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September 2012

Exploring Urban Density: Maximising the Health Benefits and Minimising the Harm

The Heart Foundation presented an interactive seminar ‘Exploring Urban Density: Maximising the Health Benefit and Minimising the Harm’ on the 17th of August. The keynote speaker, Professor Billie Giles-Corti (University of Melbourne and University of Western Australia) discussed the link between the built environment and health. The evidence in support of density in terms of health benefits conveyed through walkability and access to amenities is increasing, however, Professor Giles-Corti asks what is ‘good’ density from a health perspective? What are the intended and unintended consequences of increased density? What types of amenities are associated with positive health in denser areas?

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healthy cities, urban planning, density, sustainable, urban design

Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation Update

David Lock Associates’ partnership with the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation (through Engineers Without Borders) has been bolstered by the appointment of 3 new Yorta Yorta staff.  Shane Charles, Aretha Briggs and Neil Morris have joined the partnership and bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience (not to mention a cracking sense of humour) which has reinvigorated the partnership’s enthusiasm and commitment. 

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social, visioning

August 2012

Urban Design Practice.
An International Review

Australia is a developed, highly urbanised and comparatively prosperous nation.  It is relatively sparsely populated in low-density towns and cities which hug its coastline.  These urban centres, mainly developed in the last 150-200 years, are generally sprawling, car-dependent places dominated by detached houses. Current urban design challenges include retrofitting cities to improve their sustainability and resilience to a changing climate, while also accommodating escalating housing demand fuelled by population growth, falling household size and an ageing population.

Download the review.


July 2012

An A-Z of Urban Design concepts (and their misuse) part 2

C is for Character

The concept of neighbourhood character has turned Melbourne’s suburbs into an endless battleground pitching residents against developers, with planners stuck in the middle.
Most of the arguments about character relate to density.  People are familiar with the manifestations of their neighbourhood’s density – such as the vibrancy of Fitzroy or the greenness of Donvale – and they fear change to it.

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Design Quality

Mark Sheppard, Urban Designer at David Lock Associates

As our cities densify, and taller buildings become more common, design quality has become increasingly important for developers, planning authorities and communities.

Lower, infill buildings have relatively limited impact on the visual quality of the urban environment, rarely being visible beyond their street-block. Taller buildings, on the other hand, are visible across a much broader area. This has a significant influence on the character and future appeal of whole urban districts.

A prominent mediocre building can blight its vicinity by downgrading the identity of the area and affecting the outlook of existing and yet-to-be constructed nearby buildings. In contrast, an award-winning design sets a benchmark for quality that raises expectations and can fundamentally shape the image of its surroundings. At its height, the ‘Bilbao Guggenheim effect’ can transform a whole city. Quite simply, the architectural quality of prominent buildings can have a positive or negative effect on large numbers of people.

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Visioning Victoria

Max Walton, Senior Urban Planner and David Klingberg, Principal, David Lock Associates

Every now and again, it’s a good idea to take stock of where we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re headed. 

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about what the future is going to look like and a lot of energy is being put into how best to make this a reality.  Good policy development takes time.  But in the meantime, are we losing sight of the here and now?

Despite the work being done inside government departments and ministerial offices on a new Metropolitan Strategy for Melbourne and the Regional Growth Plans for Victoria, we are not engaged in a genuine discourse about what a spatial vision for Victoria should actually entail.

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Urbanized: A Lesson in Engagement and Communication

Recently staff from the DLA office joined 900 Melbournians at the Capitol Theatre for a screening of 'Urbanized: A Conversation About Urban Futures'. The film was followed by a panel starring Rob Adams (City of Melbourne), Gretchen Wilkins (RMIT) and Michael Trudgeon (Victorian Eco Innovation Lab).

The 90-minute flick included images that showcased many of the case studies that are well known throughout the industry. These include biking in Copenhagen, bus-rapid-transiting in Bogota, highlining in New York and slumming in Mumbai.

The film was simple but rich, communicating a number of urban design principles in a way that was accessible for those without experience in the field. It conveyed different perspectives and viewpoints on key issues affecting most global cities such as urban sprawl and transport and community engagement.

It also really emphasised a bottom-up approach to design (with examples from South Africa, Detroit and Chile). The focus was on small interventions that can make a significant difference in the way people experience their city.

Staff were able to take away how to present ideas to engage the general population about urban design, planning, landscape etc in an informative and visual way. Planning and urban design should be more accessible to the general population and making films like this can only help make people more aware.

A short preview is available (charges apply for the full version).

Victorian Planning Zone Reforms

Last week, the Minister for Planning released a suite of planning reforms for Victoria that include some of the biggest changes to planning zones since the late 1990s. According to DPCD, these reforms seek to allow a broader range of activities to be considered, improve the range of zones to better manage growth and simplify requirements.

The major changes are for residential, farming and commercial zones. 

Key changes to the residential zones include:

  • The existing Residential 1, 2 and 3 Zones will be replaced with Neighbourhood Residential, General Residential and Residential Growth zones.
  • The Neighbourhood Residential Zone aims to restrict housing growth in areas identified for preservation. According to the Minister, in this zone, you can expect to see single dwellings with some dual occupancy. 
  • The General Residential Zone will be used 'in most residential areas where modest growth and diversity of housing is provided' (consistent with existing neighbourhood character). In this zone, you can expect to see medium density housing, with a mixture of townhouses and apartments.
  • Lastly, the Residential Growth Zone will be applied in 'appropriate locations near activity centres, train stations and other areas suitable for increased housing activity'. In this zone, you can expect to find apartments and town houses of up to 3 storeys and higher.

Further information to each of the zones can be found on the Department of Planning and Community website.

Comment on the proposed residential, commercial, industrial and rural planning zone reforms will be received by 5.00 p.m. on 21 September 2012.


During the first week of July David Lock Associates got involved in NAIDOC week celebrations at the Darnya Centre in Barmah, regional Victoria. (NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.)

NAIDOC week celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and recognises contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields. Several local councils in Victoria and interstate, including Parramatta, Hobson’s Bay, Darwin and Moreland promote and sponsor activities throughout the week.

DLA, as part of the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation partnership, is working alongside Engineers Without Borders and GHD to deliver a number of projects for the Yorta Yorta Nation.

Working on a pro bono basis DLA are developing a Vision Document that paints a picture for the future use of Yorta Yorta nation assets and places. This will lead to self determination, business development, training and cultural development and renaissance benefiting the Yorta Yorta Nation and the wider community.

At the NAIDOC week celebrations DLA participated in a number of workshops with the local community, both indigenous and non-indigenous, to raise awareness of sustainability and the local environment.
NAIDOC week is a great time to reflect on how to further develop cross-cultural partnerships and and raise awareness of indigenous inequality issues.

DLA shortlisted for Capithetical Competition

DLA is hosting a collaborative consortium of design studios that includes here studio and ARUP that has been shortlisted in the international Capithetical competition. As one of 114 entries from 24 countries, DLA is now one of 20 entries moving onto the next stage. Our team name is 'The Engagement Studio'.

The idea of the competition was to imagine a hypothetical new capital city for Australia. You could choose to upgrade Canberra (or leave it the same!), build a whole new capital city, or do something completely different.

Our team considered the idea of a capital that moves around Australia every few years to where it most needed – a roving capital that acts as an impetus for revitalisation and regeneration.

The construction of necessary capital facilities is designed with the intention of their use after the capital has moved on. To ensure not to leave buildings and infrastructure behind that are not required. The design of each capital begins years before it moves in, with a grassroots, bottom up process of deep engagement with the community.

Congratulations to everyone on all the short listed teams.

An A-Z of Urban Design concepts (and their misuse) part 1

A is for Active frontages
“Active frontages” has become the ubiquitous catch cry of planners and urban designers.  Activity centre structure plans are liberally festooned with stressed street edges.  But is it a case of active frontages everywhere, nor any latte to drink?  (Sorry, Sam.)

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A City with no vision - what is the plan for Melbourne?

Max Walton Senior Urban Planner at David Lock Associates

Whilst the announcement of a ‘bold’ new vision for Melbourne’s Central Business District was identified by the Minister for Planning as the prelude to much broader engagement on the new Metro Strategy there remains a genuine lack of transparent discourse on city planning in Melbourne and Victoria. The lack of such an open and honest discussion on the future of Melbourne has created a vacuum of strategic planning policy. This could be a missed opportunity to re-evaluate city planning in Melbourne and the State. This paper argues that a more spatial approach to planning in Victoria is required, one that results in a clearly understood and agreed city vision and framework.

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