Urban Street Design

What do these two streets have in common?

A street in West End (2km from central Brisbane) and a street in Heathwood (20 km from central Brisbane). Source: Google Streetview

Not much at a first glance. One is high density, within walking distance of central Brisbane. The other is a peripheral suburban development.

What they do have in common is that all these buildings were constructed in the last decade, and these streetscapes both completely lack any public realm.

What is public realm?

It’s the other place we go when we’re not at home or at work. It’s public spaces that encourage organic social interaction.

And it’s something that conventional urban planning has struggled to deliver, at high and low residential densities.

Why do we need change?

Our cities and our streets should be vibrant places where people meet, travel and interact. They should be pleasant spaces where people of all ages and abilities feel safe, that are pleasant to travel in.

Streets also make up 80% of the public space in our cities (NACTO 2013).

Current urban design and planning simply aren’t meeting the complex and diverse needs of our cities.

Our growing cities aren’t just places to live and work. Our streets aren’t just thoroughfares for us to travel from home to our place of employment.

Streets must be adaptable and resilient to changing needs and conditions – they can be centres of productivity, of social interaction while also accommodating cars, bikes and pedestrians – if designed properly.

A new way forward?

Last year the Queensland Government announced a new street design code for residential development. While it won’t effect existing layouts, it may be a new way forward for new developments.

Tree lined streets, actual footpaths ensuring pedestrian connectivity, greater access to more parkland and more public open space.

Published by RachelGallagher

Geographer, urban researcher

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