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Sydney Summit - Open Commons

Date: Feb 07, 2023
Category: Studio News
On Monday 6 February, three members of our Sydney leadership team, Bianca Pineda, Jason Packenham, and Lauren Nissen, had the privilege of presenting at the Committee for Sydney's SydneySummit.

The event was opened by Premier Dominic Perrottet and was attended by over 350 individuals, including some of the city's most prominent thinkers and decision-makers.

During their presentation, our team made a bold declaration: "Sydney doesn't need any more parks". This statement served as a backdrop to their Open Commons proposal, which aims to transform our understanding of parks and their purpose. The team pointed out that current parks, with their expansive lawns, sparse trees, and repetitive programming, adhere to a model that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

The team posed a series of thought-provoking questions: What if parks had more in common with schools and libraries? What if they were publicly funded and supported to ensure consistent programming and staffing? And what if communities had a say in shaping their parks over time?

With ongoing challenges such as climate change, loneliness, and increased urban density, the team questioned whether our current parks are equipped to address these pressing issues. The Open Commons approach would replace top-down, fixed liabilities with bottom-up, evolving spaces. It would place a smaller emphasis on appearance and a larger emphasis on functionality and evolution. This approach would prioritise spaces that are open to change and are funded and supported on an ongoing basis.


Central to the Open Commons model are community partners, who may include local residents, not-for-profits, or Traditional Owners. This approach would empower communities by giving them an ongoing role in a process led by them, not the government. The flexibility of the model allows communities to make spaces their own and turn parks into platforms for realising daily life in dense urban environments. For example, cultural practices of Traditional Owners could supplement park maintenance, or a local theatre group could transform their park into their stage – the possibilities are endless.

The Open Commons model is adaptable and scalable and can be applied to both new and existing parks. By rethinking what a park is, cities can go beyond the traditional boundaries of green space to also create streets and squares that better serve contemporary life.