A Melbourne designed for people will be a municipality designed at a human scale. In Melbourne, we will be protected and will feel welcome. We will want to walk - and stay - in Melbourne because it delights us.
Future Melbourne 2008


There was a large amount of comment made related to this Priority. Overall, people want better places and spaces designed to meet the needs of the people who use them, no matter their physical ability or background. The way that this is achieved garnered a lot of comment on the use of planning rules and the outcomes that come from quality urban planning and design. Many went into quite detailed comment. Architecture and the preservation of heritage were also two common themes, with people wanting the retention and creation of high quality buildings and spaces that meet people’s needs.

There was overlap between this Priority and Priority 1.1. A Great Place to Live.

Summary of ideas (Total 419 statements)

Urban planning to deliver quality outcomes (163 Statements of 419)

Over one third of the comments on this priority covered issues related to urban planning. Overall, people were seeking ways to manage the growing city, while retaining quality of life through sound planning. Individual topics related to planning are discussed below.

Managing urban sprawl and density

A large number of people made comments about managing urban sprawl and planning for density, often discussed together. Many comments did not provide a detailed response, but identified either urban sprawl or urban density as an issue.

Those who did provide detailed comments presented a mix of views. While a greater number of people suggested that the city should have higher density, a smaller but significant number stated that the city should limit density, most commonly citing the inadequacy of existing infrastructure to cope with growth. The arguments supporting higher density often stated limiting sprawl and some went on to state that this is a more efficient way to manage infrastructure. Some of these people also stated that there is a need to ensure that infrastructure to support growth is in place. This was a statement that supported higher density.

I would also like urban planning which allows for comfortable high density living in the inner suburbs, thus eliminating urban sprawl and the associated damage to wildlife habitats.

This comment explains the deficiencies in high density.

Apply density limits to city blocks -- Melbourne City is growing. The CBD has many high density apartments being constructed all over. Many seem to have been approved with little regard for local amenity and infrastructure capacity. I propose that a maximum residential population for each of the CBD blocks be set.

Some saw benefits in having a decentralised city, with more urban hubs. A common argument supporting this concept was closer proximity to work, for a higher proportion of the population.

A few comments were made specifically about limiting urban sprawl in order to preserve valuable food-growing land. While a few people suggested that the city should extend to Port Phillip Bay because this would provide better planning outcomes than the current boundaries allow.

There is a broader discussion covering growth in the Possible new priorities section at the end of Part A.

Managing the impacts of high-rise development

A large number of people made comments about managing the impacts of development. In particular, high-rise development and managing the impacts that are created as a consequence were identified.

While some people objected to high-rise development outright, a large number of people made comment on how high-rise development can be better delivered. People wanted more provision for quality space and amenities around buildings; many stated that developers should be responsible for funding and developing these areas. Natural and green spaces were commonly referred to as what should be provided, along with more space between buildings. This was one comment.

The current push to high rise developments leaves me stunned when I don't see corresponding plans to build and develop natural, green spaces. I beg the state and local Planning Departments to require all Development applications to include ideas for green space as part of their plans.

The next most significant impact identified (after inadequate amenities to service the increased population density that high-rise buildings create) was the physical impacts of tall buildings on the surrounding area. Specifically: shadows reduced views of blue sky, and wind tunnels. However, some comments showed appreciation for the skyline that tall buildings create. This was one comment on this topic.

Building a skyline is beautiful. Putting a building next to one another and not considering the privacy of others or allowing people sunlight is a different matter altogether.

Regulation for high quality buildings

High-quality building standards were desired by many people. Several people stated that there should be limits on the minimum size of apartments, while others stated that apartments should be fire-safe, built for high-density, allow light in and be eco-friendly.

A few comments discussed the exterior appearance of buildings, with the negative impact of concrete boxes specifically identified. One person stated that regulation on this issue was in the hands of State government and so there was little that The City Council could do. One person stated that buildings should only be built to last 30 years so they don’t become rundown.

Quality urban form

There were many statements that referred to the need to provide quality urban form for people to enjoy. While most of these were quite general in their appeal for higher quality, some specific points were made. A couple suggested the need to upgrade Docklands, that Aboriginal knowledge should be used in design, that there should be more human-scale hubs around the city rather than just one large central city and that there should be stronger guidelines to deliver quality. One comment made the point that the City of Melbourne is currently addressing the mistakes of previous governments. One comment specifically referred to the outcomes achieved in the laneways and suggested that this type of outcome should be aspired for in other places. This was one comment.

quality of built environment - including stricter guidelines on space planning, environmental performance, good design and continued greening.

Building neighbourhoods and other comments

Several points were made discussing the preservation and development of neighbourhoods. The proximity to amenities was a common thread in the arguments put forward, with some being specific about access to transport, schools, parklands and shopping malls.

Other points made were that there should be a minimum number of three-bedroom apartments in developments to help build communities, and also that suburbs need to be preserved. This point was made regarding staging developments.

Strategic planners must understand how to scaffold the stages of mutual urban/community development

One comment suggested that better outcomes would come from developing a living plan, rather than a housing plan.

Create a living plan -- our idea is that all new developments need a "Living plan" not a housing plan, which supports all the community. Provide criteria that ensures housing will support a diverse community, and buildings and spaces are designed for environmental benefit. The community needs a hub.

A few comments stated that planning should be based on evidence, and higher quality research is needed to inform planning decisions. This was one comment supporting this opinion.

… Our cities are a mesh of interconnecting networks (road, rail, tram, bike, pedestrian, electricity, water, telecommunications and social). With the growing population pressures and the demand for greater efficiency, there is a need to better understand the use of these urban networks and their interactions. While new methods for monitoring the urban environment are creating large and diverse streams of data about the usage of these networks, a major challenge is how to extract actionable knowledge for this data without violating the privacy of the citizen.

A couple of comments suggested that planning rules should be applied to improve roof-space use. One suggestion was to use a SimCity approach to assist planning, while another suggested renaming East/West roads to streets and North/West names to avenues to assist tourists’ navigation of the city.

Urban design (92 Statements)

A number of topics were discussed regarding urban design; including public art, quality design of places, presentation of public spaces and inclusion of nature. These topics are discussed below.

Public art

A large number of people sought more public art in Melbourne’s streets. Generally, people were seeking more interesting and stimulating public spaces through the provision of public art. There were suggestions for large sculptures and also for visual displays on the walls of buildings. A few comments described children travelling through the city and being attracted to graffiti art. Several people referred to what is happening in other places, such as Copenhagen, water fountains in outlying Portuguese towns, Perth, Christchurch; and one person also referred to creating something similar to the underground art present in London. This was one comment.

I would like to be to see more professional street art, huge pieces like those in Christchurch

There were a few comments that suggested how to achieve these outcomes, such as including Aboriginal aspects, encouraging schoolchildren, a sustainable arts precinct, art in laneways and sculpture shapes to play on. This was one comment.

Art Projects on High-rise Walls -- "You can tell the wealth of a city by its public art works" - a well known statement. Community Arts and Indigenous Art projects to 'rain' down the blank walls of high-rises or Government buildings. As an arts project co-coordinator for such I believe it would transform the visual landscape of the city and offer our city international marketing excitement and public praise for the colour, courage, and forward designing of revamping tired existing buildings.

Note that this section only covered visual art, performance art is covered in Priority 2.2. Vibrant creative community.

Quality design of places

Many people made comments that sought improved public spaces, or building on the progress that has recently been made through initiatives such as laneway developments. Generally, these people sought quality, people-friendly places. The outcomes that they described included things such as: more interesting streetscapes that have individuality, adventure and discovery; create great places to be; a living city, which is human scale; pleasant, more inclusive spaces; unique, fascinating and quirky spaces; and, more contemplative spaces. One comment suggested.

I think Melbourne should go back to its fundamentals in planning, placemaking and urban design to create a beautiful and functional city.

Outcomes to aim for included encouraging the flow of people and attracting people. Specific suggestions were to close streets to cars and create small people-friendly spaces. Suggested changes to particular areas included: pedestrianise Spencer Street from Bourke to King Street; make Punt Road wider; remove cars from the centre of Russell and Lonsdale Streets; improve Docklands; and create a new Swanston Street spine, as it is at capacity. This detailed idea proposed curating sustainable spaces.

design and curate liveable urban spaces -- Sustainable urbanisation – where sustainable has real meaning – in that society is able to sustain itself in the face of population growth and climate change – means curating as we grow our city. Creative disciplines can address the real and tangible aspects of creating green infrastructure, engaging people friendly environments, and behaviour change. … There is a reason why historically people gathered in city squares or village greens/zocalos and so on! Let's use art and design principles to curate sustainable, interactive and liveable urban space

Note that there is an overlap between this topic and Priority 6.3. A walking city.

Presentation of public spaces

Many comments discussed the presentation of public spaces. These comments were general in nature, but there was a consistent theme to make the city more beautiful by doing things such as increasing colour, utilising colour to signify things, reducing noise from bluestone tiles in lanes, including mosaics to decorate areas; and a couple of people explained a desire for an Australian Music Walk with paved plaques or statues.

Inclusion of nature

Many general comments suggested including more nature aspects in the design of public spaces. A number of these comments described making places more green in general, but there were also specific comments to have a more interesting mix of trees in public areas, having more connectivity between green spaces and enhancing natural water features.

Other urban design comments

Other comments included protecting the city’s soundscape. This is part of this idea.

Hearing Melbourne (sic) - healthy soundscapes -- Melbourne council could seek to work with composers and other acoustic engineers/acoustic ecologists and planners to consider how to sonically enhance the city for collective wellbeing. Rarely does a city consider how the noises it generates affects its citizens and visitors, beyond basic legislative measures and noise restrictions. Melbourne could think much more creatively about how sound can enrich the city.

Other suggestions were to embrace the diverse cultures in the city to include them in the design of the city and one comment summed up that future developments need to be sustainable, thoughtful, respectful and appropriate.

Architecture (53 Satements)

Architecture was discussed by a large number of people, all desiring quality outcomes. Specific topics are discussed below.

Sustainable and green design

The most common suggestions made regarding architecture were that buildings should include environmentally sustainable and/or green aspects.

Many people commented that buildings need to improve their environmental performance, with a common suggestion that buildings should be ‘living buildings’. The benefits of living buildings were seen to be the improvement of heating and cooling performance, the reduction in pollution through buildings processing waste and reducing urban heat island effects. Use of technology to improve performance was suggested by some, including using less power by automatically turning off lights in large buildings. Another suggestion on this topic was to incorporate cool roofs into buildings. Several comments made general statements that buildings should be more sustainable.

Another aspect of green building design was the aesthetic benefits that are created. There were a few comments that suggested greening the outside of buildings because of the aesthetics they deliver. It was suggested that green walls should be projected onto buildings during White Night to demonstrate their benefits. The following comment makes the connection between form and function, and as a consequence the increase in demand for sustainable outcomes.

Living architecture installations are driven by public demand and its draw on developers to provide what the consumer requires. The value of living architecture installations are based (notably for the less informed) on a bias of aesthetic. It is therefore imperative that urban greening needs to be highly visual, initially, until sufficient volume is achieved to ensure sustainable outcomes in relation to pollution processing and converting biophobic (sic) urban developments into biophilic features…

High quality, inspired design

Many comments that discussed architecture stated that Melbourne should have beautiful, inspired and unique buildings. Some comments rejected what they saw as poor-standard, box-shaped, tall buildings. There was a desire for more unique and interesting designs that Melbourne can be proud of. This was one opinion similar to a number of others.

Our skyline is changing – make it look good and nice… I don’t mind skyscraper but I mind – uninspiring skyscrapers made for maximizing profit with small dark apartments and a dull uniform look. – take the opportunity to say to developers that they will need to make very interesting building if they want to build skyscrapers.. where are all the awards for interesting design…

Visually appealing, and other comments

A few comments specifically stated that buildings should have more colour, for some this included having decorative walls, and for others this included greening the outsides of buildings. Other comments suggested: the use of augmented 3D buildings, as a tool for presenting potential new buildings to the public and facilitating feedback; all apartment rooms requiring sunlight; and, the city should provide a broad range of buildings from affordable to luxurious.

Heritage (49 Statements)

Retaining and refurbishing heritage buildings

Preservation of heritage was commented on by a large number of people. Several of these comments were not specific about what heritage should be retained or protected, but simply identified heritage as being important.

Preservation of buildings was the most commonly discussed topic, with many people discussing in detail what had been lost in the past, the importance of retaining what currently remains, and some discussed the best ways to achieve this. Several comments put demolished buildings in context by discussing what they had been replaced with, and an assessment that many new buildings are inferior. Similarly, some made the point that they do not object to replacing substandard old buildings with quality new buildings, but that this was not observed to be happening. This was one comment that made this point.

sadly Melbourne's newest buildings make the city more generic. retaining the brilliant character of the city is so important. short sighted decisions destroy valuable buildings

One specific planning weakness was identified with regard to preserving heritage. It was stated that development guidelines call for the ‘consideration’ of heritage. It was expressed that in reality developers might consider heritage but then proceed to knock buildings down anyway. Laws that at least preserve the facades of buildings were requested. It was also stated that authorities need to take action to enforce regulations and cited cases when this hadn’t occurred.

In the conversations there was a discussion around the beauty of buildings, with one comment stating that some old buildings are not worth preserving. This was countered by an opinion that beauty was superficial and that buildings should be protected for the role they have played in Melbourne’s history.

A number of comments stated that what remains should be retained, including from the 19th century through to the 1970s. A couple of comments made the point that the number of buildings that had been lost in the last 40-50 years was bad and that it made a mockery of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’. This was a typical point made by several people.

Melbourne's Victorian heritage buildings are prized, were solidly constructed built to last, are a major source of self image, contribute to urban character, and are a tourist drawcard with major economic and social benefits. New Developments need to respect and enhance the above.

Several comments suggested that heritage buildings should be refurbished and/or repurposed. This was the most detailed of these comments.

Refurb regulation for heritage buildings -- Planning scheme should introduce a trigger mechanism for building re-development which encourages an introduction of efficiency systems, sustainability and biodiversity functions sensitive to cultural heritage values.

This comment explained the importance of this initiative.

more care taken in preserving and reusing historic buildings and places and greater public value put on historical story-telling “ how we got to now.

A few buildings were singled out for comment: Hotel Windsor, don't let it become heritage-listed apartments for the rich, and retain public access; restore the Flinders Street ballroom and use it as a theatre and gallery; and, that what happened to the Palace theatre on Bourke Street was a tragedy and the developers should have been prosecuted.

Other heritage

Other heritage components were also discussed. The most common was natural heritage, but also Melbourne cemetery tombstones, spaces, Queen Victoria Market, cultural and artistic and Aboriginal history. This comment summed up the value seen in built and natural history.

A city that values and conserves it's rich built and natural heritage. My first visit was a delight. So many granite buildings with gold tracery. And wonderful parklands. In the future these characteristics will be a pricelss (sic) asset as many cities grow and begin to look just the same!

Access for all (42 Statements)

Many people stated that there is a need for access to the city without providing any specific explanation. The access needs for mobility impaired, deaf, blind, and deaf-blind people was also commented on by many people. The majority of comments were regarding the need to improve physical access to and through the city’s public spaces and buildings. It was identified by some though that it is not physical access that is the main issue, but the attitudes of people toward people with disabilities. This was a small part of a large idea explaining Melbourne being more accepting of difference.

… For the City of Melbourne, it’s worth asking how cities can ‘map’ the quest for good lives. It may be even worth asking whether Melbourne could one day exist without distinct disability services...

A number of specific suggestions were made with regard to improving physical access for people around the city. An idea described development of a tactile map to assist blind and deaf-blind people in navigating the city, a significant amount of detail was provided on this idea. Other suggestions were to make use of more universal design principles and to ensure that footpaths are clear of homeless people and buskers, who can trip blind and deaf-blind people. It was stated that when deaf-blind people lose the ability to touch a wall it is very easy for them to become disorientated and that this occurs when they are forced to navigate around buskers. Standing zones for buskers were suggested to overcome this. Other suggestions were for: larger street signs and ramps down the Yarra; better access into public buildings, such as the Old Melbourne Gaol and train stations; more tactile strips on footpaths; and, introduction of driverless cars for blind people.

Some general observations on how urban design is experienced by children were provided, as well as specific observations that facilities such as post boxes, and water fountains, were too high for children to access. A few comments were made regarding access for elderly people, inclusive of providing more time to cross roads. A study into dementia sufferers, their navigation of the city, and how this can be applied to people suffering from other less severe conditions was also explained in detail.

Other comments stated that poorly funded community groups have difficulty accessing the city (including little space left at Ross House), and subsequently the need for a multipurpose/community hub in the CBD, where community groups can have affordable and accessible offices. The need for accessible housing at Fisherman’s Bend was also stated.

Housing design (20 Statements)

Many contributions covered housing design, with most inferring or directly stating a need to provide high quality housing. Several comments made the point that there is a need for medium density housing that isn’t too tall or small, some suggested that there should be regulation to enforce minimum sizes. Several comments also suggested that housing should be sustainable, using things such as solar energy and water conservation. Other ideas were that houses should be quieter and safer, and one person proposed building houses from stone. Note that planning for housing has been discussed in the Urban Planning section of this priority.