The other evening, I was out walking, when down the footpath came a large old koala wandering down the street on his way to somewhere. He stopped and looked at me and carried on by, just another member of the local Kensington community out for an evening stroll.
Not growing up in Australia, I am still amazed whenever I see the local fauna out and about, especially in an urban situation. My encounter, with our marsupial resident, started me thinking; why is it such an unusual or exceptional event to see koalas or other indigenous animals in our suburbs and why can’t we take a more fauna-centric view towards our cities. Perhaps, if we want our cities to be truly liveable and sustainable for all, we should cast our thinking wider than just the city’s human inhabitants. Is there a benefit to be gained by designing for wildlife in the city? Not simply form the point of view of curiosity, but from an ecosystem wide perspective.
When we add wildlife as a measure of success within our cities we start to add a new level of performance to the planning and design of our urban environments. For example, a measurement of bird species is not simply a count of animals. The type and number birds in an area can also represent the diversity of tree species, habitat quality and extent of urban woodlands in the city. Similarly, the number of koalas in the urban environment could signify the quality of habitat corridors and vegetation, whilst frogs could reflect the health and distribution of the creeks and water bodies. By using animals as a performance measure in our cities, we start to move away from the usual ‘function’ defined outcomes for infrastructure, especially green infrastructure (our creeks, wetlands and open spaces). If we are aiming to create liveable cities, perhaps a more diverse approach to design and planning is needed to allow us to achieve liveable and sustainable environments where bird song, koala sightings, bee hives, butterflies and frog spawn are measures of success rather than the usual social and economic indicators we use today.
Perhaps next time you are out in the suburbs try listening for the bird song and look around you. Does the amount of birds reflect to quality and quantity of trees around you as well as the shade and amenity of the street? Or consider this, if a street has no song, what amenity does it provide for people. How sustainable and liveable is that street?
Accidental Urban Designer – Warwick Keates – Director WAX Design
As a main street Magill Road is central to local community identity, both historically and today as it changes with the times and the needs of the community. Magill Road is home to a mix of traders and artisans focusing on antiques, interiors, gifts, arts, food and beauty. Most business are distinctly individual and reflect the the unique skills, trade, craft and personality of the owners. Magill Road has a point of difference from any other location … you will not find this unique mix of shops in the big shopping centres, nor would these types of businesses generally flourish and survive in these centres.
Many businesses have longstanding relationships with their customers. Most businesses pride themselves in a high level of ‘old fashioned’ personalized customer service. Eureka Antiques has been trading on Magill Road for almost 30 years and is now restoring the furniture of whole extended families and the children of original customers. Magill Road is not about sameness … it is unique, rich in creative energy and full of character. These qualities are integrated with the wider historical and emerging character of the local community and provide enrichment to all.
Peter Young, Eureka Antiques & Gallery
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries economies around the world once again legitimately welcomed some of humanities most long-standing professions into the economy. Creative and cultural industries where embraced and labelled in a way that allowed them to be measured economically. Some of this was due to new technologies mediating creativity, making it easier for them to be commoditised and some, such as art and craft, had always been economic contributors, but through industrialisation had somehow lost their legitimacy in the economy. This loss of legitimacy was partly due to the difficulty in fitting one-off objects into the new industrial framework, and partly due to art theorists who felt that this type of creative work should not be included in the economy. The new terminology of creative/cultural industries allowed a number of disparate economic activities to be linked through the commonality of leveraging intrinsically motivated creativity for economic outcomes. (more…)
When we think of culturally vibrant cities with a strong community focus we often leave out business; it is something practical and removed from us as citizens. It may not be clear at the moment, but we are undergoing a transition from process to creative economies. The very things that make up culture and community will be the stuff of business, but not business as we know it. The great work of local groups like MEGA and Renew Adelaide show that today’s entrepreneurial mind set relies much more on culture and creativity for success and that once barriers are taken away, business suddenly has the potential to be a community and cultural activity, helping us to create the environments we enjoy, not one were we are subservient consumers. South Australia does this sort of thing well, if we look to our strengths, build what suits us and resist the pressure to slavishly copy other cities we will achieve the types of communities we want. We have everything we need right here, we each just need to trust our own vision and come together to make it real.
Gavin Artz, CEO Australian Network for Art and Technology