Councils should look to their public spaces for opportunities to boost regional resilience, says Yuri Dillon, the Principal of architecture practice Liquid Blu.

"Quality design that integrates amenity into public space delivers short and long-term benefits," says Yuri. "It can help attract and retain residents and provide the catalyst for economic development."

Identifying opportunities

Yuri has spent twenty years delivering aquatic, sports and community facilities for councils across Australia, giving him an insight into the challenges councils face, as well as emerging opportunities. He cites Liquid Blu's work on the Yeppoon Foreshore Revitalisation Project as an exemplar. The exciting destination offers a wide array of free activities as well as hospitality options. "At Yeppoon, we created a massive lagoon with a wet edge that overlooks the beach," says Yuri. "The lagoon is surrounded by a series of pavilions and activates the southern area of the foreshore, increasing connectivity between existing land uses."

Yuri says the benefits go beyond attracting tourists. "Yeppoon Lagoon is a drawcard for families considering a regional move, whether for work or lifestyle, boosting population growth. The public facilities also support micro-businesses such as exercise classes and coffee sellers." 

darwin waterfront public recreational precinct concept plan

On a larger scale, the recently released master plan for the Darwin Waterfront will transform under-utilised public space in the Northern Territory capital and support adjacent commercial and residential precincts. Liquid Blu's proposal and concept, co-designed with landscape architects Place Design Group, is centred on an exciting public aquatic and recreation precinct. Embraced by local residents, the plan will deliver lifestyle, tourism and development benefits to Darwin and boost the regional economy.

Integrated community hubs

Yuri also draws attention to the trend towards integrated community precincts such as the recently completed Pimpama Sports Hub, a 14ha sport and community precinct that is the City of Gold Coast's biggest-ever infrastructure project. "Co-locating sport, community and cultural facilities delivers great value to councils, offering savings in construction and in longer-term management costs."

In addition, integrated precincts amplify community benefits. "An example is locating libraries alongside, or even inside, aquatic centres, making it easy for families to engage with reading," says Yuri.

gympie arc

Good design adds value

Even small design gestures can have a positive impact on local communities. Liquid Blu's design for the Gympie Aquatic Recreation Centre (Gympie ARC) features a landscaped forecourt with a sweeping, curved wall that creates a delightful addition to the street. The quality of this space makes the suburb more attractive and demonstrates Gympie Council's respect for its community.

The value in quality design at every scale cannot be underestimated," Yuri concludes. "Architects can help councils identify opportunities, develop staged master plans and assist with gaining funding. Building a trusted relationship with an architect pays long-term dividends."

Image: Supplied