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Creating vibrant communities: from visualisation to realisation

Dean Landy
Dean Landy

In an edited excerpt from his upcoming book Creating Vibrant Communities, architect and urban planner Dean Landy, partner at ClarkeHopkinsClarke, introduces “Tribus”: a step-by-step process for creating vibrant communities.

While residential development increases unabated across Australia to meet housing demands – from the growth areas on our city fringes to major areas of inner suburban regeneration – peoples’ desire to be connected to a vibrant and liveable place hasn’t diminished. In fact, we are seeing the contrary – people are now predominately selecting where they live based on a different set of criteria than what our parents’ generation would have considered. Now, more than ever, it’s about lifestyle.

The reality is, however, factors such as affordability, access to employment, transport and education often dictate where we end up settling. For many, this means relocating to the growth areas emerging across Australia – areas which, based on the track record of developments of recent decades, don’t meet the lifestyle choices many aspire to.

If we desire to see solutions that better address the continuing social, economic and environmental pressures, the challenge is to develop a more holistic urban development model that creates shared value for developers, governments and communities alike. What we need is a more entrepreneurial approach to community development.

The ambition of my book Creating Vibrant Communities is to go beyond the rhetoric, to provide practical solutions for delivering communities that live up to the challenge of being healthy and vibrant and hence more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.

It is this intent that has lead to the development of “Tribus” – a community evolution process set out in the book that provides a fresh way of delivering new communities with benefits for private investors, government and residents alike.

This step-by step process considers the entire evolution of new communities, particularly in growth areas and large infill developments, and is designed to make best practice outcomes implementable and achievable.

I am not advocating that we implement a cookie-cutter approach to the creation of our new towns, or that we try to manufacture a fake sense of place. I am advocating for a process that will encourage and allow a more unique and site-specific response, by highlighting key elements that often get overlooked, and yet are critical to the success of a vibrant place. By providing a well-considered foundation, the hope is to see a more organic and community-driven evolution of a place occur once the developers and consultants are no longer involved.

In order to build this foundation, I have looked to break the evolution of a new community down into three distinct phases – visualise, realise and activate. It is within this framework that we can explore a methodology that looks to capture the critical tasks I believe must be considered when creating new communities, and provide the environment for more strategic thinking.

With the same attitude in which I face the enormous challenges of dealing with the effects of poverty in Africa through my work with One Heart Foundation, I choose to work towards building better communities in Australia under the same mantra, “Don’t be overwhelmed by the problem; instead be inspired by the challenge.”

This is possible. It starts with getting the right minds together from the outset, with a common and genuine passion to create something that will leave a lasting legacy and a stronger community. It’s only then that we will see better outcomes.

The three Tribus phases are summarised below, and are explored extensively in Creating Vibrant Communities.

Visualise

The visualise phase already happens on every project to varying degrees. It is the phase where it is decided what, when and how a new masterplanned community is going to be created. However, more importantly, it is the time when a clear and concise vision should be established that will guide the design and future direction of the new community.

The importance of the visualise phase can’t be underestimated; it is the most significant phase of the Tribus process. It is the point at which the foundation of the new community is laid down.

Realise

The purpose of the realise phase is to implement the vision. The Tribus process provides much guidance during this phase and ensures the project vision is not simply a report that is left to collect dust on a shelf, but rather remains an active and relevant guide to the evolving community.

The realise phase is the literal “building” phase, and is designed to help you step beyond the myriad of reports, checklists and aspirations of the various planning organisations. It is where we transition from what we would “like” to achieve in the creation of a new community, to actually finding ways of “doing” it in a commercial context.

Activate

The activate phase is where we look to bring life to a new community and see it start to grow and connect. This phase is a relatively underdeveloped consideration in the evolution of new places, and all too often the social development of new communities is generally left to chance. However, I believe a more considered and strategic approach can support the creation of stronger social bonds, more activated town centres sooner, and a more inclusive and socially connected community becoming established, all while residents are still forming patterns of behaviour and relationships.

The activate phase explores a range of physical and activity-based initiatives aimed at encouraging social connections between new residents. These initiatives are aimed at “seeding” community connections. True ongoing community connections can only occur once it is the community itself that takes ownership of spaces and relationships.

A book launch will be held at Allpress Studio in Collingwood on Thursday November 17 2016 featuring a panel discussion between Landy, Mike Day from RobertsDay, Bec McHenry from The Space Agency, incoming national Young Planner convener for the Planning Institute of Australia Phoebe Harrison, and Ed Krushka from Stockland. This is a free event, but registrations are mandatory via Eventbrite.

Creating Vibrant Communities will be available to purchase at the book launch for a reduced price, or online from November 17 via the official website. The book will be available in select bookstores nationally in 2017 at a RRP of $59.95.

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