Tag Archives: urban

Architectural Wonders

Comment: architectural eyesores and failures

rmitWhen it comes to architectural eyesores and mistakes, there are many. They are not mentioned by the professions.

Once when attending a conference on green roofs, an architect told the story of his first major green roof project. All sounded impressive, until he casually mentioned how it failed and that water penetrated the top floor of the office building.

Continue reading Architectural Wonders

Architecture Eyesores

Commentary: Architecture Basket Cases

rmitI love the joy of good architecture, being both places and buildings. There is something really wonderful when you experience the enjoyment of good design. However there are other contributions that simply take your breath away for all the wrong reasons!

Here are a couple of gems.

Continue reading Architecture Eyesores

LA for bikes

Los Angeles a city for cyclists?

LALA wasn’t always a driver’s town. In the 1920s, it had the longest urban rail network in the world, and innovative infrastructure was built for cyclists as well. Despite this, Angelenos fell in love with the car early on and moved for more highway projects, making it the road-based city it is today.

click here for the story.

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Paul Costigan, 19 August 2014

Urbanity: Canberra Planning & Development

Commentary: The problems of Canberra’s Planning & Development

watson-House-P1030003Canberra, as with most major centres in Australia, is caught up in complex and sometimes nasty urban planning debates.

On the one side there is the property council groupings that include the gung-ho developers*, and their colleagues amongst the architects, planners and the planning authorities.

Continue reading Urbanity: Canberra Planning & Development

Embassy Architecture – Solomon Islands

Review: Embassy Architecture in Canberra

The Solomon Islands High Commission1-solomonP1060929I spotted this example of successful embassy architecture as I was driving past to have lunch at the Beaver Gallery Cafe in Deakin. From the available online information (and there’s not much) I think these new buildings for the High Commission for the Solomon Islands were completed around 2011/2012.

Continue reading Embassy Architecture – Solomon Islands

Architecture of Enjoyment

Announcement: New Book on Architecture
Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, 2014, Author: Henri Lefebvre

image_miniI’m about to get my hands on a copy of this book. Having read some of the commentary about the author and the concepts he is dealing with, the book reinforces the need for more discussion about the topic of enjoyment of architecture and urban spaces.

My life is already involved with dealing with planning bureaucracies that lack vision and any notion of good design. I have posted several times about the blandness of architecture in our cities.

Continue reading Architecture of Enjoyment

Hospital Architecture Brisbane

Review:  Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital

photographed late June/early July 2014 – due to open later in 2014

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On two recent visits to Brisbane I noticed this new hospital building under construction in South Brisbane.  I first noticed it as while crossing the river.  I was impressed that at last there was something in the area that was not simply bland-box architecture. (click on photographs to enlarge)

Continue reading Hospital Architecture Brisbane

National Capital Authority

The NCA is no longer relevant

An opportunity has presented itself with the Commonwealth Government’s announcement to allow the National Capital Authority (NCA) to open up the Parliamentary Triangle to more commercial opportunities. (CT 12 July, Page 1, Shopping in the triangle? It’s a private matter)

I have no problem at all with more commercial activity happening within the Parliamentary Triangle. The question is just how to intelligently implement such a change to this landscape that presently serves as a national monument.

Continue reading National Capital Authority

Urban Trees

Comment and Link to UK article on Urban Trees

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I have the benefit of living in a suburb with plenty of tree cover. In fact the view outside onto the streets is almost as if the street is a parkland. The concept that any suburb should have an abundance of trees and shrubs and associated bio-diversity is simply so logical that one wonders why would anyone think otherwise.

Continue reading Urban Trees

Sydney Urbanity and Architecture

Is architecture is failing contemporary Sydney? Part One

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There is no doubt that the City of Sydney and its harbour are magnificent to behold. (click on the photo to enlarge). The mix of built structures really makes for a view that demands you take the time to stare, contemplate and to just enjoy it for as long as it takes. However…..

Continue reading Sydney Urbanity and Architecture

Prince Alfred Park Sydney

Review: Inner city park/ Prince Alfred Park
The redevelopment of Prince Alfred Park Sydney

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It should always be celebrated when a city council looks after its city parks.  The property and development lobbies of this world see these public spaces as potential for profit-making development sites and would be always on hand to lobby for any reduction such public open spaces. Prince Alfred Park in Surrey Hills in Sydney has just benefited from a wise city council that has invested in some upgrades on this fabulous inner city parkland.

Continue reading Prince Alfred Park Sydney

Just Say No

Comment: on being True to the Planet can mean sometimes you have to just say no.

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How are we being served by our professions in their provision of buildings and landscape projects? The highest priority for the future of the planet remains that every action be taken in the context of addressing climate change adaptation.

Continue reading Just Say No

Brisbane Ugly Part Six

Urbanity: More on comments by Alain de Botton, Part Six of Six

That parts of Brisbane are ugly and the local government has allowed this to happen

Part Six of Six  – some final words

See previous:  Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five

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Brisbane definitely would not win any ‘most attractive city award’.

Continue reading Brisbane Ugly Part Six

Brisbane Ugly Part Five

Urbanity: Following up comments by Alain de Botton, Part five/six

That parts of Brisbane are ugly and the local government has allowed this to happen

Beauty in urban development is something we should insist on!

Part Five of Six  – South Bank and West End.

Links to all:  Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six

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There is no doubt that there are aspects of Brisbane that a far more interesting than the city centre. South Bank and the West End are such places. South Bank Parklands have been managed well for years up till now – but I am not so sure about the current management.

South Bank is a place for leisure, for the family, for picnics, for food and cafes and the cultural centres, for events, and especially for culture such as visits to the state gallery.

Continue reading Brisbane Ugly Part Five

Brisbane Ugly Part Four

Urbanity:
Following up comments by Alain de Botton, Part Four of Six

That parts of Brisbane are ugly and the local government has allowed this to happen

Beauty in urban development is something we should insist on!

Part Four – nearby the Brisbane Central District

Links to all:  Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six

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There are aspects of Brisbane are beautiful. The river is magic. The photo above, taken some years back illustrates this. The evening lights enhance the unfortunate placement of major roads along the river’s edge. These freeways are transport engineering successes but are barriers to any hope of joining the city to the river.

Continue reading Brisbane Ugly Part Four

Brisbane Ugly Part Three

Urbanity: Following up comments by Alain de Botton, Part Three

That parts of Brisbane are ugly and the local government has allowed this to happen

Beauty in urban development is something we should insist on!

Part Three – Brisbane Central District

Links to all:  Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six

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The central area of the city of Brisbane has evolved into a modern city with many historic buildings surviving. These heritage buildings are now surrounded by an over abundance of glass and concrete walls of taller office building. It is not a pretty sight.

Continue reading Brisbane Ugly Part Three

Brisbane Ugly part Two

Urbanity: Following up on comments by Alain de Botton, Part Two

That parts of Brisbane are ugly and the local government has allowed this to happen

Beauty in urban development is something we should insist on!

Part Two – arriving from the airport

Links to all:  Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six

tunnel_729-620x349 Continue reading Brisbane Ugly part Two

New Acton Precinct, Canberra

Review: Urbanity
New Acton Precinct, Canberra

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There was much ado about this whole precinct development when it was being built and this continues through to today. Having visited the site a few times now, to meander, to eat, to meet for coffee and the occasional business, I have to say that it is a very mixed result. It is worth a visit on a busy day to see for yourself. But it does not match some of the rhetoric that has been put about – click here for an example of some project-porn spin*.

Continue reading New Acton Precinct, Canberra

Brisbane Ugly Part One

Urbanity:
Following up on comments by Alain de Botton, Part One of Six

That parts of Brisbane are ugly and the local government has allowed this to happen

Beauty in urban development is something we should insist on!

Part One – commenting on the News and its response to Alain

Links to all:  Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six

botton-bris

A mild storm recently broke in the media around comments made by Alain de Botton. To view one Brisbane local news piece on this and see Alain respond – click here. I was alerted to there being something wrong here when certain commentators responded. Oh the media just did not read his new book on the media!

Continue reading Brisbane Ugly Part One

Democracy and Tecoma

Opinion: Democracy at work – or not

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The McDonalds versus the town of Tecoma story as reported earlier, click here, has come to a sad close with the locals having lost the battle. Despite the majority of the citizens not wanting to have a McDonalds outlet within their village like precinct, the planning regulators ruled that what the citizens requested had no bearing on the outcome.

Continue reading Democracy and Tecoma

Los Angeles in 2033

From The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post presents a wonderfully optimistic report about a city that is often regarded as being a terrible example of urban development. I disagree. It has many things wrong with it but if you spend time there you can see that there are some really great things happening. All cities have their problems and many do not much to boast about.

Continue reading Los Angeles in 2033

North Canberra Greenway

A brief concept proposal:
The North Canberra Greenway and Artwalk.

This is a proposal to enhance some present green infrastructure within inner north Canberra.

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The North Canberra Greenway could be formed by linking and then enhancing the present green infrastructure elements throughout inner north Canberra.

Continue reading North Canberra Greenway

Equity and Parks

Urbanity: Parks for everyone

glebe-P1000979There’s many a piece of research and publication about the links between access to parks and people’s health and wellbeing. Any urban area that includes ample public green spaces will always be sought after and the benefits are evident in the community attitudes towards their residential areas. Parks enhance the sense of community.

Continue reading Equity and Parks

The Farrell Review UK

Report: The Built Environment

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In January 2013 the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, commissioned a review of architecture and the built environment. The report is now available online.  The recommendations covered: Education, Outreach and Skills; Design Quality; Cultural Heritage; Economic Benefits; and Built Environment Policy.

See our other blog for more details and comments click here

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Paul Costigan, 2 April 2014

Happy City

Reviews: Book

Happy City, Charles Montgomery, 2013

From the blurb online:

“A brilliant, entertaining and vital book. Montgomery deftly leads us from our misplaced focus on money, cars and stuff to consider what makes us truly happy. Then everything changes – the way we live, work and play in humanity’s major habitat, the city.” – David Suzuki

Continue reading Happy City

Lawns of Kingston

Opinion: the Lawns of Kingston return

Beware politicians and designers: We love our Lawns

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In a previous post I had spoken of Australia’s love of the lawn. (click here)

In particular I mentioned a local battle over Green Square at the Kingston Shops in Canberra whereby the local government had replaced a green square of lawn with a designed space,  complete with brick walls and seating and drought friendly, low maintenance plants.

Continue reading Lawns of Kingston

Leadership in Design

Leadership in design of the built environment

watson-House-P1030003 I was attending a meeting of combined community council two years ago, when to members of the public who were in attendance made very similar appeals. Both were very upset with the quality of the redevelopments that had appeared within their street, despite the local communities objections about key aspects of the developments.

As far as I could ascertain, they were not necessarily opposed to the infill of their suburb. It was more about the nature of the apartments being built.

Continue reading Leadership in Design

Cotter Dam Artwork

Review: Public Art

A review of the artwork at the Cotter Dam site.

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There is just one lone piece of art at the new Cotter Dam site.  I am not sure of its placement on the fairly bare site in front of the very dominating new dam wall. Seems no creative landscape design was employed to enhance its placement.

Continue reading Cotter Dam Artwork

Cotter Dam

Review: The Cotter Dam Site

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Late in 2013, there was much ado in Canberra about the completion of the new Cotter Dam. The new wall is a replacement and enlargement of the previous dam on the Cotter River. It was built as a result of the ten-year drought and the need for water security for Canberra.

The surrounding recreational areas had been devastated in the 2003 bush fires and the whole area has been rejuvenated to once again be a reaction area for locals and visitors on the outskirts of the capital.

Continue reading Cotter Dam

Grace Marchant Garden

Review: Grace Marchant Garden, San Francisco
Location the Filbert Steps between Telegraph Hill Boulevard down to Levi Plaza and the Embarcadero.

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This is a story about local people caring for their own. In the first instance one woman’s determination to make the open space beautiful around her new home. And then a story about the local community who have since stepped in to keep and maintain her legacy, now called the Grace Marchant Garden.

Continue reading Grace Marchant Garden

Urban Heat

Opinion: Urban Trees and Heat
A case study of neglect and willful blindness?

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There was a routine piece in the Canberra Times about the current heat wave, temperature around and above 40 Degrees Celsius, and backyard trees or in some case about the lack of them. The article pointed to the now well established reality, that during such times those residential properties that lacked shade were suffering higher temperatures.

Continue reading Urban Heat

Tecoma

Urbanity: A tale of community action

Tecoma community objects to Big Mac development

Occasionally in Australia it still happens that a community gets their collective act together to take on the local authorities over some stupid planning decisions. I have been involved in such an action – the Great Marsden Street Battle.

It also happens that communities take the ‘shocking’ decision to say no to the invasion of one of the big box retailers, or in this case one of the big fast food giants.

The outer Melbourne community of Tecoma was awakened one day in 2011 to the imminent invasion into their picturesque community of Macdonalds.

Continue reading Tecoma

Dogs

Opinion: Domestic dogs and their owners

It was while staying with friends on holidays that I took the opportunity to occasionally take their dog for its evening walk. The dog is a very friendly and well-behaved golden retriever. While walking this happy animal I was reminded of the feelings I have sometimes when approaching a person walking a dog. It happened a couple of times that I could see people move out-of-the-way as I approached with the dog.

Continue reading Dogs

Canberra Urbanity

Opinion: Northbourne Avenue re-development

I quote from the Canberra Times 10 December 2013: “Strong commercial demand is expected for ACT government-owned properties along Northbourne Avenue that will be sold for redevelopment.”

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Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Parks Public Private

Review: Grand Hope Park Los Angeles

This is an opinion piece, not just on a particular park, but about the story behind the park. This park is run by a not-for-profit organization. Should there be more of these in Australia as local government budgets get squeezed and the green infrastructure, trees etc, are being placed low on the priority? Many parks and recreation managers, urban tree supervisors and/or landscape project officers tell the same tale that their resources are being reduced and even the day-to-day maintenance is falling behind.

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Continue reading Parks Public Private

Canberra Urbanity: Marsden Street

An Anniversary

About two years ago, during 2010 – 2011, this quiet residential area in the inner north of Canberra was the battle ground over a very silly proposed redevelopment of two blocks of land.

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Once the residents had been through the tribunal process, and before the decisions were handed down, the complex chain of events was documented. It is called Do Onto Others.

It is a long read – click here.

Canberra Urbanity

Climate Change adaptation falters in the suburbs

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Dealing with the complex issues of climate change adaptation should by now have become a priority and part of the everyday for any local government in their oversight of design, planning, development and the re-development of our settlements.

Here in Canberra we have been the subject of a decade or two of pronouncements from newly appointed chief planners on how they are to oversee development that is sustainable and .. lots of other spin that always sounds so sensible!

Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity: Jack Ross Park

Review: Landscape Architecture/Parks

Jack Ross Park, Kingston Foreshore, Canberra

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This is a first venture into the new park within the slowly evolving foreshore development at Kingston , Canberra. First impressions are of lots of detail, very contemporary and any park besides the lake is to be a welcomed addition to local amenities.

Continue reading Canberra Urbanity: Jack Ross Park

Singapore Bishan Park

Review: Landscape Architecture/ Park Design

Bishan Park Singapore

Question? Can a professional in a large bureaucracy bring about change?

bishan-park-before

The above image is of Bishan Park in Singapore until a senior landscape architect within the Parks Board had a great idea. Why not change this unattractive engineered solution back to being part of the river? Apparently he pushed hard for the idea to be taken up and eventually won the day. We visited this park in 2012 and were impressed by the difference a great idea and determination can deliver to the local population.

Continue reading Singapore Bishan Park

Canberra Urbanity

 Canberra’s Champs-Elysees? Get Real!

The redevelopment of Canberra’s Constitution Avenue has been long in coming and the ACT Government has today announced its plans for the next stage.

Unfortunately someone has bravely announced that it will be Canberra’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Does that mean there will be an equivalent of the Arc de triomphe, the avenue is to be lined with large international expensive shops, huge crowds day and night, massive amounts of traffic (four lanes each side) and a host of ever-present scammers and pick-pockets.

Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Art in the Streets

Street Art – A collection of images – in progress

Much of the current crop of graffiti and street art consists of the signatures and/or some brightly coloured clichéd scrawls. There’s also the more subtle and creative.

The latter is so much more fun. And things that bring a smile when everyone wants to be ever so serious about anything and everything, must be a good thing. Bring it on.

Continue reading Art in the Streets

Canberra Urbanity

The next Northbourne Avenue

The basics of a proposal for rethinking this important piece of Green Infrastructure

NrthBourne-P1020067The main road into Canberra from the north has been the topic of much debate following the ACT Government’s announcement that it is build a light rail with the route being from Civic to the newer suburbs of Gungahlin. In the wings sits the developer lobby as this transport initiative would provide the final green light for the major intensification of the commercial and residential buildings along the full length of Northbourne Ave

Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

Anzac Parade: A mixed tale of Trees and Lights

Trees are important in our urban environments. They are part of our urban green infrastructure and perform important roles assisting in health and well-being as well as climate change adaptation.

And they are just beautiful.  I like trees.

Anzac-trees01 Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

The New Northbourne Avenue

There has been a bit of noise of late around the proposals that the ACT Government is to introduce a light rail system into Canberra. In the first instance the rail will connect the inner north and the newer northern suburbs through to Civic, the main CBD area.

The light rail should have been there at least 20 years ago. It will be an interesting problem to make it viable now. Some form of transit system is required but so much of the infrastructure around it will need to be also altered. The city was built for cars. Many issues to be worked through. For instance ….

Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Signs of Life

Review: Signs that assist us daily

Always interested in how signs work and how our environment is being cluttered with so many well-meaning signs. Here’s one from near the Canberra airport.

This sign warns drivers to watch out for a certain animal (kangaroo) that apparently is much larger than humans. Note the size of the creature in relation to the human being in front of it.

I suggest that anyone driving along this road should definitely keep an eye for this giant.

Maybe it is a warning to parents about how dangerous giant kangaroos are to children.

(click on the image for a larger version)

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Canberra Urbanity

Thinking outside that box

originally published Monday, 16 September 2013

Civic was established to be the main metropolitan centre of Canberra. Back in the 1970s and into the 1980s this was the heart of Canberra and had developed its own culture. People would go there to be seen, to meet and to shop. The outer centres were yet to offer the same level of amenity.

The Canberra Centre was a small mall. So most of action was out in the open areas, Petrie Plaza and Garema Place and the spaces along City Walk.

Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

Are we to be served?

originally published Monday, 9 September 2013

I was having a quiet moment with friends at the Dickson shops last Friday, when we noticed that we were being circled by three senior ACT Planning officials. We recognised two of them as senior planners, the other was the legal combatant from the famous Marsden Steer battle (link to follow).

shops-P1010597We remembered well this guy’s vicious treatment of the residents who were appealing the planning decisions. His way of dealing with the case was best summed up by another resident (a mother) who said, ” now I know where those playground bullies end up!”

Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

original published November 2010

DESIGNS ON THE FUTURE FOR CANBERRA RESIDENTS

The debate in Canberra, particularly around my own suburb of Dickson, of the future of infill and the need to redevelop our suburbs has now focussed on the dire need to change the way this territory does the business of planning and development. The Canberra community is not fighting to halt development, but is wishing to influence the planning and development decisions to ensure that development delivers on the needs of present and future generations, the young and the elderly, and need to address the full range of human and environmental issues – being housing, health, ecology, transport – and you know the rest. Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

Are we being served?

Originally published January 2011

Christmas meanderings through Canberra inner north suburbs was a very pleasant way of exercising. The streets were very quiet and the weather very accommodating for these excursions. It was also a timely chance to observe the local levels of commitment to dealing with climate change. It seems every other street in inner Canberra has some form of house being rebuilt or refurbished. But the real attention within the local communities has been on proposals for knocking down adjoining homes and their replacement with multiple units. Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

The Dangers of being Malled

originally published December 2010

In late 2010 I took a photo of a Christmas tree in the main street of Geelong. The structure was all lit up and stood a proud three stories high. What is striking about this image, taken around 5pm one evening, is that there are so few people in the photograph. Elsewhere at this time of the year the streets and plazas are busy with Christmas shoppers and those out for a very warm evening’s promenade. Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

Views from the front veranda

originally published December 2010

There’s something very peaceful about returning to this suburban street after working interstate for too long and too often. Here we sit amongst the intense greenery of Dickson, the rush of breezes amongst the lush trees with the occasional squawk or chirping of birds. Layered on this filters in the voices and music of the three young renters next door, the sounds of the baby from the newly arrived couple across to the left, the chatter of the seven-year old with her parents heading out on bikes, the sound of students coming and going down the road, and of course, a dog or two (as there always seems to be around here). Maybe soon this will be joined by the sound of one of the immediate neighbours and their teenage children enjoying dinner outside tonight. A diverse mixture in such a small part of Dickson. And this is what the ACT Planning Minister sees as a threat! Continue reading Canberra Urbanity

Canberra Urbanity

ROAMING your backyard

originality published 2010

I took a call recently from a local newspaper. I was being asked to comment on the future my own neighbourhood and a recent meeting between residents and ACT Government officials. What the journalist did not appreciate is that I was sitting on the side of my vege garden having been interrupted planting the summer crop of vegetables (it was Sunday). However the situation of talking politics from my own backyard was very appropriate. Continue reading Canberra Urbanity