Architecture as a tool for social change

Architecture as a tool for social change
Architecture as a tool for social change

Australia has come a long way in terms of planning and development, but times are changing fast.
With architects recognising the impact on climate change and urban sprawl more so than our government, we are seeing projects that challenge the status quo and influence social change through thoughtful design.
Design can be used to address social equity and diversity in urban environments by providing affordable housing, green space, sustainable living, appropriate density and a green lean towards public transport and cycling facilities. 

Collaborating with other architects and the community to leverage projects that deliver a deep and sustained social benefit is at the forefront of this movement. 
This allows architects to call out social and environmental inequality by simply providing alternative living and civic spaces with the idea of working with communities instead of working for them.
With erosion threatening beachfront properties along the coast of Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, and the threat of rising sea levels impacting where almost 40% of all Australians livelihood, smart design and planning is most important to influencing and adapting the way we live to retain our lifestyles. 

There are a few projects that unknowingly push the boundaries in opening up discussions between communities on sustainable living and the impact of urban sprawl such as Breathe Architecture’s Nightingale proposal for Ballarat.

Architecture as a tool for social change
Rendering of the Nightingale Ballarat project by Breathe Architecture

The architectural form of the project is driven to respond to its surrounding heritage brick industrial buildings along Davey Street and the city centre of Ballarat. 
Breathe’s design strategy is to provide more with less, with untreated, tactile and durable materials recycled where possible.

The landscaped courtyard and gardens offer the ability for deep root planting, which encourages residents to grow and sustain vegetables and plants. The facade is also immersed in native plants giving a deep sense of community pride. Through careful material usage and recycled content where possible, Nightingale Ballarat is to be a carbon zero emissions building. Recycled water, renewable energy sources and high quality waste management attribute to the future residents low cost living.

“Nightingale Ballarat has been designed to make sustainable living simple. Common elements like the roof garden and deck, laundry and clotheslines, bicycle parking and shared building services offer a collectively better outcome. By providing meaningful social and utility-based spaces, we look to encourage interaction and activity with friends and neighbours.” - Nightingale Ballarat Resident Package.

Open walkways with vertical greenery connect the apartment levels, creating spaces for residents to stop and converse. All apartments have an east or west facing living areas with a private balcony providing planter boxes to allow greenery to grow along the facade as well as natural ventilation and daylight adding additional amenity for the residents.

The development has opened up a major discussion for Ballarat residents about the negative impact of urban sprawl, with the population set to grow by 40,000 people in the next two decades. Nightingale offers the first socially beneficial solution that the residents of Ballarat recognise more as a typical Melbourne development and thus are not yet accustomed to within their own city.
Victoria’s satellite cities are growing at a fast rate as well as Melbourne’s outer suburbs and in Ballarat alone, there are undeveloped, empty lots within the existing city structure that could be developed respectfully to accommodate for this population growth.

Architecture as a tool for social change
Rendering of the Ivanhoe Housing Estate in Macquarie Park, Sydney

A project unfolding in the Sydney suburb of Macquarie Park is the Ivanhoe public-private housing estate.
The development is an integrated social housing precinct that offers community facilities, a school, retail, green space and ‘tenure blindness’ for residential properties.
This is a social leap into disbanding the stigma between private, social housing and rental properties as tenure blindness offers a connectivity of all diversities and demographics.

The existing Ivanhoe Housing Estate is set to be demolished to provide an updated private-public mixed community precinct to which benefits social and environmental strains.
The architecture practices involved with the project are Bates Smart, which produced the masterplan, Candalepas Associates, Turner, Cox Architecture delivering residential and community facilities and Hassell whom are responsible for the project’s urban design and landscape architecture. 

The development will include 3000 apartment units replacing the 259 current social housing units on site with a private vertical high school for 1000 students, a 120-bed residential aged care, two childcare centres, a supermarket, cafe’s, specialty retail shops, a multi-functional centre with a hall, gymnasium, pool and outdoor play areas and exercise stations.
Local infrastructure will be improved for easy accessibility and connectivity and sustainable measures such as solar panels, green roofs, water capture and reuse as well as incorporating car-share facilities and a bicycle space for each dwelling keeps the precinct at a six Star Energy Rating.

The Ivanhoe Housing Estate opens Australian’s eyes to how we perceive each other and help to break down social barriers of classism and elitism that we may hold against each other.
As communities integrate and Australia becomes one of the most multicultural countries globally, we must progress in our thinking and feelings towards each other to which density can provide that close kinship.
The proposal has been massively influenced by community engagement and have opened up to existing residents and locals to participate in the discussion. Having social or privately owned apartments not perceivable by the public domain encourages social equality and a deconstruction of stigmatic and biased views once shared between community.

The architecture and urban planning industry can progress forward and benefit from a sense of personal accountability and understanding on the issues that face us in Australia.
The outcome of these projects can no longer be just a building, but a living entity that impacts social life, so instead of thinking about providing shelter, we need to think about providing a higher quality of life.





Nicholas Failla

Nicholas Failla

Nicholas is a content writer and graphic designer who is passionate about cities, architecture, urban planning and sustainable communities.

culture Australia Melbourne Sydney Ballarat Architecture


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