How will Sydney look by 2050?


Hmm, maybe not.

We recently stumbled upon this Sydney Morning Herald article written last last year. Seeing as it’s looking at what Sydney could look like in 2050, it’s still relevant enough to discuss.

According to Alec Tzannes, dean of the Faculty of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, a lot in Sydney is going to change between now and 2050. Families will be smaller, public transport more expansive, and the city will lead the world “in finance and education and core values, as reflected in our laws and our equitable society.” It will be, in short, “a place where global leaders want to be.”

Exciting stuff; no wonder the population is projected to grow by 3.2 million to 7.5 million people in the next four decades. But where are all these new people going to go?

We’re going to be living closer to each other, for starters. Terrace houses were built in Sydney’s inner suburbs during the 19th century, and have proven popular with Sydneysiders who like living close to the CBD.

Many, including the Committee for Sydney and McKell Institute, have suggested building modern day versions throughout the city. The latter group argues that terrace houses are ideal to “infill middle-ring Sydney suburbs – those that are still dominated by the freestanding home on a quarter acre block.” Said Tim Williams, “it [the terrace] is the most attractive useful form of city housing ever invented yet we’ve made it almost impossible to build.”

Our city cannot live in terraces alone, however, as the Herald article goes on to explain:

A mix of densities and housing types with a range of affordability will support diverse populations, so, for example, health and aged-care workers, teachers and tradespeople can live closer to those who buy their services.

The stock of housing will be “far more distinctive to accommodate many different ways of living”, Tzannes says. Apartment buildings will be mixed-use, accommodating schools, services and other work environments as well as individual dwellings, perhaps topped by rooftop gardens.

Does this suggest further urban sprawl? It seems the vision is for a greater number of community hubs, rather than the CBD being the only heart of the city:

The “values of separation and individuality are still there” but there is “much greater social behaviour to do with communal living”, supported by larger areas of communal open space, he says. “We can all get a higher standard of living by not miniaturising life. Instead of a backyard you have a park. Instead of a [backyard] pool you have a community pool.”

So picture this for Sydney: a CBD still where it is but with five smaller centres in Wollongong, Newcastle, Penrith, Parramatta and Liverpool, all serving as hubs for their surrounding suburbs, which will likely have more small and terraced housing.

How does that sound to you? Is it achievable, or will we end up with something nightmarishly close to Los Angeles instead?

Which reminds us: Time has put together something – aptly – called Timelapse, an interactive look at how the world’s cities have grown between 1984 and 2012.

Here’s how Sydney looked then:

Sydney timelapse 1984

And how it looks now:

Sydney timelapse 2012

It’s worth having a play with; sometimes the past is the best predictor of the future.

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