There’s no doubt about it – Perth is in the midst of a huge growth spurt, with new, large-scale works such as Elizabeth Quay, Northbridge Link, the Scarborough Redevelopment and multiple apartment and housing developments attracting the opinions of design industry professionals and the general public.
Ideas are being formed with the awareness that buildings alone won’t create a city, and that it’s a sense of community through shared public spaces that residents are now craving.
“The current generation of first homebuyers is opting for place over space,” says Paul Edwards, director of Site Architecture. “This is driving the demand for higher density living in and around Perth and access to quality public spaces.”
A vocal minority still holds on to the great suburban dream of the large plot of land in the suburbs, however Clinton Matthews, Director of Lantern Creative, says the number of high-rise apartment buildings still under design, construction and development in Perth defies the naysayers through the volume of product sales.
In 2013, the Office of the Government Architect launched Better Places and Spaces: a policy for the built environment in Western Australia. Aimed at improving the quality of the public realm, it focuses on raising industry and community awareness of good design and promotes sustainability design principles.
“All too often these spaces are attenuated to meet an immediate budget without a holistic approach to issues such as physical and mental health, environmental sustainability and potential crime,” says Matthews. “There needs to be greater consideration of the building interface with the public realm when being designed.”
The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA), who are delivering a number of transformational high profile projects across Perth, are leaders in the place making approach to design and project delivery.
“Perth City Link and Elizabeth Quay are changing the face of our city, so it is vital that we design these places around people. Our place-focused approach ensures that public spaces and the people who will use them are at the forefront of the planning process,” said MRA chief executive officer, Kieran Kinsella. “We are working to create new urban communities with a sense of belonging, where people want to live, work and play.”
Along with Perth’s ever expanding population comes the realisation that low density, single lot, single storey housing is an unsustainable typology that exacerbates urban sprawl and causes devastation to the hinterland landscapes of Perth. John Tuzee, director of PLAN E Landscape Architects, explains that the overall result in new subdivisions is an endless sea of roofs with very little relief from greenery and vegetation.
“Our parks and open spaces are proving to be the only opportunities in these new suburban developments where existing vegetation and landscape character can be retained, or where significant landscape amenity can be provided in the form of recreational opportunities and vegetation re-establishment,” Tuzee says. With that being said, the importance of getting the design of these spaces right is imperative.
Edwards believes making a public space through good design principles is only part of the solution, and that good public space comes from activation. “Local councils, corporations and not-for-profit bodies are continually planning and improving events and activities in underutilised public spaces,” he says. Perth is now home to movies on the rooftop of the Roe Street City of Perth Carpark, markets in the Perth Cultural Centre, a colourful array of FORM’s recent public art installations across the city and regional WA, and so much more in the shift towards supporting and encouraging more vibrant public spaces, and carving out an identity that is truly unique to Western Australia.
Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority
PLAN E Landscape Architects