Retrofitting suburbia

I am fascinated by efforts to improve the quality of people’s lives through design, especially urban design. So it was great to read about the Designing Out Crime ideas via Mal Booth’s blog the other day, great ideas for reducing crime and anti-social behaviour through design.

Then last night via Twitter came this inspiring TED talk by Ellen Dunham-Jones about retrofitting suburbia, especially repurposing car parks, shopping malls and “big box” suburban stores for a better future. It gave me some ideas about the ghastly shopping centres that were built in Northcote, where I live, in the 1980s that pretty much killed off the street life of nearby High Street.

High Street has been reinvigorated of late though, with lots of cool clothes and book shops, bars and cafes springing up. The coolness suddenly dries up though when you get to the part adjacent to the shopping centres, but even here there are signs of reinvigoration… a couple of apartment blocks are going up, Title have opened a branch of their DVD and book shop with a cafe as well, and of course there’s Human Powered Cycles and the Human Powered Cafe. Even the shopping centre has an apartment tower going up next to it, but it’s still disconnected from the life of High Street and the trams. I might send a letter off to my councilor to see if we can get them to watch the TED Talk… the council has been doing a lot of work to reinvigorate High Street and it really wouldn’t take much to integrate the shopping centres back into the streets.

The City of Melbourne has been doing some good work over the past decade or so to bring life back to the streets and buildings of the city, starting with Jan Gehl’s work for the city council in 1993. This is a great little video. Take a look…


2 responses to “Retrofitting suburbia

  1. I told Ken about my post the other day re the DOC students and he brought up these same laneways in Melbin. He and I both love them. I went to high school down there and have always wanted to return now it is a lot less dull and much more people friendly.

  2. I so wish the planners here in Auckland would do something similar here.

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