Perth is facing a number of challenges that are making it increasingly difficult to handle the rising climate temperatures. In the first of a series of propositions looking at the cities which ASPECT Studios call home, Tom Griffiths and Michael Rowlands aim to raise the conversation about these challenges and offer solutions for how we can make Perth a more sustainable city.
It’s no secret that Perth has the smallest tree canopy of any capital city. Data has shown that over the last two decades, the percentage of Perth covered by trees has been on a steady decline.
Perth is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most liveable cities, but it has lost much of its natural heritage in recent decades. With an expanding population, increasing urban sprawl, and climate change, Perth is facing a challenge to retain its natural environment.
In The West Australian’s recent article, the Lord Mayor, Mr Zempilas, has shown support for implementing green initiatives to make the city more accessible and welcoming, through recent comments in his response to the Forest Place master plan.
“In the warmer months, it’s a pretty unforgiving environment and while it’s a great asset to our City to have a large civic space right in the heart of the CBD, it should be a space that’s comfortable and inviting.” ¹
As the City of Perth is now taking action to address this issue by creating more green space and planting more trees throughout the city, ASPECT Studios has proposed a plan to help Perth become a greener city. This proposal will see the creation of more green space and implementing green infrastructure innovations that will not only help mitigate the heat island effect but rejuvenate the environment for its residents and visitors.
Western Australia is blessed with ancient, biodiverse landscapes that aren’t found elsewhere on Earth. The state’s capital city Perth, like many cities around the world, has destroyed much of this unique landscape to accommodate its growth following its establishment in 1829. That pre-colonial landscape isn’t lost, but its relevance to life in Perth wanes every year.
In recent years the city has sought to redefine itself through initiatives such as the City of Light rebranding, the Think Perth investment strategy and its membership of the World Energy Cities Partnership. Central to each of these initiatives is the reimagining of Perth as a city that reflects and celebrates its unique character, is highly sustainable and future-focused, and a fantastic place to live and work.
The interventions focused on greening the city, improving connectivity for both natural systems and people, and enhanced amenity to support a thriving and growing CBD. Collectively these initiatives would enhance the city’s character and sense of place, address climate change issues, improve health and wellbeing, attract investment and ultimately make Perth a more desirable place to be.
Reconnecting the City Edges
First, we propose connecting Kings Park and Herrison Island, two biodiverse and symbolically important landscapes on the southern edge of the city. The reclaimed green open space along the foreshore would be re-landscaped into a new amenity-rich parkland that would provide an important ecological corridor and recreational space.
To compliment the foreshore the city’s lost wetlands along its northern edge would be daylighted to reintroduce a connected series of wetlands through the city. The wetlands would reintroduce an important ecological function into the city that would support native fauna and a wetland environment.
The growth of our cities comes at the expense of our natural landscapes and green open spaces. Increasingly this is having a significant consequence on the environment and the people who live in our cities through the loss of biodiversity, increased temperatures, more severe and more frequent flooding, and an adverse impact on our health and wellbeing.
Perth has seen significant growth over the last 200 years, both in terms of population and in its physical sprawl. Its growth has seen 80% of the Swan Coastal Plain and its wetland system cleared and filled.
The large and important aquifers that sit below the city were once expressed as wetlands and rivers on the surface that were environmentally important and culturally significant to the Whadjuk Nyungar people. Now, they are covered with low density residential suburbs, many of which have little canopy coverage and poor access to public open spaces and amenities.
We asked ourselves how could we add 20% of new public open space within the city, to improve the amenity for residents, enhance the environment and create a proposition that would support the growth of the city into the future?
Clearly, a radical response is required. Our design teams decided to resolve the environmental and development challenges with the creation of a new 100km-long blue/ green corridor along the Swan Coastal Plain. The proposal daylights the existing wetland system and preserves, enhances and reimagines the wetland system as a new parkland to support the growth of the city.
The new parkland would not only protect the sensitive wetlands and aquifers but would also increase biodiversity, amenity and development opportunities, all while re-establishing a keen sense of place within the Swan Coastal Plain.