Monday, May 7, 2018

"Unhappy Ratepayer" might be onto something

"Unhappy Ratepayer"'s comments in the post below need further comment. 

And the comment is this:


Your property ends at your fence, not your kerb!

I've been saying for years that councils need to take their verges back. They're too good a resource to leave in the hands of individuals.

If Unhappy Ratepayer decides to abandon his/her verge and let it turn into a sandpit I say "GREAT!".

It might start something.

Monday, April 30, 2018

How's your Greek?

I found myself on the outskirts of Perth on the weekend (I'm always looking for new roads to ride) and was shocked at what I saw. 

I don't know why I was shocked. Perhaps I keep hoping against hope. But I was definitely shocked to see the acres and acres of new houses with no trees anywhere. Not in the properties, not in the streets. Nothing. Just built form as far as the eye could see.

The battle for the hearts and minds has been lost out there. This is the new norm. Trees are seen as an intrusion.

We're going to end up looking like a Greek island.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Thanks Emma (I think)

Emma Young (journalist, novelist and all-round depressingly talented person) read my post below and sent me this pic of a town square in Savannah, Georgia (USA)... "one of many in this relatively small town of just 140,000 people".

See what she's saying?

If a lil 'ol town like Savannah can have 22(!) public squares to this standard, why can't Perth have at least some?

Well, she didn't say this, I did, but the question remains doesn't it?

Admittedly, it's humid as hell in Savannah - you can poke a stick in the ground and it will grow - but c'mon Perth, WE CAN HAVE THIS TOO!  It requires a different approach, BUT IT CAN BE DONE.

Councillors of our fair city: please demand that your town/city start doing this.

Don't listen to those who howl "too hard". It's not. You just gotta know how.

The future is in your hands.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

There's only love and fear

Everything we do is motivated by one or the other. 

All aberrant behaviour is therefore, ultimately, the result of fear. It might be a deep-seated, not-so-obvious fear, but it's there. You just have to dig a bit deeper to find it.

What's this got to do with Public Open Space?


Especially the design of it.

What's wrong with most of our POS in Perth?

Too hot.

Whether it's streets or parks or town squares, they're generally too hot. Because they lack big trees. They often have trees, yes, but they're usually too small and ineffective. Go have a look on a hot day and see if I'm wrong.

Why is so much of our POS planted with small trees?


The Parks Department guys are afraid to plant big trees because they're afraid of repercussions down the track.

The landscape architects are afraid to stipulate big trees for fear of being criticised by the Parks Department guys and not being used again.

But I've talked about all this before. Nothing new here.

Except there is. Because it's still happening. If anything, it's getting worse.

Putting aside our fear for a moment, here's a crash course in how to design POS that people actually want to use. It's actually really simple because it just involves asking one question:

"What do I want to EXPERIENCE in this space?"

That's it. Job done. Because you will now start thinking about how you experience. And that of course is through your senses. There's no other way. Not that I know about anyway.

So, now we start thinking about what each of our five senses would like to experience in this piece of POS.

Q. What do we want to FEEL?
A. Not hot, nor cold. Just nice. That gives us the clues about how much shade v sunshine we will need.

Q. What do we want to SEE?
A. Not too much harsh sunlight nor too much dank shade. Again, this informs our tree choices.
A. Not roads and buildings and ugly stuff. This tells us where to screen.

Q. What do we want to SMELL?

Q. What do we want to HEAR?

You get the idea. Run this process each time you have to make a decision about any aspect of POS design and you will soon be making better parks and streets and squares for the people you serve. You just gotta be brave and commit to the process and ignore the howls of the fearful. Love your job. It's so important. You are making a huge contribution to the wellbeing of generations to come. Or not. It's up to you. Do you love? Or do you fear?

Go on, I dare you.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nice idea, but...

A reader took issue with my post below about infill / loss of trees. 

They made the point that dwellings can in fact "touch the earth lightly" and not disturb trees. "Stumped, timber-framed buildings are an example" they said.

They're right of course. We could build in such a way that trees are undisturbed. My question is: will we? And the answer is clearly "no".

Again, we can stand around wringing our hands about it, protesting that everything would be better if we built pole homes, but the reality is it 'aint gonna happen folks. The development tsunami is made of concrete, bricks and mortar. It's an unstoppable behemoth that is best planned around, not stood in front of. What I'm suggesting is planning around it. Move the forest out of its way!

Problem solvered.  

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Change your focus folks

I've said it before but I'm moved to say it again after reading some more stuff about loss of tree canopy due to infill housing in Perth.


Infill is going to happen while we're all wringing our hands.

And trees will continue to be lost.


Because the two are mutually exclusive. Infill housing and trees cannot co-exist despite what those who design buildings - but don't understand trees - will tell you. And even if you artificially manipulate things to keep the trees on the lot, they will nearly always die later anyway due to the disturbance of their roots and the change in drainage conditions around them.

The answer is to accept this and put our attention on creating a NEW CANOPY over our city, a canopy planted on PUBLIC land where it can't be got at. Essentially I'm talking about streets - although parks are pretty handy for this purpose too. But focus on streets. Shade them ALL. Asphalt roads are huge heat absorbers / reflectors. Shading them all will have a dramatic effect on our heat island problem. AND it will make the streets nice places to be (congregating, walking…you know, LIVING). Councils are of course planting thousands of trees in streets every year but a small percentage ever get to maturity due to their inadequate maintenance and watering.

While we continue to rail about trees lost to infill, the years slip by and we're missing our opportunity. Along with death and taxes, infill is a certainty. And so is the tree loss associated with it. If not immediately, then certainly down the track due to the effect of the infill. No one ever talks about this by the way. They don't really want to hear it. If a new development pops up and large trees are retained, everyone claps their hands and walks away, satisfied their job is done. It isn't. Go back in five years and check the condition of the trees. It will open your eyes.

Folks, stop wasting precious years flogging dead horses. Fight the REAL fight - and that is the transitioning of our urban forest off private property and on to public land.

You know it makes sense. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What are we, crazy?

It's hard to believe that in 2018 we're still logging ANY native forests. Staggering that we can be so stupid. "Jobs" they cry. Bollocks. That's an old argument that just doesn't hold water any more. The world has changed. No jobs are sacrosanct any more. Certainly not ones that depend on the destruction of native forests.

Sometimes words just fail...