Between the street and the sky

With Melbourne’s population expected to hit 10 million by 2050, a new exhibition at City Gallery invites you to explore the dynamic between density and liveability. We spoke to curator Professor Rob Adams AM, the City of Melbourne’s Director of City Design and Projects.

What is the concept behind Between the Street and the Sky?
The exhibition investigates where the balance lies between our city’s rapidly-expanding population and the quality of our public realm. There is increasing evidence that tells us that denser cities are healthier, more sustainable and more financially viable, but huge development and very tall buildings can also cause our streets to suffer.

What can people see and do at the exhibition?
Visitors can compare 3D models of the city and take a virtual tram trip up Elizabeth Street. As they travel, they can watch the city changing around them and see lots of data, such as the number of new apartments, trees and sidewalk cafes being introduced.

What makes a city truly liveable?
To measure the liveability or quality of a city, you must start by looking at its people. If people still enjoy living there, you must be succeeding. However, a city also needs a certain resilience. I think there are a whole lot of questions that people will start asking themselves such as whether they want to be high up in the air just for the good view, and what this means for their life and lifestyle.

What kind of approaches might help our city in future?
Emerging areas like Fishermans Bend have different block sizes to those in our central city. This opens up lots of opportunities for new ways of living. In Europe, for example, many residential developers build not in the centre of a site but around the edges, leaving a courtyard in the middle. This configuration allows for lots of residential space, without the appearance of high density.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of Melbourne’s public realm?
I’m always optimistic because I think people are realising that we need to take stock of the character of Melbourne before we lose what we value. And we know that density can result in many benefits. This exhibition comes at a very interesting time, as Council has just approved new urban design guidelines for the city. This will allow us more creative control over the future of our streets.

Between the Street and the Sky runs until 28 April.

To find out more, visit City Gallery.