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Shared spaces

Shared urban spaces allow even small apartment dwellers to live large

Within just 40 years Sydney’s population will double in size to a city of eight million, the same size as London is today.

Over the next four decades we will have to accommodate the same number of people as we have had to accommodate over the past two centuries, signalling a fundamental shift in the way we live.

“How we accommodate this growth is both a great challenge and a great opportunity,” says Eamon Waterford, the head of strategy and advocacy for independent think tank the Committee for Sydney.

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“If we get it right we can preserve all the things we value about our city, but if we get it wrong we could ruin one of the world’s greatest cities. One thing is for sure; we can’t manage this growth in the same way as we have in the past.”

Another thing for sure is that as density increases, the classic Australian dream of the quarter acre block in the suburbs is being replaced by a desire for a smaller apartment and an inner city lifestyle. We now want to live in big cities in the thick of the action, with plenty of shared urban spaces to socialise, work and play so we can live large even though our dwellings are small.

“The Australian dream is becoming far less about having a big house and a big backyard and far more about wanting a smaller private space in the city with access to lots of shared spaces.”

- Eamon Waterford, head of strategy and advocacy for independent think tank the Committee for Sydney.

“The Australian dream is becoming far less about having a big house and a big backyard and far more about wanting a smaller private space in the city with access to lots of shared spaces.” – Eamon Waterford, head of strategy and advocacy for independent think tank the Committee for Sydney.”

According to Vivid Ideas director and TEDxSydney curator Jess Scully: “For a long time our priorities were around having lots of space and lots of possessions, but now we want to live in smaller spaces in cities that offer lots of experiences and a sense of community.”

Shared urban spaces are a major global trend sweeping cities around the world, as people living in an age of less square metreage and more high-rise developments demand common areas to congregate and unwind.

“If we are going to live in smaller homes and apartments, shared spaces become critical for recreation and how we connect with our neighbours and our community,” says Bridget Smyth, design director at the City of Sydney.

Three quarters of the population of the City of Sydney now lives in apartments, as Baby Boomers and Gen Y each embrace more connected and central city environments in which to live and enjoy life. Architects, urban planners and civic leaders are responding to this demographic shift with a new vision for shared public spaces that incorporates social services, childcare, recreation, public art and cultural benefits as residents demand not just the revitalisation of city centres, but places where they can connect, commune and enjoy each other’s company.

Whether its Newtown, New York, Potts Point or Paris, these places are pedestrian friendly and filled with green spaces for relaxation. Take Sydney Park for example, which caters to the shared spaces needs of the Inner West with a unique mix of child friendly-spaces, walkways, a café and dog-friendly areas.

Another commonality of great cities is that they are not monocultures. Their shared spaces have a lot of things going on and there are a lot of different people doing different things day and night. Whether you’re a member of the gay and lesbian community, the Chinese community or the live music community, you want to feel welcome to contribute to the social fabric of the city 24 hours a day.

“If we don’t have venues, spaces and places that enable that then you lose that fundamental shared human experience of sitting around the campfire and telling stories,” says Scully.

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