While you’re here… help us stay here.
Are you enjoying open access to policy and research published by a broad range of organisations? Please donate today so that we can continue to provide this service.
What is it about a place, that when you walk down its streets, you know you are in a city? And then how do you know you are in a particular city? The idea of what makes a city is based on culture and, historically, different cultures have developed different urban paradigms, and have done so in response to specific climate conditions, cultural aspects, and community needs. It is these tenets that enable us to recognise the specific conditions that define an urban environment, and while density is the most prominent tenet, it is often the least explored. Density of people, coupled with density of activities and services, triggers the idea an environment is more structured, more complex, more urban, than the simplest systems of spatial and social relationships we typically experience in a village. Cities foster daily interactions that, through the number of potential encounters, enrich one’s life of possibilities. More than ever, we are enduring the importance of a well-connected society, and realising how resilient communities and urban systems need quality urban environments.
Australian cities have been designed with a very limited palette of urban patterns and building typologies; applying principles of Euclidean planning, they have produced the dichotomy between a high-rise, high-density CBD, dedicated to commerce and services, and low-rise, low-density residential sprawling away from the urban core. Australia is often referred to as a suburban nation where the default living choice of a detached house in estates with a subsequent reliance on motorised vehicles has produced environments that we now recognise as fragile, expensive to maintain, and hard to sustain in the long term. Experts and professionals are now advocating for the development of the so-called missing middle, medium-rise, medium-density, mixed-used development. The question of how to best design this medium-rise, medium-density, mixed-used development is the focus of this paper, which reviews building typologies sourced from established medium-density global cities so as to propose alternative development paradigms for Australian cities.