Successful Cities – Seminar One: Valley Vision

BRISBANE – On Thursday March 21, the CTBUH Australia Chapter’s Brisbane Committee held its first seminar in the 2019 series on “Successful Cities”. The opening topic of the series was Valley Vision. John Flynn, Chair of the CTBUH Australia Chapter’s Brisbane Committee, welcomed guests and introduced the series theme, Successful Cities. By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will reside in cities. This creates challenges for both developing and developed nations. Flynn explained that the seminar series will draw on the challenges of creating successful cities in a context of aging infrastructure and tighter budgets. Flynn announced the celebration of the 50th year of CTBUH commencing in Chicago.

Flynn presented an update on current news in tall buildings and urban habitat. On the theme of interesting and unusual structures, Flynn noted the New York City Hudson Yards’ “Vessel” which opened last Friday, The Farmhouse constructed with cross-laminated timber (CLT), Studio Libeskind’s twisted garden tower in Toulouse, Jean Nouvel’s Cyprus tower and the world’s largest indoor waterfall at Singapore Airport. Flynn also acknowledged Mjøstårnet in Norway as the world’s tallest timber building and addressed the debate regarding the longevity of timber clad building that is susceptible to combustion. Flynn concluded with a summary of the tall building statistics from 2018 and predictions ahead.

After breakfast, Flynn introduced the speaker Alastair Leighton, Director Brilliant Cities, AECOM, to present the Valley Vision. Leighton introduced “evolution” as the theme for the presentation and challenged guests to consider the role we play in shaping cities. Leighton then provided background to the Valley Vision. The journey started 4.5 years ago when Leighton was challenged to look for ways to unlock the potential of the valley. Leighton explained that he spoke to many people who would list the problems with the valley, but nobody had a plan to fix them. In response, AECOM, on behalf of the Valley Chamber of Commerce, developed the Valley Vision. The aim was to enhance what underpins the valley, for example A-grade offices, live music and arts, while addressing the challenges.

Alastair Leighton, Director Brilliant Cities, AECOM, presented on the development’s evolution since its inception 4.5 years ago.

Leighton explained that it is important to get our cities right. It is no good to invest in technology for “smart” cities if the fundamentals are not right. Leighton explained that the valley has been left behind. Leighton challenged guests to think about the experience people will take away from the valley. There are lovely parts that are overshadowed. As an example, Leighton highlighted the bus stop on his ride to work that almost completely obstructs the pedestrian route.

Over the past 10 years, Leighton explained that the valley has evolved. It is time to step back and plan for how it will move into the future. The key aim was unlocking potential by addressing streets as spaces and future opportunities. Leighton suggested to think of the valley as a destination in the context of tourism. Leighton also highlighted that the valley is a similar footprint to the CBD.

The Valley Vision is split into 5 guiding principles, 5 foundations and 5 priorities. Leighton described the 5 guiding principles; global precinct, distinctive welcome, dynamic culture, urban comfort and easy connections.

Leighton then detailed the 5 foundations which identified the key areas in the Valley and how the Valley Vision thinks they should work. Leighton stressed that this is a catalyst list. The first area was the Valley Metro which Leighton described as Brisbane’s best kept secret. Leighton explained that the station should be a celebration of civic character. The second area was the Education Hub. Leighton explained that there is often a push to build a school quickly but the precinct must perform for the community as social infrastructure. The third area was the Bridge Street Green Heart. Leighton suggested a new public open space on the “least useful road” in the Valley. This area was proposed to fill a gap for dining and public space for the early evening.

The fourth area was the Story Bridge Park Gateway. Leighton explained that it is time to challenge the 50-year-old highway design to unlock the value and enhance pedestrian activity from the Valley to the CBD via Howard Smith Wharves. The final area was the Centenary Park Gateway which Leighton described as Brisbane’s largest traffic island. Leighton explained that the park was designed in 1924 to address a lack of green space in the Valley. The redevelopment should be a green portal from Valley to city to improve the pedestrian experience. The foundations are all there, Leighton explained, we do not need to make it but reclaim it.

Leighton then described the 5 priorities set out in the Valley Vision; ambitious leadership, jointed-up thinking, accountability, enhanced connections and grab opportunities. Leighton challenged leaders to embrace the complexity because the risk of not doing so is unacceptable for Brisbane. In conclusion, Leighton stressed that the clock is ticking because before long the Valley could be too developed to deliver. Leighton laid out the timeline for the Valley Vision and highlighted that if we agree that the Valley Vision is different to what the Valley is, then we need to do something about it. The Valley Vision is all about making Brisbane brilliant by creating connections and improving performance.

The presentation was followed by a Q&A session with Alastair. Leighton discussed the importance of uplifting the pedestrian experience and improving safety. He also addressed autonomous vehicles and highlighted that many people are looking at the technology but not enough are looking at what people need. The event was concluded with a vote of thanks from Scott Hutchinson, Chairman, Hutchinsons Builders. Hutchinson reiterated the importance of the link between Howard Smith Wharves and the Valley in connectivity with the CBD. Hutchinson also described the goals of the The Fortitude Music Hall in the Valley Vision.