Page 306 - Week 01 - Thursday, 15 February 2018
In October last year my office hosted an event called the making space initiative here in the Assembly. The making space initiative brings together built environment professionals to discuss how city design can respond to the needs of the people who live in and experience our city. The initiative brought together students, academics, planners, architects, landscape architects, engineers and designers, as well as members of the community and elected representatives from the ACT Legislative Assembly. In discussing making space I must take the opportunity to thank the steering committee, made up of representatives from the built environment professions, who helped conceptualise, organise and realise the imitative.
The theme of the first event, back in October, was home. We heard from five members of the ACT community. Each of our speakers spoke for five minutes on what their home meant to them. One of our speakers was Douglas. Douglas and his wife bought their home through the ACT government’s land rent scheme in Moncrieff in my electorate. However, he and his wife work in Sydney and use IT to “commute”. It is not uncommon to hear of one partner working from home, but we were fortunate to hear how a married couple remained sane whilst not only living together but also working together in the same house.
Another community member was Deb. Deb has lived her entire adult life in Curtin, a suburb that she loves very much, moving houses three times as she has transitioned through the different phases of her family life. We heard from Lachlan, a university student, who lives in a German master-built wooden cabin that serves as a granny flat in his landlord’s backyard. Penny spoke about her specific living needs while living with a disability in inclusive social housing. We also heard from Sunjaan, a seven-year-old boy who enjoys drinking babycinos on Lonsdale Street and one day would like to live in the hotel in Cairns his family once stayed in that has five swimming pools and, to quote Sunjaan, “The best breakfast ever.” It was clearly a very diverse group.
You might ask what that all has to do with planning. The key message the evening highlighted was that a one-size-fits-all approach to planning might not be appropriate. The variety of needs and requirements demonstrated by the making space initiative indicates that our approach to housing of any shape must be flexible and adaptable to the people it will accommodate. This was very clear on the night, when the audience asked question after question of our presenters. It was an opportunity for the built environment professionals in the room to speak to the people they design cities for, to ask how our presenters perceive, how they use and what they wish they could improve about their homes, their suburbs and their city. Ultimately this is what making space is intended to do: to get the built professions in one room, talking to members of the community to improve the understanding each one has of each other.
Following the positive feedback we received about the event, we have decided to hold it again. This year the initiative will be presented in two parts. The first evening, on Wednesday, 18 April, will again see five Canberrans present, this time on the theme of “socialise”. Our speakers will tell us how they socialise, where they socialise and what they do when they socialise. We have asked them to tell us what they would like to do that they cannot do already and how socialising has changed for them over the