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Media | Publicly accessible private spaces: The future of Brisbane’s built environment


Brisbane’s distinct natural environment is echoed by its built. The city, soon to be the subject of immense urban development (the 2032 Summer Olympics, of course), has recently seen a suite of legislative changes to craft a biophilic, wellbeing-centric metropolitan centre.

This article was originally published in Architecture & Design by Jarrod Reedie. 

Chester and Morse

Architects and their counterparts, developers, council and other stakeholders, are leading this charge. The Buildings that Breathe policy adopted by Brisbane City Council outlines the vision for the future of the river city, with lushly landscaped areas with optimal shading characterising the ground plane, with well-ventilated, green buildings (literally) already becoming a mainstay of the city’s built forms.

Seemingly a paradox, architects and developers are creating publicly accessible private spaces, which are essentially pocket parks or open areas that front busy streets. The onus private developers have placed on themselves to deliver these spaces has paved the way for a ‘rewilded’ Brisbane, which will only see its verdancy increase in the years leading up to 2032.

“What has traditionally been developer-driven, high-density development is now starting to contribute more broadly in a public benefit sense,” says Rothelowman Principal Jeff Brown, who manages the practice’s Brisbane outpost.

“There have been some recent developments in Brisbane where we’re working on the ground, where the council has started to see the value in incentivising the provision of private space for public use. It’s about a diversity play as well.

“It’s been refreshing that some of these experiments have been acknowledged by Brisbane City Council as a way to incentivise good outcomes through the planning scheme.

“It’s really reassuring that they’re seeing success in projects and starting to move sideways with their attitude towards city planning and the governance that maps out the future of the city.

A shift in attitudes towards apartment living and increased density has seen a number of high-rise buildings go up in recent years, but Brown says that it has not come at the cost of sacrificing communal amenity.

“There has been this kind of evolution over the last decade of expanding the complexity and the interest in communal spaces within buildings. Briefs have changed; rooftops become elaborate. That’s partly driven by the increasingly strong attitudes of our clients in the development world and the market.

“The market’s valuing a lot of this communal use in buildings. We’re talking about recreation spaces on tops of buildings throughout the buildings. There’s a strong sense of vertical village-making within towers, which we’ve been interested in and exploring for many years now.”

Brown’s personal view is that Brisbane’s future is a pedestrian-centric one, with streets and thoroughfares filled with lush green areas able to be accessed by the general public.

“For me, it’s not all about big open space. It’s about a vision for a series of smaller offerings across the city that, once linked and complete, will offer this notion of a very walkable, communal, well-shaded series of spaces that combine to make the place more comfortable, with better amenity and a better sense of community. It’s great that the private sector can contribute on that level as well.”

Chester and Morse

Rothelowman is currently working alongside Aria Property Group to deliver Canopy House in Woolloongabba, which features an undercroft area that serves as a meeting place and a cooling device for the building. Come 2032, the development will serve as a pivot point to enter the future Olympic precinct. Chester and Morse, in Newstead, features a cross-block link that leads back to James Street, with small corner spaces providing places of refuge out of the weather.

Brown believes that the collective endorsement of these spaces will culminate in a walkable, accessible city characterised by its greenery and public space.

“There’s a strong sense of rewilding that’s happening, with amazing gardens and semi-parkland space on private land, setting the tone for the potential of subtropical gardens and restoration of the natural ecosystem of the city moving forward.

“There’s this kind of theme in the work emerging. We feel that council and the market are valuing it. We can play as designers to start thinking beyond our own sites and link our work across the city as this idea of one project. It’s incredibly encouraging to see our clients embracing these strategies wholeheartedly.”

This article was originally published in Architecture & Design by Jarrod Reedie.