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Streets Ahead: public spaces, shared responsibility

Public spaces bring us together – but how do we design so people will come?

Community involvement is the necessary condition, and we were thrilled to see such committed locals come to our Streets Ahead Collective Conversations on October 24, at Daddy Long Legs. Approximately 60 people took time on a school night to think together about the spaces we share.

It was the first step in a process to engage the community in imagining and designing public spaces that will bring Vic Park together.

To develop an Action Plan and improve public spaces on and around Albany Highway – the lifeblood of our community – the Vic Park Collective has also organised two walking tours (in partnership with Jane’s Walk Perth) and two community workshops, as well as opportunities for input online.

Adrian Cagnana from Roberts Day

At Collective Conversations, Adrian Cagnana, from Roberts Day, reminded us that public space sets up the stage for public life. It’s not home, it’s not work, it’s a third place where all of us can be without having to pay, where we can express ourselves, meet and interact with others.

For that to happen, public spaces have to be useful, safe, comfortable and interesting. Adrian showed several examples nationally and internationally of successful design, such as Superkilen, a public park in Copenhagen that celebrates diversity.

Dean Cracknell from Town Teams Movement

But as our next speaker, Dean Cracknell from Town Teams Movement, pointed out, even the best design cannot guarantee that people will use and identify with a space.

Dean presented several questions around public spaces – are they good if not used, how big do they need to be, how can we add personality? – and showed how the community and local government collaborated in Mt Lawley to bring the Mary Street Piazza to life.

“People are the best resource for Vic Park”, said Dean, adding that by Albany Highway is not about moving people, but about social and economic values. “It’s about how the street works as a whole”.

We couldn’t agree more!

Anthony Duckworth-Smith from AUDRC

Finally, Anthony Duckworth-Smith from the Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC) admitted to a 180-degree flip, in the past few years, on how he approaches a project.

With an architecture background, he used to design a space and then try to defend it when interacting with the community. He now realises that it’s important not only to design with the community, but also to be able to extract the right information from locals.

“The public realm is a shared responsibility”, said Anthony. “Let’s start this conversation, hear other people’s ideas, socialise ourselves”.

Anthony and his team will develop models of Albany Highway for our community workshops, based on two sections of Albany Highway – one in East Vic Park and one in Vic Park – with interchanging pieces (surfacing, furniture, shopfront, trees) so people can play around, understand trade-offs and form a vision for their shared spaces.

AUDRC’s engagement process includes elements of education (what’s possible), research (what’s important to community), invention (you have the knowledge, invention can happen in the community), participation (playing a game) and socialisation (sharing ideas).

“We’re not designing, but getting values out of people in a spatial way”, said Anthony.

We cannot wait to get started, and hope you will join us in this journey: let’s walk together, play some city games, socialise ideas and come up with a vision. We are the custodians of our public spaces – see you on the strip!

Streets Ahead – Albany Highway Public Spaces Action Plan

East Victoria Park Jane’s Walk – Saturday, Oct 27, meet at 2pm at Isaia Corner (jellybean roundabout), register at Eventbrite

Victoria Park Jane’s Walk – Saturday, Nov 10, meet at 2pm at Vic Park Post Office (414 Albany Hwy), register at Eventbrite

VP community workshop – Sunday, Nov 18, 1.30 to 4pm, LJHooker (288 Albany Hwy), register at Eventbrite

EVP community workshop – details TBA, sign up for updates here

Survey Monkey details to be released asap, sign up for updates here

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