Civic Report: Open Space

Open spaces and public places on the vertical plane: green access in high-density communities.

Over the years EBD has challenged conventional notions of open space within a city. Early in the century, Melbourne’s open space consisted of the citys’ footpaths, streets, and large parks and garden network.  Inner urban residents lived in apartment blocks that had limited private or community open space. Whilst the city’s parks offered leisure space, there were few opportunities for residents to be active in creating and maintaining ‘their own’ public space, where interactions with ‘their’ communities could take place.  Many people who wanted a little yard of their own, an immediate space in which they could garden sit or play with their children, felt they could only live in the suburbs.

We owe much to the thoughtful (and radical) design of EBD but it was the importance given to the creation of convivial open space that has been so critical to establishing the district’s successful pattern of ecological living. There is private and public open space at EBD on so many levels; the conventional ground level spaces, spaces within buildings and the complex spaces at rooftop level. Remember, in the initial planning 40% of EBD’s land footprint was placed aside for open space. Now the effective open space is above 50% because of the evolution of all our above-ground  public and private spaces. The new third-level internal street and gardens linking North Melbourne to the CBD is sometimes the busiest space on the site. We can move around in a mix of urban spaces that are still seen as distinctive in the Melbourne context.

EBD has created unique open spaces which are environmentally productive (see Water, Food, Energy reports for more details) whilst enhancing community wellbeing and encouraging democratic and community activities. This open space strategy has created areas that are sheltered from the wind whilst allowing for maximum solar penetration in winter.  With such significant rises in average temperatures and with the extreme temperature days we have experienced over the last few years, the whole community has appreciated the design much of the non-agricultural public open space (streets, passageways and meeting places). The creation of ‘deep shade’ for the summer weather has worked well. Streets are shared by pedestrians, bikes and slow moving vehicles. As community passageways, they host a range of functional, recreational and leisure activities.