note is not on the face of the globe ... nowhere in the southern hemisphere does chaos reign so triumphant as in Melbourne"

But Sydney has never liked us. The discovery of gold, and subsequent rush caused innumerable problems for the fledgling democracy. But, there was a lot of good done. To quote, again, The Blended House by Ray Wright (available from Information Victoria if you are interested).

It drafted the constitution of Victoria, held at the time to be the most liberal in the British Empire. It invented the secret ballot. It began construction of Parliament House. It founded the supreme and county courts of Victoria. It created a durable system of local government. It devised the miner's right. It ultimately learned the value of a gold export duty. It founded the Parliamentary Library, a State Library of Victoria, and a University of Melbourne. It encouraged telegraphy, railway extension, port and pilotage development, macadamisation, and gas distribution. It reformed the collection of custom tarrifs. It founded a National Education Board, a Central Road Board, a Water and Sewerage Commission and a Bank of Victoria. It resisted transportation, and convictism. Not without misgivings, it conceded the inevitability of democratisation and at least commenced the process of enfranchising the diggers. It crafted standing and sessional orders that were practical and enduring. It sought to address such issues as environmental management, land alienation, state aid to denominational schools, and the "imprest" system of financial supervision, problems that took more experienced legislators in less difficult times decades to resolve. With no prior experience, it was obliged to explore the early bounds of "responsible government". It demonstrated the value of legislative rather than autocratic control of the colony. It provided, despite almost insuperable challenges, legislative counsel. If charges of ineptitude or mismanagement are to be conceded, as they must, then such contributions need equally to be recognised.

General 5th August, 2003 22:03:41   [#] [2 comments] 

Good News in West Melbourne
Russell Degnan

The Melbourne Times (p5) reports that the 1930s art-deco building at 420 Spencer St. (corner Dudley St.) won't be turned into a 26-storey tower. Not yet anyway.

The area just north of the CBD is primarily 4-storey buildings at the moment, but that is expected to change. According to the VCAT decision:

"43. The conflicting views about the future of the CBD Fringe appear to have had their genesis in the exhibited Amendment C 20 in which the Melbourne City Council's proposal to impose a 28 metre or 8 storey height limit over the area was rejected by the C 20 Panel which recommended that there ought be no height limit. The Minister has subsequently approved DDO 33 for the CBD Fringe and this DDO contains no height limits. The Minister has also approved, almost simultaneous with the approval of the DDO, this application for a 26 storey building on the review site."

VCAT has it both ways stating that, "We reiterate our earlier observations that a building of the scale proposed is not untenable within the CBD Fringe, however we have not been persuaded that a building of that scale is appropriately located on this site and in this location.".

The proposal was also rejected for heritage reasons. As a C graded building a developer only has to maintain the facade - which, having seen it is all I think is worth retaining - but can demolish it if it "is justified for the development of the land". In this case it was decided that that was not the case.

It seems to me that it is an ordinary architect who can't create a modern, interesting apartment building that maintains the facade as it is. Particularly in this case, as the building is on a corner and there is an additional street-scape that could be used for car-parking, shops etc. It also strikes me as odd that an architect - who you'd think would appreciate buildings - would even want to destroy a heritage building. Hopefully this rejection will force the developers to put some thought into their proposals instead of trying to bend the rules to their will.

Planning 1st August, 2003 23:41:08   [#] [1 comment] 

Aaron Hewett

No... this isn't a place to discuss that US series about San Francisco.

This message group is a space for us to share our stories, poems, artwork etc about our urban environment - be it romantic, cynical, abstract or whatever.

Just because we're planning students doesn't mean we're boring - so GET CREATIVE!

If we get a good response, we may even put together a publication!

Let me know if you want to join the Tales of the City group by emailing me or writing your email address in the comments section below.

Tales of the City 1st August, 2003 21:51:34   [#] [0 comments] 


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