Elisabeth Judd is a Director of JUDD.studio which is a practice specialising in Architecture and urban strategy.
TT: You’ve worked in a number of different positions in Canberra in the public and private sector – how has this influenced the way you think about cities and development?
EJ: What I have found really interesting is the common interest across all sectors in the property and development industry to provide product to meet demand. For builders and developers this is about creating buildings that people want to live in. For Government it’s about making sure that there is enough space to build them in and that there is social equity across the city. The challenge is always going to be to look ahead to determine the best type of buildings and public spaces to meet the needs of future generations – and that’s a challenge that is particularly complex given the rapid changes in technology and the broadening gap between the ‘haves and have nots’ in our cities.
TT: Is this a question of affordability as well?
EJ: Certainly – housing affordability is a real issue that cities are struggling to come to terms with across Australia. It’s recognised that part of the solution is to provide more diversity in housing and the reality is that for many people, apartment living will become the new norm. But this shouldn’t just be one bedroom apartments. Many people are now seeing the benefits of living closer to the city and town centres and are looking for affordable options that are going to continue to suit them as their needs change. I think the days of progressing from renting or owning a unit in the city, getting married and buying the big family home in the ‘burbs are fading. Many people simply won’t be able to afford to make the shift to a detached house, and in fact, many may not want to make the move.
TT: So the issue then becomes how to ensure the city and town centres cater to the new residential demographic.
EJ: That’s right – it’s not just the students and ‘hipsters’ living in apartments. I think we’re going to see a lot more families and down sizers too who want to make urban living their home. And so the future Canberra will need to provide public spaces that can be the ‘living rooms’ for city dwellers. That’s what makes the squares and piazzas in Europe so wonderful – they are ‘lived’ city spaces that ‘breath’ and change as people make their way through the day.
TT: There is often criticism that Canberra has too many public spaces and that they sit empty – how can we avoid more ‘dead’ space?
EJ: We are incredibly fortunate in Canberra to already have some beautiful public spaces but I think it is important that the community continues to demand quality in the public realm. Street furniture and landscaping should be inviting and enduring – and must be well maintained. More urban playgrounds would be great too so that families have a place to go that doesn’t require a drive to a windy park – and they should be creative and provoke adventure. And of course the planning and buildings around the spaces should enhance the experience, with opportunities for businesses opening into spaces, fine grain lots and natural wayfinding, and good access to sunshine. If the setting is right, the activation becomes a lot easier. Ultimately as designers and city makers, we need to think about who will be walking through or using the spaces and how that experience can be enhanced to make city-living about pleasure and delight.
Tony Trobe is director of TT Architecture who specialise in the design of sustainable residential Architecture. Is there a planning or design issue in Canberra you would like to discuss? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.