Future Reflections

When tackling the future of a city we often get weighed down in the details of infrastructure, planning controls or the latest in high-tech innovation. Our latest Urban Leaders Boardroom Lunch highlighted that to take a city forward we need to take a step back and understand what motivates the behaviour of residents and workers on a day to day basis.

Professor Robyn Dowling, Dean of the University of Sydney School of Architecture questioned the role of technology in a contemporary Sydney, looking to autonomous vehicles and shifted to the more critical examination of what people want and need from transport. Rather than being swept up by technology, Prof. Dowling argues that decision-makers should prioritize what motivates people to travel in the first place and what cars mean to the people they move.

As we head down the road of driverless cars and increasingly climate conscious, car-free streets, there will need to be a coordinated effort by governments and practitioners to shift the existing culture of attachment to private vehicle ownership.

Designing streets for people rather than cars requires a massive switch in thinking. This change however, opens up limitless opportunities for creating activity and cultivating a thriving culture in these public spaces and planners need to constantly move the dial to strike the right balance between movement and place by prioritising the customer-citizen.

Gabriel Metcalf, CEO of Committee for Sydney turned to the hazy topic of Climate change and encourages urban leaders to take on San Francisco’s climate thinking approach and make decisions based on the expected life of an asset. This would mean building places to increase their longevity and protect against increasingly common extreme weather events.

Metcalf is confident of global cities like Sydney to continue to be liveable where they build on the aspirations and practices that make the city.

“You can have the ambition in Sydney because Sydney is already great” said Metcalf.

The adage ‘where you live shapes your life chances’ unfortunately still rings true close to home for Professor Heather Macdonald, Head of the School of Built Environment at UTS. Professor MacDonald joined us to lend her expertise on housing in the city and how to reduce levels of housing discrimination and segregation. Increasing since 2016, geographical divisions based on ethnicity and socio-economic status are creating mismatched lived experiences of our city.

Cities often have the foundations to be a bustling, loveable city – but urban leaders need to capitalize on the city’s strengths and prioritise citizen needs, preferences and daily behaviour. A prosperous future in a city must integrate changing expectations of space, employment and mobility, champion morphing demographics and be ambitious and inclusive in its planning.

Gabrielle Platt

Program Coordinator

Cities Leadership Institute

The Urban Leaders Boardroom Lunch Series features high-level discussion on critical topics affecting cities and communities across Australia with significant decision-makers in government, industry and academia.

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Level 23, 45 Clarence Street

Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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