Edition 6, 2009
the people and projects transforming
australia one street at a time
Jan Gehl’s plans to make us happier
the social trend changing
When you talk to the tV,
will it answer back?
future Living showcases global thinking on trends,
community, identity and innovations that affect the
way Australians live, work, play and invest.
eDition 6, 2009
03 Editorial 18 SnaPShot: ShanGhai
Building the “Better city, better life” Expo.
04 Global VillaGE
Big ideas and exciting trends 20 hot toPic
from around the world. Communities making the change to a greener
way of life are finding unexpected benefits.
06 thE tranSForMEr
How the Danish urban planner 26 FolloW thE lEadEr: JaSon EVErt
Jan Gehl is changing your life. The schoolteacher turnng myths into local
legends with the help of his students.
11 houSE oF thE FuturE
In the decades to come, will the household 28 briE chanGErS
appliances call for a chat? Empty nesters, rebounders and downshifters;
are you part of the trend?
16 oPinion: FiEld oF drEaMS
The head of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens on 32 oPinion: ShoW ME thE MonEY
big ideas for some neglected spaces. Find out if your superannuation’s working for you.
→ Baby-boomers are on the move, and changing
the real estate market in the process. Read more
about them in Briechangers, page 28.
← According to Michael Mobbs, “the answer’s
always going to be food. even if it’s a jar and
some seeds on the windowsill.” Mobbs is one
of a growing number of Australians making the
change to sustainable living in their buildings,
their energy use and their habits (hot topic,
page 16). the desire to go green has been taken
a step further by Patrick Blanc, whose
installations, such as Pont Juvénal in
Aix-en-Provence, encourage people to think
differently about the utilitarian structures which
we accept in their prosaic form.
Future Living | 01
we can all contribute to building better community through ↙ sun Valley, shanghai
Snapshot, page 18.
environmental actions. Be inspired by go-getting Australians ↘ transforming neglect into nurture
who have transformed their neighbourhoods – and found Field of dreams, page 16.
unexpected social and practical benefits, including a ↓ House of the future, page 11.
renewed sense of community.
s debate continues about the
Emission trading Scheme, carbon
credits and the various forms of
renewable energy, it can sometimes be
difficult to work out the right thing to do, or
whether it’s possible to make a difference
at all. recycling’s easy, but what about
rebuilding your house to be sustainable?
how about your street? Your suburb?
in this issue of Future Living ken
Eastwood has found examples across
australia of groups uniting around the
desire to be more environmentally sound,
with great achievements to boast about
(hot topic, p 20). together, not only are
they managing to create best-practice
sustainable developments, but also suburbs
that embody the values of community and
connection that many aspire to.
there’s inspiration and innovation
throughout the issue, as the director
of Sydney’s royal botanic Gardens, tim
Entwisle, offers his suggestions for
revitalising a neglected patch of green (Field
of dreams, p 16), carol booth profiles a
teacher transforming dreamtime tales into
new millennium teaching tools (old stories,
new tricks, p 26) and on page 6 caia hagel
talks to Jan Gehl, the unconventional danish
planner advising our capital cities on simple
ways to radically improve. as Gehl says,
“crossing the street is a human right.
on [Sydney’s] George Street you have to
apply for it!”
if your toaster talks to you, does it have
rights too? according to dan Warne (house
of the Future, p 11), it’s a gadget coming
soon, along with a remote control that will
get the coffee-maker busy, palm scanners
instead of doorkeys and a toilet that ... well,
no doubt they’re good for us, but do we
want them? You be the judge. •
Future Living | 03
PhotoGRAPh: CouRtesy RMit uniVeRsity
Social networking site Second Life is more than just a chat zone, as universities
and engineering companies turn to the alternate universe to test new ideas.
econd life, the virtual reality the space to roadtest modifications and a presence, with a replica of the school’s
community which mirrors the real constructions before starting to build. the Melbourne campus studio catering for
world, is now being used by public works director of la Salle, in illinois in students in australia and Vietnam enrolled in
organisations to test construction and the uS has used the system to test and its multimedia engineering subject.
engineering innovations. launched by model new plumbing systems, and Students in the Marine Production
linden labs in 2003, Second life is an emboldened by their success has created Management course at canada’s Memorial
interactive 3d internet community that the Second life Public Works resource university of newfoundland (Mun) built a
provides virtual environments for residents centre, a salon for engineers and public shipyard in Second life that won the
who want to escape from or enhance works officials from around the world. Excellence and innovation in use of
everyday life. Second life is also becoming a valuable technology for learning and teaching award
users create a virtual persona or avatar learning tool for education, with many from canadian network for innovation in
which they use to socialise, explore and universities establishing virtual campuses. Education this year.
conduct business. With 6 million users, and Melbourne’s rMit university created an the experience, said Mun’s adjunct
an average of 38,000 logged in at any one island in Second life in 2007 that’s used by professor in the faculty of engineering and
time, the commercial potential of Second students in its School of architecture and applied science, dr david Murrin, allowed
life has seen hundreds of real world design for displaying digital sculptures and students to “gain a deeper understanding
businesses set up operations within its prototypes of buildings that will withstand about the importance of material flow and
virtual borders. extreme environments. the School of the positioning of materials when building
Some engineering companies are using Electrical and computer Engineering also has something of such enormity”. •
Future Living | 05
PhotoGRAPh: FAiRFAx Photos/PeteR RAe
06 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
The Danish provocateur Jan Gehl has been
changing the way that people think about city
space and community for nearly fifty years.
Now he’s turned his attention to Australia,
inspiring, surprising and questioning the most
basic assumptions about how we should live.
words by Caia hagel
Future Living | 07
eing sweet to people is the secret to he speaks of cars, he uses the old-fashioned term
making a great city,” says danish architect ‘automobile’ and talks enthusiastically about the communal
Jan Gehl, with the provocative air of an pleasures of village life before the automobile’s noise,
experienced innovator. “being nice to the pollution and segregation took over.
citizens is key.” and though Gehl is known he becomes lyrical when weaving these details into the
for his wit, he sincerely means it. For it is with this greater themes of sustainability, safety and the epidemics
simple premise that he has approached his nearly fifty of obesity and depression – all while discussing cities as
years of achievements from copenhagen and new York living entities, and demonstrating the ways in which
city to london, Sao Paolo and Milan – in systematically spaces built by people shape the people that inhabit them.
transforming cities from their traffic-jammed, illnesses, “if you create space that invites people out of their
into vibrant people-friendly metropolises. buildings, where they can use their senses to really
he’s been working behind the scenes in australia’s interact, they can’t resist enjoying the activities that
capitals too, making incremental changes to the way we start to happen there. Just like a good party, people have
live and play. “australians are used to living with the a good time together if the ambience is right. this is
idea of limited resources, so they are not caught in the exactly what makes an exciting urban environment too.”
twentieth century idea of limitless petrol or water. this
is already a very good starting point. but australians are he planner’s unconventional ideas formed early
also genuinely people-oriented.” in his career. “When i graduated from the royal
it’s clear that Jan Gehl considers ideas much broader than academy of arts School of architecture [raaSa,
architecture’s traditional arm. rather than speaking of in copenhagen] in 1960, i was already interested in how
buildings, bridges and streets, Gehl speaks of people. like cities work,” he explains. “but it was meeting my wife
an old-world doctor he emphasises the importance of the that solidified the direction. She is a psychologist and
↓ During Adelaide’s Festival
of Arts, elder Park is made over
senses and sensual experience for the health of not just she would say to me ‘Jan, why are architects so
into an outdoor salon. the individual, but of the society and the city itself. When obsessed with form, and not people?’ which led to many
discussions in our household, not just between she and
i, but also with her psychology friends and my
architecture friends – and this made me very curious
about the interplay of form and life. Good architecture is
always about this interaction.
“So i decided i needed to know more about life – how
life works, by which i mean people, how they move and
behave, what makes them happy and unhappy – and
apply this to understanding urban design.”
Australia is a nation where
climate and attitude come
together to foster communities.
Six years later Gehl received a research grant from
raaSa for ‘studies of the form and use of public spaces’
and began to consolidate the ideas that have since been
applied to cities internationally, with exciting results.
the city of copenhagen, his primary laboratory for
research, has for decades set a world-class example of
what can be accomplished. the Strøget, copenhagen’s
traditional main shopping street and Europe’s longest,
was controversially made a car-free zone in 1962 – not
by a city or council zoning change, but as an experiment
by the raaSa, with the city’s tentative support. Many
businesses on the street were opposed to the change
and feared going bankrupt. Public protests ensued, but
the plan went ahead.
only two years down the track, the Strøget had
become a vibrant hub. Shops along the promenade were
PhotoGRAPhy: sAtC/shAne ReiD
flourishing, and the area had become a popular place for
people to live. the number of people walking along the
street had more than doubled, because of their
enjoyment of the public space and community life that
was offered. Gehl had discovered his thesis in action,
and his study of that change provided the material to
08 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
We need meeting places in
cities with their promises of real
connection – now more than ever
animate two of his groundbreaking books, life between betterment, and a great concern for the climate challenge, ↑ southern Cross station,
in Melbourne’s city centre, is
buildings and later, Public Spaces – Public life, the as well as human health issues”. a meeting place that also
follow-up synthesis of the next twenty five years of rob adams, director of design and urban development encourages pedestrian
experimentation and enquiry in copenhagen (see Words for the city of Melbourne, invited Gehl to help rework traffic.
and visionaries, below right). Melbourne’s city centre. in 1994, a fifteen-year
Gehl’s research uncovered quite philosophical results. he partnership and that produced the first Places for
found that only strictly necessary activities occur in poor People research document, as well as what Gehl proudly
quality outdoor space; that lower, densely spaced buildings calls “a city way out ahead for the twenty-first century”.
keep the wind factor down, which invites outdoor activities adams is a fan of Gehl’s approach. “he is a jovial,
in all seasons; that lit windows and densely populated good-humoured man, which comes through in his work.
streets make street life safer and more inviting; and that he has provided a framework to measure the
cycling and walking actually bring communities together, improvements in Melbourne over the past twenty five
which makes them happier, and which makes the city itself years, data that clearly illustrates how the incremental
ecologically sustainable and more lively. strategy of improvements in a city can be enormously
Practically, this knowledge converts into very powerful in getting politicians and government agencies
promising measurable growth-potential in the character to continue on this path to progress.” »
of a city. Since bycyklen, copenhagen’s communal biking
system, was launched in 1995, the percentage of cyclist
commuters has risen steadily. Four years ago, it was 34
per cent, today it’s 37 per cent and by 2015, the city’s
goal is to have 50 per cent of residents commuting to words and visionaries
work on bikes. this will be a fivefold increase from life between buildings (1971) advocates the systematic approach to
twenty years ago. Gehl’s research has also manifested in understanding and improving cities by studying them, adjusting them,
5000 new outdoor cafe seats, which have increased then studying them again, which is the scientific principle on which all
tourism and extended outdoor eating and drinking to Gehl’s work is based. Public Spaces – Public life (with lars Gemzøe,
nine months of the year. 1996) is a recording of the life of a city. it examines the living organism
copenhagen is consistently voted one of the best that is copenhagen, its urban space and the human behaviours within it,
cities in the world to visit and live in, largely because of what its problems and potentials are and could be, and how these have
its dynamically animated outdoor spaces, which are evolved since his ‘winning back public space’ schemes began. it changed
pleasant and fun to be in. Gehl uses these facts, along the way citizens viewed the purpose and function of the city they lived
PhotoGRAPh: PhotoLiBRARy/wAyne FoGDen
with the proof of their effectiveness, to lobby local and in and went on to be translated into eleven languages, and to inspire a
federal bodies around the world to work together for worldwide movement of urban revitalisation.
further change in all the cities under his microscope. new city Spaces (with lars Gemzøe, 2001) and new city life (with
Gemzøe, kirknaes, Søndergaard, 2006), Gehl’s later books, build on his
ehl has been studying and advising cities in first two by exploring urban space themes from the angles of other
australia for fifteen years, and admires this cities and from the perspective of today’s needs and choices.
country’s “national willingness to come out of
buildings, an open-mindedness with genuine interest in
Future Living | 09
the cbd – not as a walking thoroughfare but as public
space that you can linger in because of its ambience,
greenery, seating and more good coffee – another Gehl
if Sydney’s car commuters are daunted by such a
proposal, they need only look to Perth. Since Gehl’s first
intervention and recommendations there in 1993, research
conducted by Gehl architects has shown that twice as
many people are now using the city centre and that there
has been a great increase in public life, as evidenced by its
festivals and outdoor events.
the company’s analysis also shows an increase in
satisfaction and town pride from Perth’s residents. Gehl
returned last June and was pleased with the evolution –
but there’s work yet to be done. “Perth can still improve
by further developing its greatest asset, the Swan river,
by connecting it to the city,” he says, “and enhancing the
diversity of public spaces so that the cbd is safer and
in adelaide, Gehl discovered that there were 330
unnecessary pedestrian interruptions on the walk from
one side of the city to the other. he has advocated
decreasing parking spaces (there are 35,000 as opposed
to copenhagen’s 3000), rejuvenating the Mall by creating
an attractive pedestrian access full of cafes with outdoor
seating, and changing the shopfronts to make them more
appealing, especially at night, which would increase
safety and use in the space around them.
↑ Jan Gehl the urban planner is currently working with mayor
clover Moore on Sydney’s 2030 Green, Global and eyond the ‘holistic lifestyle’ that Gehl and his
connected program. here, his study focuses on team encourage in cities, a general overview
transforming the areas between circular Quay, central of today’s society can be confronting. Gehl
Station, hyde Park and darling harbour into “an invitation argues that no one considered the human
to enjoy the city more by cutting down automobile access consequences of movements like Modernism, which
and opening life to walkers and cyclists”. championed large singular buildings cut off from other
he would like to eradicate the long waiting time large singular buildings, separating work, recreation
pedestrians put up with along George Street, which he and transport – and effectively separated and isolated
feels is mired by british-style pedestrian lights. “crossing residents from each other.
the street is a human right. on George Street you have technological and industrial advancements have
to apply for it!” he says. further isolated people, who now, he observes, “live in
he has recommended that the city dedicate George their private home with their private car, working on
Street to public transport, pedestrians and cyclists, and their private computer and communicating on their
that the cbd in general, which he currently describes as private telephone, and seeing indirect pictures of
suffering “doughnut syndrome – sweet on the outside what other people are supposedly experiencing
and empty in the middle” be brought to life. he suggests through the television”.
restricting east-west vehicle movement, reducing according to him, cities should be places, indeed
parking availability, dropping the speed limit to forty used to be places, where a person could take part in
km/h, and opening Sydney harbour by connecting it with the “real stuff – what we experience through the
senses – rather than what we are being fed in abstract
images through technology. When you go out for a
walk through your city where other people are
People talk about walking as walking, you meet people directly, you see and
smell and feel directly what life is doing and you
if it was a mode of transport. participate in life.
To me walking is more; it’s a “We need meeting places in cities with their
promises of real connection, now more than ever –
little corner of public life. Life because of all the scattering and privatisation
that has overtaken the human experience in the
happens when you’re on your past fifty years.”
of australia’s place in this, he says: “What people
feet … A high quality city is made love most is other people. australia is a nation where
climate and attitude come together in the right way to
by people using their foster communities with potentially happy inhabitants.
“i say to the north american cities ‘if Melbourne can
feet and their bodies. do it, why can’t you?’. australia is definitely moving in
Jan Gehl | urban planner the right direction.” •
10 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
Thinking of going to the doctor? No need –
in the not-too-distant future your toilet will
have given you a full check-up twice today
already. It’s just one of the high-tech gadgets
coming to your neighbourhood soon.
words by Dan warne | illustration by Kate Banazi
magine a future where you carry a computer
screen in your pocket, look up all the recipes
published in the world at a second’s notice, or call
your friend on a technicolour tV screen. What
about a miracle techno oven that can heat food in
seconds without a hotplate?
Sound familiar? think smartphone, web browser,
Skype and a microwave of course – but in the fifties,
sixties, and seventies, these were visionary ideas of the
best and brightest. honeywell’s kitchen computer cost
$10,600 in 1969 (equivalent to $61,580 today) and
offered blinking lights and switches to ‘read’ recipes.
Video-phones made their debut in 1927, in Fritz
lang’s famous silent film Metropolis; and from 1957 in
disneyworld, Monsanto demonstrated a microwave oven
to the public in its 100 per cent plastic “1986 home of
on the Microsoft corporate campus at redmond,
Washington, the world’s most famous home of the
Future is refreshed with new technologies every
two years. there’s a teenager’s room with organic
light emitting diode (olEd) wallpaper which allows
hdtV-quality images to be displayed on the entire
a kitchen computer encased in a sheet of glass can be
run through the dishwasher, while the pantry works out
what food’s left, automatically generates a shopping list,
then suggests recipes to suit the ingredients available.
Microsoft is just one of many corporate giants and
individual researchers in the race to define the gadgets
that will make your life easier in the future – and »
Future Living | 11
convince you to part with your hard-earned cash for “it was just light running over people’s eyes, but we very
the privilege. quickly learned that people worried that it would damage
“You may think a toilet is just a toilet, but we would their eyes or steal information about them,” he said.
like to make a toilet a home health measuring centre,” the ‘home’ as Microsoftians call it, now uses a lower
Mr Matsui, a Panasonic engineer, told The New York security palm scanner to get through the front door.
Times. “We are going to install in a toilet devices to likewise, getting new tech working requires
measure weight, fat, blood pressure, heart beat, urine considerable cooperation between companies with
sugar, albumin and blood in urine.” all this information disparate interests. the all-knowing kitchen pantry, for
could be sent to your doctor over the internet for regular example, relies on foods being tagged with id chips
health monitoring. that allow the cupboard to scan what’s in it and receive
three university of nSW students made world answers back from each packet of food via radio
headlines in 2005 winning a worldwide Electrolux frequency. While it sounds outlandish, many food
design laboratory ‘appliance of the future’ competition companies are already tagging their food with these
for a prototype rockpool dishwasher. tiny hidden chips for use in stock inventory systems.
their washer uses supercritical, pressurised carbon “uS retailer Walmart has a plan to have all food in its
dioxide (not rocks, as the name suggests) to clean store tagged with rFid by 2010,” says cluts. “of
dishes. it recaptures and repressurises the carbon course, if that date pushes back, then so does the idea
dioxide afterwards, and discards the grease and gunk, of a pantry that knows what’s in it.”
One of the things we are trying to do with the
home of the future is use technologies that are more
power efficient than the ones that we use today.
Jonathan cluts | Director, Microsoft home of the Future.
giving the system an extremely low environmental hen starry eyed ViPs tour through
impact, and non-existent water usage. Microsoft’s home of the Future, their mind
of course, not all high-tech home ideas prove is usually on the experience, not the power
practical or popular. Microsoft’s home of the Future bill. however, global warming and soaring energy costs
director Jonathan cluts admits some ideas work better are causing a rethink on the importance of energy
than others. When a past version of the house was built efficiency in the home. Even today’s home appliances in
in 2000, iris scanning was the entry method for the standby mode use up to 8 per cent of your household
front door – providing the best biometric security for a power consumption, according to a 2006 study by the
home possible. british Government.
Some of the world’s biggest tech companies are
turning their attention away from simply cramming more
technology in the home, in favour of studying efficiency.
Justin baird, innovationist from Google australia,
says that Google is working on a new online service
called ‘PowerMeter’ which will provide householders
with online access to live electricity consumption
records, showing how much power they’re burning.
this plan links to the new digital ‘Smart Meters’ being
rolled out to homes in Victoria and new South Wales,
which record detailed consumption data – right down
to half-hour increments – and transmit it regularly
back to the power company computers using inbuilt
Google claims that households which have trialled the
service cut their consumption by up to 15 per cent, saving
$180 each year and reducing their carbon footprint.
cluts thinks more technology is the best solution –
“one of the things we are trying to do with the home of
the Future is use technologies that are more power
efficient than the ones that we use today. take olEd
display panels: they use a fraction of the energy of
plasma tVs, so you can use many more of them in a
home and still not use as much power as one regular tV
today. that’s how we can predict that olEd wallpaper
could be viable in a teen’s room.”
also, “starting up the compressor on an air
conditioner creates a big spike in power use,” says
cluts. “if devices all talked to each other, a power
12 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
company could intelligently stagger the start-up of air
conditioner compressors, smoothing consumption
across the grid.”
ames dyson, inventor of the dyson bagless
vacuum cleaner and the airblade hand dryer has
a stubbornly british, pragmatic solution: good
quality fans. “Fans work by using the halo of warm
humid air around your body and evaporating it. air
conditioners work by attempting to cool the fabric of
a house at enormous energy cost, when in fact you
don’t need to cool everything – you just need to cool
you. our fan uses forty watts of power, while an air
conditioner might use 2400 watts or more.”
in Sydney to launch his latest innovation – a
bladeless table-top fan that uses similar technology to
his hand dryer to push air out of a thin circular slit and
drags up fifteen times more air, saving power by
utilising air induction currents – dyson said he doesn’t
believe in invention for the sake of it, nor cramming
technology into things that don’t really need it. he
says his company has been working on robotic vacuum
cleaners for thirteen years, but has no plans to release
one until it cleans the floor properly.
and what about purchase and insurance costs for all
this future tech? again, cluts pre-empts concerns:
although Microsoft’s home of the Future is designed to
be futuristic, cluts says its designers try not to use
anything that wouldn’t be affordable within six years.
an electronic touch message board in the kitchen could
have been plasma display, but instead, Microsoft used a
lower-resolution, black-and-white display, which could
be just $50 – $100 in a few years’ time.
but practicality has never been the main purpose of
these plans. We may now have the iPhone and
microwave, but what about the hovercraft and the
robomaid? the only limit to the house of the future is
imagination – with a bit of wackiness thrown in. •
Every room in your house will be affected as
technology continues to change our lives.
remote-controlled coffee? Waterless washing?
turn the page for a preview of the gadgets and
innovations making their way from drawing
board to your front door.
Future Living | 13
how much is it worth to you never to have to
clean the toilet again? panasonic has a ¥388,500
($a4,634) model that might float your boat, with
space-shuttle grade acrylics, sixty micrometer
rainwater showers soap bubbles to repel ‘particulate matter’ and
why is it that water inbuilt ipod speakers to waft soothing music to
catchment areas always help purge the day’s stresses. it even has its own
seem to be where rain isn’t energy-efficient lighting for those late night visits.
falling? But if you added
up the collective
‘catchment area’ of
every residential roof,
our water shortages would be
dramatically reduced. houses of the future
will have compulsory tanks and water
filtration systems which will allow showers
– as well as toilets – to use captured water.
wireless, 3D, laser tv
Forget lcd, Plasma and olEd tVs
– the future is laser tVs, which will
use only 25 per cent of the power
of a plasma tV. couple that with
technology that can already display
a 3d image without special glasses
(albeit as yet only in a grainy, headache-inducing quality)
and wireless, high-definition video transmission over the
air between lounge-room components, and you’ll find the
tV of the future bears little resemblance to today’s sets.
people-sensors in everything
air conditioners, tVs, digital photo frames, light
bulbs, Pcs and monitors – they all have two things in
common: a never-ending thirst for power, and the
fact that we all too often leave them running
when we walk away. appliance makers are
working on extremely low-power “people
sensors” that will rapidly switch devices to
ultra-low power mode when left on their
own. office buildings have done it for years, but
energy costs are creating a compelling case for
bringing it home as well.
net-connected washing machine
the internet toaster may not have captured
the world’s imagination, but that’s because
the net doesn’t add a lot to browning toast.
a washing machine on the other hand can
make the most out of being able to get in fingerprint scanner door locks
touch with you. unbalanced load? it won’t Some security systems already provide a carkey-style key fob that
thud around for ten minutes or sit there unlocks your door and disarms your alarm with the press of a
beeping anxously – one instant message, email button. but while you can still get stuck outside in your
or SMS will do the trick. load finished? You’ll be the first to know. pyjamas without your key fob, it’s difficult to lose your
clogged lint filter? You’ve got mail. another concept cleans thumb (unless you’re wanted by particularly ruthless
clothes with a barrage of ultrasonic waves instead of water. vigilantes). one swipe of your thumbprint and you’ll be in like
Flynn – though Flynn himself may find his print is unrecognised.
14 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
Paint your house ‘green’ with naSa-
designed ceramic insulating paint, while
internal walls could be covered with
thermo-reflective wallpaper. another
idea is next-generation plasterboard, which
includes a blanket of naSa’s aerogel: a
rigid material that feels like polystyrene
but is transparent and has the lowest density of
any known porous solid in the universe. it’s also an
extraordinary insulator. at present it’s prohibitively costly,
but the march of progress should change that.
the wireless home remote control
still in bed; need coffee? starting the
percolator will be just a touchscreen away
on your home control panel – an iphone-
style device with control panels to adjust
just about everything in your house. it uses
wifi on your home network, taps into the
fibre-optic nBn for high definition
entertainment, and uses existing powerlines
to talk to your coffee maker, fridge, toaster, oven,
lights, power meter, computer, etc.
a farm in your kitchen
no-one’s suggesting that we breed
micro-cows on the kitchen bench (yet)
but electronics giant philips has a
concept for a ‘micro biosphere’ which
grows fish, vegetables, grasses, herbs
and even algae under one self-
maintaining glass roof. the fish are
kept alive with oxygen produced by
the plants; shrimps will keep the fish
tank clean – and make a tasty cocktail. the system also
produces hydrogen and methane for energy.
think you’ve already got enough batteries to deal
with? you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. google wants
individual houses to get big battery arrays that store
power generated from solar panels as well as grid
power pulled in overnight, so that the peak-period
spikes in consumption will be reduced,
resulting in less power stations. your
frugal fridge electric car will need charging too –
only got broccoli, anchovies and vegemite? your fridge will and for that, look for the
tell you what you could make, along with a step-by-step powerpoint on the nature
recipe. think of it as internet fridge meets Masterchef. strip. the plug is open to
the big challenge is getting the fridge to identify what it everyone – the bill goes to
contains. researchers are working on various methods, the owner of each car – and
from cameras with image recognition software able to it’ll be renewable power,
read labels and recognise fresh food, to radio-frequency iD that’s cheaper than petrol.
chips, which are already added to a number of packaged
foods to allow manufacturers and retailers to track stock.
Future Living | 15
Field of dreams
Away with patchy lawns and broken benches –
parks are places to share, with options for their
appearance and use as diverse as their community.
words by tim entwisle | Photography by ian Connellan
ne of my predecessors as director of i’ve always disliked the instant garden, or
the royal botanic Gardens Sydney instant park. i get tired of seeing rows of tree
(rbG) encouraged bindii in the lawns trunks in a ‘mature’ garden, which bear little
to stop visitors sitting and enjoying the resemblance to the hectic arrangements of
scenery. clearly he saw the rbG as a place for the wild. a park ought to grow and alter like
serious botany, not frivolous picnicking. its community – with pleasing disarray, so it’s
a lot of people might think this a fine better to plant new trees every year. that
solution for their local park, especially if it’s way there’s always a youthful sapling, a
not big enough for a footy game and not gangly teenager, a few spreading middle-
small enough for a laneway cafe. Plant some aged specimens and a stubborn old stump.
thorny bushes, trees with poisonous hairs, if there’s space, local plants will encourage
and lots of prickly weeds: pretty soon the the local wildlife and birdlife to visit or stay.
park will effortlessly repel all outsiders. the but don’t be hidebound about imitating
pity is it won’t afford insiders a safe patch to nature – very few houses resemble the caves
sit. the better alternative is to encourage and tents of our ancestors. if the park is in
people to use the park. Make it a place to
share, a place for the whole community.
Whatever the motivation for transforming a
park, prickly or pleasurable, the first step is to A park ought to grow and
find out who runs it. it’s probably the local
council, and if it isn’t they’ll help track down alter like its community – with
the owner. council will have to pass approvals
eventually, and is a good starting point to pleasing disarray.
generate community interest and support.
it’s also a great source of local plant information
and, in many cases, local plants.
nearby nurseries are also worth a visit, as the middle of a city, stick to a few simple
is the closest botanic garden: they’ll have principles. Plant anything that won’t escape
ideas for landscaping and feature plants. into the natural bush, doesn’t require more
Most botanic gardens will also have a plant water than is available, and won’t need the
information service with a wealth of protection of toxic chemicals to survive.
understanding about weedy and poisonous Sometimes these will be local plants; other
plants – important knowledge for would-be times spectacular shrubs from another part
park renovators. of australia or anywhere else in the world. if
the rest is up to the park improvement the park is in a natural drainage area, or has a
team, which has a lot to consider. Scale water tank, planting choices can expand to
is paramount: how do you make a park include a few moisture-loving species.
attractive when you can barely swing a cat, While it’s appealing to see urban and
or more importantly a swing? narrow paths suburban parks as a network of conservation
that loop behind shrubs and bridge across zones designed to hold and protect rare
↑ this previously neglected
tiny ponds can seem like a journey through plants, and even animals, i think this is better space, owned by state rail,
the wilderness to a child barely tall enough done in larger parks and reserves. Few of our in Lavender Bay was
commandeered by wendy
to peer over the top of the tricycle. For rarer species will benefit from persisting as a
whiteley and nurtured into a
grown-ups, a couple of majestic trees can kind of ‘living dead’ in the corner park. but it wonderland of paths, plants and
lift the spirits. might help to make a point about our statues, freely enjoyed by all.
16 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
disappearing environment, simply because
it’s beautiful and park visitors discover that
they like it. Gardening is about fun, fantasy
and a little learning.
colour is definitely in the fun category.
Grey is the new black in gardens, but cheerier
hues are better for parks – perhaps colours
that signal seasons? Spring might be ushered
in with red foliage, red flowers, or red shoots.
the park’s centrepiece could be a giant
flowering tree with pink flowers – something
like the hong kong orchid tree. in fact, plants
from abroad have resonance that can help
bind the park and community, by recreating
the flora of local residents’ home or favourite
countries. remember what it’s like to smell
and touch eucalypts when you return to
australia after any length of time overseas?
a few culinary plants and other bits and
pieces from a particular region of the world
can create a powerful garden in a small place.
and a park needn’t be strictly ornamental.
People in suburbs or streets with few private
gardens might decide to turn their parkland
into a community plot. the only restriction on
what’s planted is that it won’t harm the
environment. and if the plant yields a feed,
that’s a bonus!
there’s no end to the possibilities if the
ultimate aim is a space to share and enjoy. a
park could be created around a local
sculpture competition: display the entries
and start planting around them. or borrow
an idea from a park in Willoughby, Sydney,
and create a wisteria arbour so that there’s
at least one month every year when lush
colour and scent makes the space utterly
deciduous trees allow in sunlight for
warm winter picnics, while a collection of
palms – dotted with some faux (or real)
beach umbrellas – could be employed to
spread extra shade in summer. Succulents
are very architectural and are hardy
survivors, but a little prickly at times.
Perhaps mention of succulents shows i’m
reverting to type. Forget all the other ideas
and plant a couple of giant cacti near the
gate: who needs community when you can
read your newspaper in peace? a local park
can be anything you want it to be. What are
you waiting for? •
Dr tim entwisle is a highly respected scientific communicator.
he has worked as a scientist and senior manager in botanic
gardens for nearly twenty years, and is the author of more
than seventy scientific publications, including three
books. since 2004 Dr entwisle has been the executive
Director of the Botanic Gardens trust and in 2007 he was
appointed the 12th new south wales Government Botanist,
an honorary position dating back to 1817.
Future Living | 17
this Sun Valley is one of six built for the shanghai’s “Better
City Better Life” world expo, which opens on 1 May 2010. forty metres
high and constructed from steel, glass, film and plastic, they are dotted
along the expo‘s main boulevard. they are designed to gather and
disperse the ‘essences’ of nature – sunlight, air and water – into a
kilometre of underground walkways and gardens. the water is fed into
the gardens, while the sunlight is reflected by the funnel’s panels to the
base, where a gigantic cube refracts and disperses the light along the
subterranean path. the world expo started in London in 1851 to showcase
international invention, progress and production. Mass communication
and travel has diminished the triennial event’s importance but shanghai
PhotoGraPhY: GEttY iMaGES
is determined to revitalise its status. the city has been preparing for more
than eight years and is geared up for seventy to 100 million visitors. the
5.28 square kilometre site contains a main building covering fourteen
hectares, national pavilions grouped by continent and an urban Best
practices area with fifty five exhibits from around the world.
18 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
Think it’s too hard to go green?
Across Australia optimistic
communities are committed to
is answer comes as a surprise. When i
ask Michael Mobbs, the maestro who
created a sustainable house in Sydney
a decade before it was fashionable,
what’s the most important thing
we can do to increase the long-term viability of our
changing the world one street communities, he says: “the answer’s always going to be
at a time, leading the way in food. Even if it’s just getting a jar and some seeds and
growing alfalfa seeds on the windowsill.”
sustainability, innovation a lawyer turned sustainability lecturer and coach,
Mobbs has been instrumental in a huge variety of
and inspiration. projects, big and small. apart from the Sustainability
words by Ken eastwood
house, he’s helped design commercial blocks that
require no air-conditioning and are completely water
self-sufficient. he’s had key roles in creating sustainable
villages and challenged governments to make paler
roads in order to lower urban temperatures. and he’s
turned the nature strip on Myrtle Street in inner Sydney
20 | eDition 6, 2009 | Future Living
roads into the future, trying to design from scratch
truly sustainable communities or retro-fit their existing
structures. local councils are increasingly employing
sustainability managers and neighbourhood groups
are banding together for everything from community
compost bins to bulk-buying produce or solar panels.
locally grown food is one beam in the design of
sustainable communities, but there are many others too:
compulsory energy-efficient buildings that are oriented
correctly for passive solar heating and cooling, renewable
power schemes, water recycling and treating sewage
locally, integrating parklands and bike paths into the urban
space, and working out how to redesign the very nature of
a community so that it encourages social interaction.
don’t assume these green dreams are idealistic
1970s-style communes of free love. Many are deeply
commercial developments and prices can be well over
the million-dollar mark. From brisbane’s massive boggo
road urban Village – a visionary blend of residential,
retail and commercial space that will also include the
EcoSciences precinct for environmental research – to
Grace town in south-west Wa, serious efforts are being
made by developers, residents and some governments
to redefine the way we live.
the winner of more than twenty five awards, including
the coveted international gong, the Fiabci Prix
d’Excellence, the Ecovillage at currumbin is one of the
outstanding developments at the high end of the market.
located on a magnificent 109 hectare site on the Gold
coast, it has 80 per cent open space and independent
water supply and sewage, with all toilets flushed with
recycled water. Many of the 144 sustainable houses are
still to be built, but each must generate at least some of
its own power, use recycled materials in construction and
into a community orchard, where native raspberries, ↑ the Currumbin ecovillage have extensive passive solar features (including internal
includes a community
herbs, lemongrass, citrus trees and passionfruit grow thermal mass walls of rammed earth, stone or suspended
orchard, bike paths and
among the detritus and bumper-to-bumper cars. “edible streetscapes”. concrete). “You’re not allowed air-conditioning,” says co-
“i don’t think we have more than five to ten years until developer and marketing manager kerry Shepherd. “if you
we have food shortages in australia,” Mobbs says. “Food design correctly, you shouldn’t need it.”
cost is rising because people are paying more for water after fourteen years developing the idea, Shepherd is
and energy and transport. Productivity of the Murray– excited to finally see people living in the village. “When
darling basin is in freefall.” we found the property we didn’t want to just carve it
Most of Mobbs’ time is now spent teaching people to into two-acre parcels,” she says. “We wanted somewhere
PhotoGRAPhs: CouRtesy CuRRuMBin eCoViLLAGe
grow food where they live – the so-called urban farm. it that was exemplary. We wanted to inspire sustainable
could be on a balcony, in the local park or in a school. he practices within this industry.”
says growing local food is important not just because of as well as the community orchards, edible
food miles – how far food travels to get to our plate – but streetscapes, bike paths, gym, pool and other
“it’s healthier, energy efficient and water efficient. facilities, Shepherd says one of the best things about
“Food has a greater impact than a house – the water the Ecovillage is its layout, which promotes social
needed to grow food for one person exceeds 5 million connectivity. instead of the front of each house facing
litres a year. one small meal needs 900 litres of water.” a road, they are clustered into hamlets of six to ten
across the country many communities are building houses, and every house faces a common greenway, »
Future Living | 21
You’ve got to inform and
encourage people really –
we’re talking about
changing the world view
Laurel freelane | president, share