More Australians than ever are sitting in traffic, standing in queues and competing for fewer traditional jobs, increasingly disconnected from a lifestyle perhaps once taken for granted. This was inevitable, many experts will argue, because of unprecedented economic growth, the internet revolution and aspirations for global influence.
Economics are well and good but most residents of Australia’s largest cities – Sydney and Melbourne – don’t dwell on economic growth when they choose where to live.
Above all else they value an ideal – the ‘Australian way of life’. This can mean different things but ultimately refers to comfort, space and a congenial attitude.
Yet the trajectory many cities are currently on – furiously competing, building up, overcrowding and grinding into gridlock – has eroded the ideal. It’s happened so quickly we’ve barely had time to consider the impact.
It was the great urban thinker Jane Jacobs who said cities must be designed around people, not planned with superimposed logic. She was largely concerned with the way people interacted with each other and the streets they moved along.
Perhaps Australians should be asking more questions about how their streets are used – how city life is being funnelled – before it’s too late.
What city dwellers want
In JLL’s 2016 TEDxSydney survey Is Humanity the Future Architect? respondents were asked about how they saw the future of their cities. Notably, they were unanimous in wanting more human connections and shared a desire to be closer to nature. This is a sentiment that’s familiar to many of us in the city.
Given the opportunity to start again, many respondents also said they would not replicate the existing built environment. Instead, they want multi-purpose structures (81 per cent) and like the concept of an eco-campus where people can live, work and play within one area.
Furthermore, 57 per cent of respondents would not create central business districts (CBDs) where most of our business interactions occur. In short, they want self-sufficient communities, rather than commuting.
Ending long work commutes seems integral to the future success of Australia’s biggest cities. These daily trips – often in cars – have been linked to poor health, reduced exercise and high levels of stress.
One approach to combatting the commute is better neighbourhood design because while we can’t move homes necessarily, we can rethink how and where people travel for work.
This article was originally published by Bluenotes.