Genevieve Brannigan is the Director of the Communications Collective, a communications agency with clients that span the breadth of the built environment sector. The Communications Collective, in partnership with The Urban Developer recently brought together four of Melbourne’s most progressive developers, Neometro, Assemble Projects, Milieu and Kalex to discuss the future of the industry. Given the diversity of the Communications Collective’s work, Genevieve is in a unique position to comment on development in Melbourne from a variety of different perspectives. We asked her a few questions:
What do you see as the greatest challenge to the development industry of Melbourne in the next five to ten years?
Over the next five to ten years Melbourne will continue its rapid growth, both in population and geographically. The greatest challenge (and opportunity) will be to foster a vigorous discussion and collaboration between industry, government and the public. We need to create a long-term vision and implementation strategy for the overall development of Melbourne.
The creation of effective planning strategies that are clearly articulated with a stronger focus on design outcomes and flexible land uses, rather than prescriptive or simplistic planning, presents an ongoing challenge for both the public and private sector. Planning policy that focuses on the economic, social, environmental and built-form character of our city is an essential part of how this growth is managed. If we get this right if we are to ensure Melbourne remains one of the most diverse, distinctive and livable cities in the world.
Environmentally sustainable design has been embraced by the country’s major property and design companies; do you see any momentum gathering to deliver similarly rigorous outcomes in community infrastructure and social sustainability?
Supporting community infrastructure and social sustainability are key concerns for a new generation of designers and developers. Projects that foster livability, diversity and community benefit – such as Neometro’s New Urban Village at Jewell Station – are the forefront of this new sustainable design. But there is a role for government here, too. The world’s most successful cities, destinations like New York and London, combine medium- and high-density housing with master planning providing for cultural amenities, carefully thought-out green spaces and world-class public transport. Livability, diversity and social equity needs to be provided for if we want vibrant and healthy urban communities. This is why we need to be having the conversation now about what kind of cities we want to live in.
How do you think public perception of apartment living in Australia can shift towards international housing philosophies- where lifelong apartment living is not only expected, but desired?
Having lived in some of the world’s biggest cities I know that high density and wellbeing – both personal and at the community level – can go hand in hand. Perceptions are already changing here. We are now seeing the shift from suburbanism to urbanism. This brings people closer together literally and metaphorically. Diverse communities that walk and cycle enjoy a slower and more direct experience with the urban landscape and the commercial and cultural life of the city – that’s a recipe for wellbeing. And there is no question that breaking our dependence to cars directly contributes to physical health. It’s also an important indicator for the social health of cities.
Mixed-use urban development can be a powerful driver for meaningful social connection, and property developers have a role to play here.
We need a life-long model for medium-density living, as has long been the case in cities such as Paris and New York.
I predict that a greater focus on the needs of long-term renters; convertible, adaptive spaces to make long-term apartment living viable; and multi-generational urban communities will be some of the trends we’ll see in this area.
If you were to run a communications campaign to shift that perspective, how would you go about it?
I can tell you there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution! That’s because a campaign based on community wellbeing needs to be based in full and open community consultation. It needs to be specific, geographically and culturally. But we would begin with research to determine the stakeholders and potential consumers and creating dialogue. We work with several developers, who share a genuine commitment to giving back to the communities in which they build – these are opportunities to create conversations, conversations that lead in all kinds of exciting directions.
Finally, regarding Communications Collective, what drove the focus on the built environment sector?
I’ve always had a passion for the built environment. One of my favourite pastimes is exploring the architecture of wherever I am by foot. Buildings tell us so much about how we live, our values and sense of community. The built environment shapes our lives and I’m privileged to tell that story for our clients, but in another lifetime I could have happily been an architect.