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Brisbane Holds ‘Ideas Fiesta’ for City Plan

Rendering of a pedestrian-friendly concept at the Ideas Fiesta, which features a promenade
One of the pedestrian-friendly concepts presented at the Ideas Fiesta is City Reach by Archipelago Architects, of Brisbane, which features a promenade intended draw more people to the river. © Archipelago Architects

The fast-growing Australian city celebrates design ideas proposed for its new master plan and welcomes feedback through a robust social media campaign.

June 18, 2013—Brisbane’s city council recently concluded an innovative “Ideas Fiesta,” which celebrated the work being done to develop a new master plan for the central area of Australia’s third-largest city. More than 16,000 people attended the three-week street festival, which showcased ideas for the future of the fast-growing city and collected public feedback. A companion online campaign logged 1.2 million social media website hits.

“The aim of the Ideas Fiesta was to generate new ideas, evoke discussion, and stimulate interest in imagining the future of Brisbane’s city center,” said Anita Marron, the city council’s media and public relations officer, in written comments to Civil Engineering online. “We wanted to provide a platform for the community, organizations, institutions, businesses, and government to come together and initiate change while actively enlivening our city spaces. We wanted to inspire and create ownership.”

The city developed the City Centre Master Plan in 2006, but since then its population has grown by approximately 11 percent, in part because of a strong natural resources sector that contributes $25 billion to the local economy. Scientific, research, and educational institutions are another growth sector in the city’s economy.

“The economic activity generated by Asia’s demand for resources is generating a critical mass of investment, innovation, and enterprise within the city [and] across the resource sector and resource-servicing industries such as professional services, manufacturing, and transport,” Marron said.

This strong growth is projected to continue into 2031. It is expected that approximately 9,000 new residential units will be added to the city center by then, leading in part to a projected 100 percent increase in ridership in public transportation. In addition to the new residents, the area is expected to add as much as 800,000 m2 of new office space and 75,000 m2 of retail space.

The city center occupies a peninsula formed by a bend in the Brisbane River, and the area is already highly developed. One of the challenges to a new master plan is finding sites for redevelopment that can accommodate the large floor plates that businesses are seeking, Marron said.

As part of the Ideas Fiesta, the city council invited design teams to present concepts for 17 key city center areas. The teams chose the areas in which they wanted to work and were selected on the basis of their expertise, track record, and enthusiasm, Marron said.

Many of the ideas directly address the feedback that the city council has already received during the process, which began last year with a series of workshops. The master plan is being developed by a team that includes consultants from the planning and design firm Urbis, of Brisbane, and the design studio Lat27, of Newstead, Australia.

“The most common points of discussion from the industry workshops and community feedback relate to ambitions for a greener, more vibrant 24-hour city center with pop-up events, more dining and entertainment options, creative lighting, and pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly streets,” Marron said.

Several of the projects presented in the Ideas Fiesta address the goal of pedestrian friendliness. The firm Richard Kirk Architect, of Brisbane, presented a design for a curved suspension bridge for pedestrians that would connect Alice Street to Kangaroo Point, an area highly prized for its dramatic views of the city.

Another walkway design was developed by AECOM, headquartered in Los Angeles. The Bolt, a dramatic network of walkways visually inspired by a bolt of lightning, would connect the neighborhood of Woolloongabba to the central business district. The network would include a new pedestrian bridge and a treetop walkway through the City Botanic Gardens.

A design proposed by Urbis calls for a luxury retail district that would feature wide, tree-lined sidewalks. Urbis has also proposed a series of improvements to the City Botanic Gardens that would enable them to function as a community gathering place and would better connect them to the river.

“Over 20 years of river-focused strategies have resulted in the creation of some of our most-loved parks, neighborhoods, lifestyle precincts, and cultural destinations,” Marron said. “Investments in riverside pathways, bridges, and river-based transport are bringing economic benefits. A key outcome of this master plan is to continue to build upon our recent successes in physically, culturally, and economically engaging our city center with the river.”

To this end the Brisbane-based firm Archipelago has developed a concept called City Reach, which features a riverside promenade to draw more people to the river.

The city council is weighing the design proposals and public feedback from the festival and is developing priorities. Residents are using the city’s social media site to suggest ideas that have worked in other cities. The council is currently “going through the process of collating all the ideas and must then work out practical ways for delivering and prioritizing projects,” Marron said. The priorities assigned to the chosen projects and the methods and schedules for delivering them will be reflected in the new master plan. The plan will be released for “community consultation” in late August, she said, and a statutory plan for completing the projects should be drafted in 2014.


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