As a high school student, I found great interest in urban design, particularly the ways in which we move within and throughout our cities. Moving from a small rural town in NSW to Canberra in 2015 to undertake a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning has not only allowed me to study my passion but also to immerse myself in the wide variety of planning events that Canberra has to offer.
One of these events is the “Making Space Initiative”, a public forum bringing together built environment professionals, students and members of the public to spark a conversation about the way Canberrans use their city. Each of the Making Space events have had a specific focus. On the 18th of April this year, the second “Making Space Initiative” event was held at the ACT Legislative Assembly. This event’s theme was “Socialise” – how do Canberrans socialise and how do built environment factors influence this?
The event featured six different speakers, all from Canberra. The speakers all came from different backgrounds, meaning the way that they live, work and play in their specific suburbs, streets and homes were unique to them. This was clear when the speakers discussed things they commonly do to socialise with friends and enjoy their spare time.
Whilst some speakers prioritised the importance of having a quiet space for family events and gatherings, others prioritised open green space, community gardens and other public spaces for social events.
Most importantly, the event uncovered some barriers to socialising that could be resolved through strategic planning, urban design and other built environment efforts, such as availability of parking, accessibility of public spaces, appropriate travel modes to and from public spaces and a general lack of devoted outdoor play areas for children. After the speakers had presented, the floor was then opened up for questions to the panel and a general discussion about what had been presented.
This event has created a new, innovative way for built environment professionals to see, experience and respond to the ways in which people in Canberra live. It allows them to see aspects of the urban sphere from a variety of perspectives that they otherwise wouldn’t have considered.
Professionals can then take this newly found information away with them and respond appropriately through their own work. I believe this event also holds a special purpose for the young professionals in Canberra, especially those that are studying, have recently graduated or are just beginning their careers in their chosen fields. It gives these young people a valuable insight into the lives of everyday people that live in the cities that they serve. The event also acts as a source of inspiration, sparking new ideas for dealing with planning problems in an urban environment.
The next “Making Space Initiative” event is forecast to be held in October. I strongly encourage all built environment professionals, students and members of the public interested in these issues to attend.
If you’re interested in joining in on the discussion, visit www.makingspacecanberra.com/upcoming-events.
Lauren Exton is a student at the University of Canberra and member of the Making Space Initiative Steering Committee.