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Check out our new blog: Placemaking and Density Done Well

Could our design community work smarter to improve housing in the western Bay? (The answer is yes, find out why!)

A call for Tauranga’s design community to work together could mean more innovation and better solutions for housing challenges in the western Bay.

September’s Smart Talk Future Thinking speaker series event ‘Placemaking and Density Done Well’ highlighted the need for collaboration and new ways of thinking from architects, designers, developers and local authorities.

Partnering with the New Zealand Institute of Architects and The Festival of Architecture for the very first time, the free event attracted more than 120 people who engaged with a panel of four New Zealand thought-leaders.

Do we need a design community coalition?

Introducing the challenges and opportunities of great placemaking and urban design, the experts talked about their experiences with density, urbanism, co-design, green and brownfield environments, creative engagement with community and much more.

Panellist Lisa Mein, Urban Designer Senior Principal at Auckland’s Boffa Miskell said the audience contributed to some thought provoking ideas.

“There were some really interesting questions, particularly around incentives to build high quality medium density housing,” said Lisa Mein. “The design community (architects, urban designers, landscape architects etc) has a responsibility to push better outcomes from developers and local authorities alike. Many of us do chip away to push those boundaries and the results are visible in the built environment, but it requires a coordinated approach.”

SmartGrowth Manager Bernie Walsh agrees.

“I like the idea of a ‘coalition of the design community’ helping with better outcomes. That’s probably going to be something SmartGrowth could help with at a western Bay level,” said Bernie. “That kind of drive for innovation and solutions, working with others from a design coalition across urban designers, architects and planners is something needed for the future of transport as well as housing here in the Bay.”

What were the other takeaway messages?

Here are some key observations from the discussion:

  • It’s important to invest in great public spaces and amenities upfront (meeting places, parks, walkways, cycleways) if you want more density and more housing choice. This will encourage people to realise that having a smaller home isn’t an issue in terms of still having a great quality of life. People use great public spaces to meet and enjoy life and it’s good for a city to have that vibrant community street life.
  • We need to make it easier for builders and developers to do things differently, if that will deliver good design outcomes and more housing choice. We need to look at ways to build in flexibility to council processes and rules and somehow incentivise the provision of more housing choice – particularly one and two-bedroom homes. Housing affordability is a big concern.
  • Councils, builders and developers will need to work together. No single sector is going to solve the housing affordability issue – it’s got to be a joined up effort with central government too, across the social, affordable and market housing sectors. We want more housing choice, and there is demand for smaller homes, but we have to ensure we get the urban design and quality of those homes right.

We shape our cities

The overall theme was summed up nicely by one of the 120 attendees at the Smart Talk Future Thinking event when she adapted a quote by Winston Churchill: “We shape our cities, and then our cities shape us.” *

Our panel of experts were:

  • Benje Feehan (Associate Director and registered architect), Ignite Architects, Auckland.
  • Michael Tucker (Manager of Urban Strategy), Tauranga City Council
  • Lisa Mein (Urban Designer, Senior Principal), Boffa Miskell in Auckland
  • Simon Maxwell (Sales & Marketing Manager, The Lakes Tauranga), Carrus Corporation Ltd.

Want to hear more?

Check out our panellists’ two-minute videos

Or to find out about our upcoming free events, sign up to our e-newsletter or follow us on Facebook 

*Actual quote: We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.