08 November 2016

graphic of green urban livingWhen it comes to town planning, spare a thought for the suburbs and design living spaces that encourage healthier lifestyles, reduce isolation and cater for aging populations.

Speaking on World Town Planning Day (November 8), Dr Hans Pieters, Program Director Regional and Urban Planning at the University of South Australia and former Mayor of Port Adelaide says social considerations including ageing and healthy living need to be addressed more in the planning of suburban environments, as much as they are in inner city dwellings.

“Most of us live in suburbs and while life on a quarter acre block has important sustainability implications, our demographic trends require planners to be sensitive to the needs of an ageing community, the rise of single occupancy status and the challenge of obesity,” Dr Pieters says.

“The draft 30 Year Plan for Adelaide ticks all the boxes however unless there are more council amalgamations it’s hard to see how local government can afford to play a role in delivering on some of the proposals such as walkable neighbourhoods, a greener city and greater housing choices.

“It’s not that local government is unwilling to play a role but equally these issues don’t stop at a council boundary and any obstacles to cooperation should be removed as soon as possible.

“Life in the suburbs is becoming increasingly detached from the factory centered commuter models of the post -World War 2 era. The rise of internet and home centeredness as people withdraw inwardly is a real concern and can lead to isolation.

“With ageing populations and the health risks attached to sedentary lifestyles, town planning should engage in fostering community development and the creation of spaces and environments that encourage play, social interaction and exercise.”

UniSA Professor of Architecture Ning Gu has suggested that there is much we can do to improve quality of life through urban design by reflecting on findings of emerging research, which range from smart technologies, urban informatics, to social sustainability and active ageing. In practice this could include data from digital fitness trackers, analysis of data on pet ownership, understanding current interest in volunteer participation and monitoring levels of aged care support. 

“The focus on quality public spaces through landscape architecture remains critical and of course much can still be achieved in retro – fitting suburban spaces through clever infill development that helps to bring neighbourhoods together,” Professor Gu says.

“New understandings derived from design, social and technological research will enable us to address the issues with much greater depth.

“That’s why we are encouraging residents, particular the younger generation, to take an interest in their suburbs just as much as they do in inner city - nobody should be left behind and planners of the future need to understand what make cities liveable for everyone.

"The multi-dimensional aspects of urban design research can provide important planning guidelines and tools for facilitating such transformations.”

World Town Planning Day also known as World Urbanism Day, was founded in 1949 by the late Professor Carlos Maria della Paolera of the University of Buenos Aires.


Dr Johannes Pieters, tel:  0418814885  email Johannes.Pieters@unisa.edu.au

Professor Ning Gu  tel: +61 8 830 20349 email: Ning.Gu@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Will Venn office +61 883020096 mob 0401 366054 email will.venn@unisa.edu.au

Other articles you may be interested in