With the population of Greater Sydney expected to grow by an extra million people over the next 10 years, conversations around where and how people will live, work and play are essential to the decisions being made today.
Coupled with this growth in population, Sydney is also experiencing a phase in its development where the two largest demographic cohorts in history – the ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Gen Y’ – are choosing denser, more urban locations to live and enjoy life. The social and economic momentum away from suburbia – an international phenomenon reflecting new cultural values, smaller families, the greater amenity and convenience of higher density urban living, and the job opportunities offered by the deeper labour market it enables – is also strongly supported by the professional consensus of architects, planners and urban designers.
Despite the growing body of evidence that points to improved productivity, sustainability and quality of life in well-designed and denser urban areas, public resistance to increasing urban density across metropolitan Sydney persists.
So the Committee asks:
If the attractions of higher density are in principle so clear, why is there such strong opposition to it in Sydney?
What are the factors of success and failure in density done well?
And how can we ensure we do density well in Sydney?
The Committee has thus embarked on a campaign to find the best examples of higher density development, whether they be in Sydney, across Australia or internationally, so as to learn best practice in design, construction, funding and collaboration and apply this evidence to Sydney to discuss how to achieve optimum results in our city. We accept a basic proposition: density can and must be done well if we are to create a liveable future for Sydney.
We call on our members to get involved. This is too big a topic to cover in a single document, or indeed to leave simply to the written word. We will be visiting places of excellent density, hearing from experts on how we deliver density done well, and looking to overseas best-practice in creating liveable dense places.
And as we believe that engagement with the public is vital if we are to attain the best development, our initiative will also be accessing community insight and views, exploring what attracts people to live in dense places, and what the detractors are for those who oppose, or choose to live in lower density. This will enable us to ensure that a diversity of voices are heard in this vital civic discussion and not just the usual suspects: we desperately need to include young people and migrant communities in a debate about ‘density done well’ which affects them greatly but rarely provides the right platforms for doing so.
Questions for doing density well
These are some of the questions we are considering – how are you and your organisation responding to these challenges?
What does density done well look like? How can we measure it?
What policy changes are needed to achieve density done well?
Do the existing governance structures of the city encourage density done well? What needs to change?
How can we get local communities to demand density done well, rather than oppose density at face value?
Areas of Research
We are developing local and international case studies, assessing dense places across a number of criteria, and bringing together the elements of success.
These case studies will be complemented by interviews with the key figures involved in conceiving, designing, driving and delivering these places.
We are also conducting site visits to dense places in Sydney to learn from the processes and resulting places, on the ground. These include but are not limited to:
Our Density Done Well podcast series is led by Committee for Sydney CEO, Dr Tim Williams, who sits down with planners, designers, developers and urban thinkers to discuss their experience and insight into doing density well:
Episode 1: Tim Horton – Registrar, NSW Architects Registration Board
Tim Horton is nationally recognised as an architect, adviser and agitator for smart policy that enables good design. He has worked in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Los Angeles in small and large practices, with executive-level experience in both the private and public sector. As a former founding CEO of the Committee for Adelaide and former Commissioner for Integrated Design based in Adelaide, South Australia, his interests lie at the intersections of design, technology, innovation and governance, architecture, city planning, and the application of research in creative public policy.
Episode 2: Deborah Dearing – Executive Director of Place Renewal, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
Dr Deborah Dearing is an award-winning architect and urban designer, recognised for her leadership in improving the design quality of cities and communities. She has had extensive international experience in urban design, metropolitan planning, affordable housing and property development in both public and private sectors, including executive roles with the NSW Department of Planning, Architectus and Stockland and non-executive board roles with the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.