Melbourne architect and urban planner Dean Landy launched his debut book, Creating Vibrant Communities, on 17 November.

The book explores ways in which the design sector can collaborate with other industry stakeholders and the public sector to deliver healthy, sustainable and liveable neighbourhoods. It aims to provide practical solutions for delivering communities through achievable means.

Landy is a partner at Clarke Hopkins Clarke and his portfolio includes major urban design and mixed-use projects including Soho Village in Point Cook, Polaris 3083 in Bundoora, and currently, Cloverton, set to become the largest masterplanned community in Victoria.

Architecture & Design spoke to Landy about the founding principles and catalyst for his new book.

Your ambition was to “go beyond the industry rhetoric and provide practical solutions for delivering new communities”, what do you mean by this?

In my role as an architect and urban designer who is involved in design of many town centres around Australia, I could see the potential for a more considered approach to creating vibrant communities. I wanted to move the industry discourse from what outcomes urban development should be achieving to how we can achieve them.

I often find that we’re asked to implement structure plans and vision documents, but too often these consist of motherhood statements. We wanted to put some meat on the bone and set more visionary targets. This included how to go about achieving these, and how to measure that they’ve been accomplished. We are aiming to create more healthy, sustainable and liveable communities.

The fact that we have provided a methodology that people can logically work through, with the case studies and examples to support it, makes the book more practical.

Creating Vibrant Communities brings together the voices of more than 35 industry leaders. Who are some of these experts, and how/why were they chosen?

Part of the philosophy behind Creating Vibrant Communities is that we need to be working more collaboratively to achieve more innovative and people-focused outcomes. As we’re all aware, the built environment industry is much maligned for its silos!

Rather than just contributing a single voice, I consulted a variety of experts in each area to ensure the books message was supported by a wide range of individuals. The interviews ranged from large developers such as Stockland and Villawood down to smaller scale developers such as MASBuild. We also talked to different levels of government, from the planning authorities through to councils, to get their unique perspectives. We also talked to a range of consultants such as designers, economists, sustainability experts and traffic engineers to be able to get a greater insight into how more vibrant communities can be achieved.

Using international or local examples, what do you hope these communities will look like?

Each new place should draw from its unique context and personalised further by the people who call it their home. It shouldn’t be a cookie cutter approach. This is at the heart of the Tribus Community Evolution Process, guiding readers through the thinking that helps to create more desirable places.

To address our growing population we really need to start getting our heads around creating more walkable, compact and better connected communities where people can do a diverse mix of activities, whether it be work, learning, entertainment or living. This is particularly relevant in our growth areas, not just in our established inner and middle metropolitan areas. The international and local examples in the book illustrate what is possible.

In your opinion, what is the major change Australia needs to make before it can start building these communities?

We need to stop focusing only on what buildings are needed in new communities and shift the discussion to what services and social infrastructure will bring people together and support them to have a fulfilling lifestyle. We need to bring a wider network of voices to the table earlier such as social service providers, community sporting groups and local employers.

Who in these ‘collaborative processes’ needs to make the biggest change/sacrifice? And how can we offer incentives to make those changes?

Firstly, its about change, not sacrifice. Providing better community outcomes actually presents a range of commercial opportunities. However, a fundamental shift in the way councils and developers currently work together towards a collaborative, shared knowledge approach for mutual benefit is required. The way forward will be to see these groups working together, alongside a skilled design team and a well-engaged community, to flesh out place-specific visions in line with commercially viable and achievable outcomes.

Given the pace and scale at which a lot of larger urban development is progressing, it would help if there were some commercial incentives around attracting key elements. Incentives may include, earlier facilitation of public transport, community facilities or incentives to bring retailers to growth areas sooner. While such incentives create benefits for communities they also improve marketability and profitability for developers. 

How does the book support the recommendations made in the New Urban Agenda developed at Habitat III? How influential do you believe this document will be?

A key takeaway from Habitat III is the need for social inclusion to address poverty and more equitable development, even here in Australia. It’s too easy to think we are only designing these spaces for a very specific demographic, but we need to be a lot more conscious of a shared value approach where we can accommodate the needs of a much broader ethnic and socio economic cross section. This is what’s needed to truly create more vibrant and healthy communities. 

Habitat III will hopefully be something many countries adopt and filter through their key strategic documents. However, it is the responsibility of the developers, government representatives and design teams on the ground to be able to take those initiatives on board and bring them into reality. 


Creating Vibrant Communities will be available to purchase online after November 17 from the official website. It will be available in select bookstores nationally in 2017.