A place based approach is gaining momentum in many built environment fields fuelled by its recent successes in Placemaking. Its use in the procurement of Public Art is common and it’s increasingly being used by architects, landscape architects as well as a range of other fields. I recently noticed a real estate for sale sign spruiking an average suburban houses ‘contribution to its suburb’s unique sense of place’ signalling its filtration into popular commercial culture. Its value within different fields however requires further evaluation.

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Our need to increase urban density in Western Australia has sparked fierce community debate in recent years. Perth has one of the lowest urban densities of any city in the world bringing with it environmental, social and economic un-sustainability. The link between design quality and acceptance of density shouldn’t be underestimated, but is rarely acknowledged within this debate. The quality of medium and high density outcomes currently being generated is a major factor impeding our ability to achieve higher densities.

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Have we really designed our public realm to accommodate a diverse range of use, by a diverse range of user groups? Aspects of our public realm utilising sharing are generally poorly developed due to our reliance on single use thinking, management and ownership structures. When harnessed as a multi layered design generator, sharing could assume a much deeper role within the way we consider, design, manage and maintain our public realm. This will unlock a broader range of unexpected, innovative and engaging uses. Spaces such as residential verges, suburban streets, school playgrounds, sporting ovals, empty development blocks as well as flood prone land are currently under-utilised and possess potential to more meaningfully contribute to a wider range of users within local communities.

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A shift in thinking is emerging changing the way we live in urban areas. The urban activation movement often known as 'tactical urbanism' or 'guerilla urbanism' is a grass roots reaction steadily regenerating our lifeless streetscapes. This movement is rebuilding the local communities which have dissolved in many cities over recent years. To achieve this goal this approach also needs to be supported by place-led local governance.

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The term 'housing affordability crisis' is increasingly used in Australia suggesting there are no affordable houses available. Houses are certainly more expensive but are also much larger, whilst accommodating fewer occupants and spread over a much larger urban footprint. Buying a small house on the fringe was an option for many first home buyers in the past, but is no longer acceptable to most young people gripped by infrastructure FoMO (fear of missing out).

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Public art and public space have been naturally merging over time in many ways. Consciously merging these fields could improve public art outcomes, whilst also generating inspiring public realm outcomes in Western Australia.

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The need to increase densities is one of the most important social, environmental and economic issues facing Western Australia. Achieving state wide planning objectives, particularly increasing density however, often leads to criticism of our planning approvals system. Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) and Design Advisory Committees (DACs) are relatively new additions to the approvals system in Western Australia and are the focus of debate within local communities, councils and the private sector.

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Although its forms are now quite different, public art has historically played an integral role within our public realm. In recent years public art has enjoyed a revival occurring in conjunction with our desire to improve the quality of our public realm. Claire Doherty's 'The New Rules of Public Art' published in 2013 reflect a change in direction. New forms of public art such as performance, ephemeral, installation and electronic media alongside more traditional forms such as sculpture and murals contribute to contemporary place-making generating engaging, memorable public spaces.

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