Leading architects, designers and planning experts gathered in Sydney recently to share knowledge and agree best practice on unlocking the ‘place potential’ in communities across Australia.

Organised by Mirvac, the Future of Place forum saw the more traditional experts in the field joined by visionary urbanists, social innovation specialists and ‘change agents’.

Speakers included the likes of Renew Australia founder Marcus Westbury, Phil Kim of Jerde Partnership in Hong Kong and Friends of the High Line in New York executive director Robert Hammond.

The day was divided into three sessions; planning, design and activation, each leading into discussion around better place making.

The key overall conclusions were that community collaboration, ownership, and unique experiences and flexible, adaptive space are essential to creating great places.

Asked to summarise the day for Architecture & Design, Mirvac Design’s national director Peter Cotton said the common theme was that the traditional approach to placemaking had to evolve, that the prescriptive ‘design-before-need’ model should be turned on its head.

“It’s not about designing places but creating spaces that people can inhabit, that are flexible and will then be conducive to activation that’s authentic rather than forced,” he said.

Paul Edwards, Mirvac’s Group General Manager Sustainability said the forum was the first step in distilling and curating the insights in the company’s sustainability roadmap, the ‘This Changes Everything Strategy’.

“Mirvac has undertaken this important initiative to bring together leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds and industries, in order to encourage the type of collaborative and integrated thinking which is essential in the creation and enhancement of our cities, towns, villages and communities,” he said.

“The next stage is to create a framework that will shape and guide the design and development of great places that meet the wants and needs of Australians.”

Peter Cotton added that the shift in approach discussed at the forum is what he would like to see around places under development with Mirvac involvement, for instance the Green Square urban transformation in Sydney where the company recently began some work.

Green Square Town Centre is to be built over 14 hectares adjacent to the railway station, and includes a plaza, library, community centres, aquatic centres, and childcare and sports facilities

Speakers at the Future of Place forum:

Session 1: PLANNING
Marcus Westbury, Creative Director and Founder, Renew Australia
Robert Moore, Manager Urban Design and Docklands, City of Melbourne
Dr Joanne Jakovich, Founder, SOUP Labs
Barrie Barton, Strategy & Insights Director, Right Angle Studio

Session 2: DESIGN
Phil Kim, Co-CEO and Managing Director Asia, Jerde Partnership, Inc
Lawrence Nield, Director, Studio Nield
Richard Francis-Jones, Design Director, Francis-Jones Morehen Throp
Lucinda Hartley, CEO and Co-Founder, CoDesign Studio

Robert Hammond, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Friends of the High Line, NY
Jess Miller, Grow It Local, GreenUps
Simon Griffiths, Co-Founder, Who Gives a Crap and Director, Shebeen
Sacha Coles, Aspect Studios Australia