Town Planning Review

From the ill-mannered to the iconic: Design regulation in central Sydney 1947–2002

Town Planning Review (2004), 75, (4), 405–445.

Abstract

This paper explores the history of design regulation and intervention in the City of Sydney (the CBD of Sydney for the purposes of this paper) and its recent remarkable shift from design agnosticism to the pursuit of design excellence. It reviews the distinctive history of development regulation in the city since 1912 and explores the interplay between planners and developers in the evolution of control, with the State imposing a strongly neoliberal regime to ensure the CBD continued to act as a national 'growth engine'. It closely examines the shift to a much more design-conscious planning regime, particularly the required use of design competitions on major schemes. It questions whether Sydney has succumbed to the notion of a 'design fetish', a local variant of the aestheticisation of city planning that characterises post-industrial, post-modern, consumption-oriented, global cities. It concludes by arguing that the new preoccupation with ensuring the 'well-mannered and the iconic' is long overdue in Sydney, and that public realm improvements spurred by the Olympics are an important adjunct to this policy. But careful control needs to be more deeply embedded in general planning practices to consolidate the achievements of the last decade, particularly in a newly enlarged city post-2004.

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Punter, John