IDEAS

Exploring the future
of city design

History has taught us pandemics shape cities. They’re also a catalyst for innovation and the last 12 months have been a prime example of that. In the built environment, parking spaces have become extensions of cafés and exhibition centres have morphed into makeshift hospitals.

It’s clear that cities and public spaces can no longer exist to serve a single purpose. They must be adaptable, versatile and resilient.

Dr Xin Gu, senior lecturer at Monash University, says cities have become a visual emblem of human evolution and global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, provide an opportunity for change. So, how will the pandemic shape the future of urban environments and the way people experience them? How will it impact the way place brands, or cities, are perceived by their communities?

Post-pandemic, governments are expected to invest more heavily in urban design solutions that focus on space, sustainability and community safety and wellbeing. In these reimagined environments, user experience design will play a pivotal role in keeping people connected, aware of their surroundings and efficiently navigating through spaces.

In 2019, Diadem entered The Future Park Design Ideas Competition presented by the University of Melbourne in partnership with the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA). The competition challenged industry leaders to explore the role of parkland in Melbourne in 2050. Drawing a connection between the City of Melbourne’s goal to become free of non-essential vehicles by 2050 and its vast volume of carparking infrastructure, Diadem developed a design solution called ‘multi deck parks’.

Responding to some of the social and environmental challenges the City will face mid-century, multi-deck parks repurpose redundant parking infrastructure into mixed-use community hubs. Designed to collect rainwater and offer green space for leisure, multi-deck parks challenge what we perceive parks can be by connecting us to nature and creating a place for respite in an urban setting.

Although the multi-deck parks concept was developed pre-COVID, it demonstrates Diadem’s ability to think beyond the now and remain ahead of global design trends. The pandemic has only accelerated the need for sustainable design solutions that foster community connection and green space.

Our submission was shortlisted and highly commended for its innovative and sustainable approach to reimagining existing space. It explored the ways in which the City could continue to adapt and respond to changing community and environmental needs while maintaining a strong and trusted place brand presence.

While the long-term effects of the pandemic on cityscapes are hard to predict, it’s clear that versatile, sustainable and innovative design solutions transcend global crises and must become fundamental requirements of future city design. In many cases, the pandemic has provided an opportunity for place brands, or cities, to reflect on their connection to community and integrate durable urban planning solutions.

Cities that demonstrate authenticity, versatility and resilience can weather any storm.

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