Home

Book Club
Career/Education
Environment
General
Melbourne
Places
Planning
Tales of the City
Urban Design

Login

What is neighbourhood character?
Aaron Hewett

According to the Understanding Neighbourhood Character practice note (December 2001) [PDF 60k] -

"All areas have a character in the same way that all people have a personality. In some areas the character may be more obvious, more unusual, or more attractive, but no area can be described as having no character."

The assumption by those who wrote this practice note is that all people have a personality. I have met plenty of people who clearly don't have a personality (or a clue) and I have been to a few neighbourhoods that so lack personality or character that I can feel my own personality being sucked right out of me. Thankfully, in areas so devoid of personality, it is possible to develop something with a personality, so long as it contributes to the preferred neighbourhood character, rather than simply respects the existing so-called neighbourhood character of the area. Furthermore, in accordance with the same practice note:

"Respecting character does not mean preventing change. The neighbourhood character standard is not intended to result in the replication of existing building stock or stop change. Neighbourhood character is one of many objectives that must be met. Some areas will see significant changes as a result of new social and economic conditions, changing housing preferences and explicit housing policies. In these areas, it is important that respecting character is not taken too literally, as a new character will emerge in response to these new social and economic conditions." [emphasis added]

There have been a number of occasions when VCAT has overruled a decision by a Council on the basis of respecting the preferred neighbourhood character of a place compared with the existing neighbourhood character and that a strict literal interpretation of the neighbourhood character objectives when assessing development has been inappropriate (e.g. Desire Australia PL v Boroondara CC VCAT 2210 25/10/05 [RTF]).

Assessing neighbourhood character is difficult because it is rather subjective. What one person feels about a place will be different from another's, as is their understanding of the concept of 'neighbourhood character'. Often neighbourhood character is understood very conservatively by Councils and residents and very liberally by developers and architects.

Neighbourhood character is an often abused concept that tries to make conservatism look respectable. It has been used to argue against the building of mosques, against the building of student apartments and against anything that doesn't fit within a very defined and narrow view of the world. Neighbourhoods should be allowed to change over time and the concept of 'neighbourhood character' should not be hijacked by prejudice and a fear of modern architecture.

What do others think?

Planning 17th December, 2006 12:34:30   [#] 

Comments

What is neighbourhood character?
I agree, but uncomfortably. Where do you stand on poorly-designed brick boxes? Are they part of a suburb's history and therefore part of urban character?
Katherine  23rd December, 2006 22:08:18  

What is neighbourhood character
Oops... I forgot to answer your question. My answer...

I sure hope not.

Let's just hope people come to their senses and articulate a preferred urban character for those areas beyond the flimsy McMansions and assorted rumpus rooms.

I wonder if "radioactive ghost town" can be a preferred neighbourhood character?
Aaron  12th January, 2007 20:38:36  


Archive

December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003

Recent Comments

Optimal stop spacing and
      Russ, Tony Morton
Mode Choice and Rational
      Russ, Jason Murphy
The Gastronomic Pub Crawl
      Russ, Andrew
Monday Melbourne: CCLIV,
      Andrew
Monday Melbourne: CCXXXII
      Russ, Andrew
Monday Melbourne: CCXXXII
      Russ

Melbourne

Scribbling on Bricks
Melbourne 2030 Portal
Melbourne on Transit
Save Our Suburbs
Sustainable Melbourne
Urban Creature

Cities

SevenSixFive
The Next American City
Andrew Blum
Architecture and Morality
Bright Lights Dim Beauty
       of Chicago

Burb
City Comforts
The City Desk
City States
Cyburbia
Diamond Geezer
Forum for Urban Design
Me, My Life +
       Infrastructure

Progressive Reactionary
Rebuilding Place in the
       Urban Space

Smogr
Urban Cartography
Urban Commons
Urban Planning Research
Where

Design and Development

A Daily Dose of
        Architecture

Artect.net
Beyond Brilliance,
       Beyond Stupidity

Brand Avenue
Bricoleurbanism
CoolTown Studios
City of Sound
Curbed [LA] [SF]
Gabion
The Ground Floor
Ksmgrd
Lebbeus Woods
The Measures Taken
Megablog
New (Sub)Urbanism
Private Sector
       Development Blog

Reason Commentaries
Richard Green Sit Down Man, You're
       a Bloody Tragedy

Tropolism
Urban Planning Blog
Veritas et Venustas
Wow Flutter

Culture and Theory

2 Blowhards
Abstract Dynamics
Aesthetic Grounds
Anne Galloway
Barista
James Howard Kunstler
Junk for Code
Karrie Jacobs
Life Without Buildings
Martin Krieger
Neighbourhoods
Neighbourhoods.org
Place Space
Rodcorp
Rough Theory
The Sesquipedalist
Side Effects
Space and Culture
Strange Harvest

Environments

a456
Blog Like You Give a Damn
The Commons Blog
Environmental and
       Urban Economics

Gristmill
Impact Analysis
Jetson Green
Landscape and Urbanism
Muck and Mystery
Oikos
The Perfect City
Pruned
Web Urbanist
World Changing

Transport

cfsmtb in low
       earth orbit

Live from the Third Rail
metro(spo--ka(n')
Peter Gordon's Blog
Streets Blog
Train Blog
The Transportationist

Non Blogs

Planetizen
Planners Web
Project for Public
       Spaces

New Urbanism
American Planning
       Association

Spacing
Polar inertia
Sustainable
       Communities

Australian Policy
       Online

Cyburbia
Liveable Places
butterpaper
Australian Transport
       Discussion Board

Urban Design Forum
Urban Residue
SkyscraperCity
Environmental News
Metropolitan Transport
       Forum