Presently, State and Local Governments are focused on investing in quick wins for communities that have been devastated by bushfires, droughts, floods and COVID-19. However, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) is calling for a shift in focus from short-term stimulus to long-term liveability.
The rush to parks, cycle tracks and natural environments during lockdown has revealed the country’s great divide and highlighted the lack of accessible open space in the country’s central hubs.
AILA CEO, Ben Stockwin, said the global pandemic has highlighted the strength and vulnerabilities of Australian cities, stressing the need for public spaces to deliver fundamental social, environmental and economic change.
“Social distancing is here to stay, and we can’t rely on our current planning and design to cater to the needs of a post-pandemic environment,” Mr Stockwin said.
“Our hospitality, retail and entertainment sectors can’t continue with half-full venues, while it turns away patrons, in line with its COVID-safe plan. This is completely detrimental to small and medium business, and ultimately, our economy.”
“The COVID-19 recovery in Australia is going to require our outdoor spaces to work harder to meet the new economic and social needs of our communities.”
Mr Stockwin said despite all the challenges the pandemic has delivered, it presents a great opportunity for local governments to rethink how public spaces are used.
“The landscape architecture industry is passionate about human-centric, adaptable design. It’s time our governments start looking at injecting funding into this space as a path to recovery,” he stated.
“There is a broad need to reimagine our public spaces and formulate socially distanced ways to make use of our urban landscapes over the long term. This will partially be a behavioural change, but mostly a design change.”
The AILA has highlighted a need to consider long term adaptation in the planning of cities and regional centres.
“There is a need to establish who were a prioritising in the complex planning and design process, which requires the involvement of local governments, planners, designers and the community,” Mr Stockwin said.
“Are our streets just for moving cars, or should they serve a variety of purposes; moving pedestrians, cyclists, people and public transport, dining, entertainment, retail?”
“In prioritising the space, we need to understand what the trade-off will be. If you plan for cars, you get traffic, but if you plan for people you get destinations.”
“In planning for people, design elements such a widened footpaths, more trees and active transport considerations create safer, more hospitable environments that encourage people to linger longer,” Mr Stockwin shared.
AILA recently hosted its first-ever virtual awards program, highlighting landscape architects who had designed considered places. Winners addressed the need to design spaces for people and social activation, setting the standard for people-oriented infrastructure, environmental enhancement and public realm improvements.
Winning projects that excel in this space include:
- Central Park Public Domain, NSW, by Turf Design Studio with Jeppe Aagaard Andersen
- Brunswick Civic and Cultural Precinct Upgrade, VIC, by Moreland City Council
- Aerodrome Road Intersection, QLD, by Hassell
- Oaklands Crossing Grade Separation, SA, by ASPECT Studios and Cox Architecture
- Darwin Civic and State Square Masterplan, NT, with TCL and Troppo
“If the space and infrastructure exists people are more likely to use it, and less like to jump in their cars,” Mr Stockwin said.
“We are fortunate in Australia to have a lot of open space, we just need to make it more accessible and user friendly.”