Thursday, January 20, 2011

Post-Urban/Suburban Landscapes: Design and Planning the Centre, Edge and In-Between

Helen Armstrong
Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney

The concept of landscape in contemporary cities is in a dynamic state of flux (Daidalos, 1999; Waldheim, 2006), yet urban design and planning tends to see landscapes as merely open space for recreation and areas set aside as nature reserves or urban public space (Vienna STEP05, 2005; Sydney Metropolitan Strategy, 2004). Such a reading is superficial and ignores the rich and complex contribution that landscape can play in 21st century cities. Limited interpretations of contemporary landscapes are of concern because urban landscapes, in the broadest sense, are being eroded in the city centre and at the edge, as well as in the wide area in between.
Despite theories that post industrial cities are characterised by fragmentation, fluidity and uncertainty (Soja, 2000; Koolhaas, 2004), the globalising forces of late capitalism (Jameson, 1991) are resulting in new ubiquitous and predictable landscapes of consumption in contemporary cities (Harvey, 2000, 2005). It is difficult to discern innovation, apart from environmental, in new plans and designs for buoyant redevelopments in Australian cities; meanwhile there are two major landscape types that are losing the battle against late capitalist urbanism; the peri-urban edge of productive lands and the left-over spaces of cities – the urban voids.
Despite such concerns, there are emerging landscapes of infrastructure in the post-urban/suburban fabric that, although seen negatively, are nevertheless intriguing sites worthy of a new interpretation.
In the context of a number of international approaches to the increasingly urbanised landscape, this paper explores the significance of complex landscapes in post-urban/suburban Sydney. It articulates a number of concerns about policies for Sydney landscape and proposes ways to reconsider current planning and design. It begins by questioning contemporary spectacle cities.

Darling Harbour, Sydney, photo by edwin.11
more posts about urban landscape:

Planning Urbanization Inside Natural Urban Landscapes

A GIS-based gradient analysis of urban landscape pattern of Shanghai metropolitan area, China

Urbanization, Urban Environment and Land Use: Challenges and Opportunities

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