A tool that will help governments and developers make communities more "connected" is the goal of a research project announced today as one of the winners in the Urban Development Institute of Australia's (UDIA) CityLife competition.
A team comprising the University of Technology Sydney and design and planning practice Hames Sharley will become one of three research partners in the CityLife project, which aims to make our cities more liveable, affordable and connected.
The goal is a tool that can be used to map physical and digital connections – and assess the benefits of new ones – for governments, planners, developers and end users.
"We'll be looking at ways to connect people with people, and people with spaces, both physically and digitally," says Associate Professor Edwards. "Making the right connections is essential to the functionality and sustainability of our places, cities and regions."
In modern communities, "competitive advantage will come from how places are connected, not just what they look like," Ms Cramer says.
"But the infrastructure that facilitates this connectivity can be expensive. The toolkit will help map the benefits of connectivity and allow governments, developers and investors to direct dollars to the right places."
Ms Cramer says the possibilities of the proposed connectivity toolkit are far greater than pure measurement. "The research can provide a foundation for unlocking untapped benefits for all stakeholders.
Dr Schweitzer says key to the team's proposal is a "human-centred", open and design-led approach. This will involve ethnographic research and the inclusion of various stakeholders. "This sort of approach to innovation has been shown to result in more accepted and effective solutions," he says.
Dr Schweitzer has contributed to similar projects in the past, including Design Parramatta, which sought to improve Parramatta city centre's public domain, and, most recently, the Climate Adapted People Shelter (CAPS) project, a design competition to re-imagine bus shelters in Western Sydney so they are desirable, climate adapted and "smart".
Associate Professor Edwards has been involved in projects that seek to understand "networks" in cities. In an urban tourism project for Destination New South Wales she "tagged" tourists with GPS devices then tracked their movements around the city. This revealed that most tourists were not venturing much beyond George and Pitt Streets.
Findings from the study also informed the planning process associated with the redevelopment of Darling Harbour. The maps were used to make a visual assessment of the integration/segregation of the precinct, with the aim of improving the site's intelligibility and connectivity.
Hames Sharley is a multidisciplinary, award winning practice specialising in architecture, interior design, urban design and planning, and landscape architecture.