Critical Subtropical Urban Design Analysis of Brisbane's New Apartment Buildings

Rosemary Kennedy
Adjunct Associate Professor
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

Brisbane’s policies for sustainable living are aimed at high-quality environments that enhance the city's character and identity as a livable, subtropical place. A purposive sample of fifteen recent apartment developments in Brisbane's inner urban areas was reviewed critically through the lens of lively streets, livable low-energy dwelling, and climate-responsiveness. A significant 60-year-old building was also analyzed.

The study drew upon established research to develop review frameworks for urban design quality and climate-responsive architecture. The frameworks confirmed that the city’s Multiple Residential Code provided a sound basis for the study, and a set of measurable indicators was derived from this Code.

The results of the review were mixed. The historic case demonstrated exemplary performance in both areas, but not all new apartment developments achieved the standards envisaged by the Code. Some cases demonstrated high-quality street-level interface, yet performed less well as towers for subtropical living. Others showed climate-responsive formal credentials, yet did little to contribute to the quality of the pedestrian environment on streets they frame.

The discussion suggests that codified items are selectively included or omitted by applicants, and warns that if the trends continue, the urban character produced in densifying localities will be quite different from the leafy subtropical image and identity sought. The presentation recommends that the extremely detailed Code be reorganized to clearly signal key physical and organizational rules that will deliver long-term benefits to the city.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation

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