HomeArticlesBusiness & InvestA unique city, by design

A unique city, by design

Nick Nichols | October 2019

The tall and the short of the Gold Coast’s appeal began with the beachfront and is sustained by a lifestyle that has endured decades of change.

The Gold Coast is a city like no other, and for Queensland Government Architect Malcolm Middleton the reasons for that go beyond the famed beachfront skyline.

While the architect and urban design expert sees the built form as integral to the city’s identity, he says the Gold Coast thrives because it retains an inherent relaxed attitude and openness to the experimental built forms that existed when the city was little more than a series of beach huts dotted along the shoreline in the 1950s.

“The Gold Coast is unique because it is one of the only places in Australia that has embraced tall buildings much more enthusiastically than anywhere else,” Mr Middleton says.

“The identity of the beach and tall buildings, combined with the canal structure behind them, is quite different. There is no city in Australia like it; in fact, there aren’t many cities in the world like it.

This is among the many factors that both drive and sustain the Gold Coast’s growth, although Mr Middleton says economic diversity is now adding a new chapter to that story. He highlights the momentum of improved mobility and productivity due to the light rail and new opportunities emerging from the Health and Knowledge Precinct.

“The city has become a very attractive proposition for young professionals who can now get a good medical job, a university job or research job and also have a good lifestyle,” Mr Middleton says.

“That’s a point of significant difference because as the Gold Coast is maturing it is offering both a lifestyle and a professional setting for the next generation that is much more desirable than other big cities.”

Managing and accommodating the allure of the Gold Coast has been challenging, and while traditional detached housing and high-rise apartments have met demand in the past, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) notes there is an emerging appetite for greater housing choice.

“The market is hungry for options that are between a detached house and a high rise,” says Jason Murdoch, the UDIA Queensland Gold Coast Logan branch president.

“We call this the ‘missing middle’ product which encompasses housing types such as townhouses, terraces, duplexes and low rise apartments.”

The UDIA gauges consumer preferences through the work of its Research Foundation and it works with the City of Gold Coast (the City) delving into community views on density, planning, design, and amenity.

“This research will help industry and the City to better anticipate, plan for, and deliver housing that locals are proud to call home,” says Mr Murdoch.

Mr Middleton sees the coastal strip playing an important role in accommodating the Gold Coast’s continued growth.

“The long, thin strip of the Gold Coast can sustain good residential densities with employment opportunities, proximity to high levels of amenity and takes advantage of the linear north to south public transport network,” he says.

However, Mr Middleton stresses the importance of quality urban design and how development integrates at the street level, the space where people experience our city.

He commends the City for producing an award-winning guideline to support these high-quality outcomes.

More is also being done to enhance the interface of high rises with the street. Among the measures promoted by the City is enhanced podium designs that push car parks underground to provide a seamless interface of the built form with the streetscape.

“The critical element is the quality of the street and the street-to-podium engagement in large-scale projects which needs to be well designed and active,” Mr Middleton says.

“The Gold Coast has managed to retain good landscaped boulevards and streets, particularly close to the beach.

“They offer a sense that you are not far from the beach and that you can easily detour and find yourself in a high-quality setting, with views to the water – either ocean or canal.

“That’s really been a part of the city’s appeal and is increasingly growing into its strength.”

Interested in learning about how the City of Gold Coast is responsibly managing growth and influencing good design outcomes? Watch the video or visit cityofgoldcoast.com.au/ourcityourplan

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