Urban Design and Infrastructure

Five More Reasons To Have Schools in Your City

This is what happens when you mix uses and have education / schools in the central business district and retail areas of your city.

  1. The kids see the community and economy at work - not like being stuck in a yellow field in Canning Vale.
  2. The community and economy gets more people within their realm - that's good.
  3. The bonds between the local retail community and the growing population increase.
  4. The place becomes safer as kids and retailers get to know each other.
  5. Hey look - they're walking around.

Above: corner of High and Pakenham Streets in Fremantle, Australia.

Story of a Dying Laneway

We must always retain our pedestrian thoroughfares because ...

  1. If we get bored or scared walking along one route, next time we can try another.
  2. With more pedestrian thoroughfares through our city we retain people's (the customer's) attention longer.
  3. This strengthens their bonds with our district because they are spending more time there and having more experiences.
  4. This prevents them from choosing another district, and
  5. This means our city will be sustainable.

This is Paddy Troy Lane in Fremantle.

It used to be that you could walk all the way through.  Legend has it that a falling out between the landlord and the local authority made the landlord say, 'Right, I'll show you' and erected a shop on their private land facing William Street and forever cutting off public access.

You're looking at the back of it here.

As a consequence, probably, the Newport Hotel (which is behind me in the photo) closed its rear entrance which took pedestrians all the way from the Town Hall clock in the distance, up the lane, through a rear passage of the hotel and out on to the Cappuccino Strip - one of Australia's best retail streets.

So now if you want to get from the city square and town hall clock to the best retail street in Australia you have to perambulate either left or right to find another opening in the city grid.

Yes, we know that the part of the laneway in the picture is on private property but local governments must step up and become better negotiators (and the state government must give them permission to do so).

Or else they should own their own buildings.


Hanoi: You Could Live Here

Video: 2m03sec.

I like having red-wine conversations about the magnificent environments we've all found in our trips abroad.

I even like complaining about why we can't can't have these things back home.

I sometimes even like going through the reasons why: the economy, first world vs third world benefit/costs arguments, labour costs, 'service', 'regulations' ... and all that malarky.

But what should be unacceptable to all of us is to repeat these conversations generation-in-and-out whilst our young people (and even normal people) are presented with situation normal - which is a community that is unstimulating and stifles self-development.

We are still building communities, wondering how to 'house' people, and how to accommodate the reasonable demands of the average bloke and bloke-ette who want to wake up in the morning and efficiently grow their life.

The places they're in are critical to this.

That's why you don't live in Antartica or Tel Aviv.  Or Belmont.

And people are smart.  They know that they're only a short plane ride away from a new life.

And that's an affordable and very real option these days.

But don't worry.  On behalf of all the people sitting opposite me on those dark nights, with sediment in their glasses from hours of debate about city management, urban revitalisation, 'service', retail and 'the economy' (sheesh) I have found the mother lode.


Building Heights and Human Scale - Argument Unresolved, Or Is It?

A Beautiful City has a new category: Skinny Buildings

We all instinctively know that our cities appear better when huge, ugly buildings do not occupy our city block.

Perhaps your community burns a lot of energy arguing about building heights, sizes, 'monstronsities', 'monoliths' or 'human scale,' and all that malarky.  I know mine certainly does.

I think that's fair but, certainly, we must now measure the shades of grey between 'human scale' and 'monolith'.


Because our communities cannot keep wasting energy and time on arguing.

There's so much to do out there, yet I've heard the same argument, unresolved, for generations.

Let grab a socket-set with all the pieces in it this time so we can make an intelligent conversation about this - or else the so-called 'arguments for good' will lose as well the 'bad' because people will give up on your city and walk out.

 Above: This building - nine levels, plus a basement, and only 4.04m wide (13'3"). The Saigon Pink Hotel, 100 Ho Yung Mao Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Hanoi is Embarrasing

I'm in Hanoi and it's embarrassing.

I recall being in Torun, Poland and having the same thought.

It's an embarrassment of riches.

I'm in shock each time I go out.  I'd classify it like this.

  • Short streets, of about 60m each
  • Truncated intersections, so four shopfronts face into the centre of the intersection
  • Tall and skinny builidngs of no more than 5 metres in width
  • An independent retailer in the ground floor of each building

For example, I saw one street which had a about twenty hardware shops only, each about 3-metres wide.  As I drove past I began to quiver.

Photos wouldn't do it justice at this stage.

Shopfront Success at the Claremont Quarter - Benefits The Community

Above: Zimmerman, 23 St Quentin Avenue, Claremont, Australia

This is a successful streetscape, in my opinion, and all the parties must be acknowledged for making these courageous and advantageous decisions which have benefited the community.

So, 'Thank you' to:

  • The Town of Claremont
  • The Claremont Quarter landlord
  • The Claremont Quarter architects
  • The retailer

These Defects Make a Place Unique, But That's The Wrong Type Of Unique

Why are these lovers standing here?

They're stranded here.  The rain caught us all.

Once upon a time, the next building along was like its brothers and sisters on this street: Victorian architecture with an 'Australian-style' awning, as Jan Gehl puts it.

But it was demolished and replaced with something else.  Without an awning.

Now there is no contiguous pedestrian network.  This effectively strands us, which can sometimes be lovely and cosy, but really means that your precinct is less desirable for customers and new businesses.  It's 'functionality' is impaired.

Understandably, these 'so-called defects' also make a place unique.  But that's the wrong type of unique.

We want the 'unique' that's created by independent retailers and place management solutions which are locally distinct.

Heavy rainfall is a permanent deterrant for many who have alternative locations to consider.  These can be other streets in your district, other districts, or (no!) indoor shopping centres.

We limit our strolling distance because of these impediments.  This directly affects the quality of your community because businesses and economies are out of reach of people.

Profitable hours of operation are diminished per year, as is foot traffic.

A safe, comfortable and interesting pedestrian network is necessary.

Above: The Record Finder, 87 High Street West End, Fremantle, Australia

To the beach

On a better note in Frankston, this delightful sign greets you as you step off the train.  I assume the buses near the sign go to the beach.

Unfortunately for Frankston, it's all pretty much downhill from there.  It's the people, I think.  It is very feral.

It was like being let loose in a prison yard at lunchtime.

As I stepped off the train and headed to the gates one guy just jumped them.  Given that I'm completely anal, I brought this to the attention of a ticket-ripper lady nearby. "Oh, I can't do anything about that," she said, "I just rip the tickets."

Dandy.  My first 60 seconds in Frankston included a fare dodger and a 'not my department' lady.  I could see that it was my job to subsidise the town in intelligence, hard work and care, so I gave her $200 and told her to take the rest of the day off.

I would like to know more about who made the sign and cost.


This is a magnificent piece of design in the Woolstores Shopping Centre, Fremantle, Australia

Newspaper cabinet.  Much better than the small, free stands. 

The man icon is by international street artist guru Stormie Mills, who kindly painted it on a vacancy hoarding during the October 2012 Fremantle Festival.

Kudos to the City of Fremantle festivals team for lining up the shipping centre and an international artist (to volunteer his work).  Perfect!

The security officer could clean up the scungy papers every now and then, though.

I'd love to know more about the designer/supplier and cost.

Kids in the economy - makes your heart swell

To have a child transport itself independently around your city is a real boon.

Would this kid travel if his parents didn't think it was safe?  No.

Success, then.

Elizabeth's Bookshop, 6 South Terrace, Fremantle, Australia

What do you do when you've got to build a gate?

You do this.  That's what you do.

Percy Street, Prahran, Australia - this is the services store for a commercial/residential building and houses essential, boring elements such as electricity transformers, fire services and stuff like that.

Kink it up a bit, I say.

If you block your nose the first time, the second time wont be so bad

It's easy to be scared of colour - I used to.  I thought it would be like throwing all the vegetables in your crisper into the blender.

But if you block your nose the first time, the second time wont be so bad.

And after all it's even good for you.

Boy enjoying free WiFi in Kings Square, Fremantle, Australia


Let's Take Management Of Bicycle Lanes Seriously

Bike lanes are a great idea but more management is required to address the lack of respect shown to this part of our city by drivers.

What do you think about Rumble Strips on the dividing line between bike lane and road?

Rumble Strips are the duggada-duggada lines you hear when you veer out of lane on the highway.

Unfortunately, though, the traffic boffins have told us that rumble strips are a hazard to cyclists ...

When they're wet, or even if they're not, the bicycles can slip and slide on them.

Let's take management of bicycle lanes seriously or, perhaps, cyclists won't use them and their investment will be under-realised ...

So what's my solution?

I think very short rumble strips of a couple of metres could be trialled in areas where cars lazily cross the line.  This happens on bends and traffic lights mainly.

Alternatively or additionally, a big painted bike in the bike lane, maybe with an exclamation mark, will help the driver to understand that these areas are sacred.

Marmion Street, near corner Stock Road, in Palmyra, Australia

Fremantle is the Arts Centre of the World

Great news!  Fremantle is the cultural centre of the earth, OK?  It just is, so shut up.

I went to the opening of We Don't Need a Map last night at the Fremantle Arts Centre and I can tell you now that you could go to New York, London, Berlin, Paris or Beeliar and you will never see an equal community, cultural and economic buzz at any similar event, ever.  So just get over that.

It's tiring to hear that almost wherever you are in Australia that other major cities provide superior cultural entertainment.  Not true if you're at the Fremantle Arts Centre.  The FAC attracts the right people you need in a city centre: well educated, sharp witted, independent, mobile, well dressed, don't smell bad.

The rule of good shopping centre management is when you are on to a winner, you prod it into cell-division so its good seed is spread to needy areas.  FAC is so well run and managed that its got me to thinking about one of My Ideas That No One Will Do - FAC needs to be in the centre of Kings Square.

If a new Kings Square library could incorporate a multi-use, 2,000sqm metre facility managed like the arts centre you are inserting exactly what is needed for Fremantle's city centre: Style.

Black swan shot on Western Australia day

In celebration of Western Australia's foundation today, I shot the state's emblem: the black swan.

Seriously, thank you to the driver of this car and his friend for livening up the high street here.

Unfortunately, it was after hours and the shops were closed - except Mills Records which is just out of picture, although it does demonstrate the negative effect that roller shutters can have on the public realm.

Mistral Cafe, 18 Adelaide Street, Freamantle, Australia

Can someone ID these hotrods please?

Green wall?

The old TAB was bought by an owner-occupier, an accountant.  A few years later and they are modifying the courtyard shopfront.

The 'walls' have been put on today.  I think they look good.

DFK Port Accounting, 91 High Street, Fremantle, Australia