Monday, February 07, 2005

Council provides 'thought leadership'

A press release from Clover Moore follows. One can only hope that the disparity between this thinking and what's happening in William Street will close with time. I suspect it will need more than a 'workshop' with council staff.

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I hosted the first in a new series of "Thought Leadership" seminars at Town Hall this week. These seminars are a way to get distinguished experts on urban living to talk about their ideas and projects -- and to stimulate discussion towards more enlightened city governance.

The speaker at our inaugural "Thought Leadership" seminar (attended by over 200 residents, business leaders and planners) was Professor Jan Gehl, whose particular and important contribution has been to bring a human dimension into urban planning.

Half the world's population lives in urban areas, but many cities are dysfunctional, with common social problems. To often, the emphasis is on development, not planning, and there is rarely the will to fund the changes needed to plan for quality and sustainability in urban life.

Throughout the 20th century, the motor vehicle became the dominant feature in urban planning. Here in Sydney, our comprehensive tram
system was dismantled in the 1950s, and successive governments have promoted city expressways over public transport. We now have to
address the impacts of alienation, transport gridlock and pollution.

Remaking city areas and returning them to people have been Professor Gehl's major contributions. Lively or lifeless public spaces depend on quality and the invitation extended to users to walk, stay, sit or otherwise enjoy the area. Professor Gehl's insights provide inspiration and a system to provide a careful treatment that creates inviting and human public spaces.

His work in Copenhagen, over a thirty year period, has led to its renaissance as a "walking city", with substantial benefits to that city's residents and tourists. He has been involved in other cities around the world, including London, Wellington, Zurich, Adelaide,
Melbourne and Perth.

Our City is committed to the creation of new public parks, places, walkways and cycleways, and has embarked on a comprehensive program of renewing existing public spaces, from parks and foreshores, to streets and laneways.

Professor Gehl also ran a workshop with city staff. We hope to learn from the clarity of his vision for bringing life to our streets.

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