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Shaping better cities for the future

For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population is living in a city. How to make increasingly dense and complex urban environments sustainable and desirable places to live, work and play is becoming an urgent question globally.

“We see the world focusing on the whole question of an urban future, what it means and how we will have to live differently in this context,” says Professor Alec Tzannes, Dean of the Faculty of Built Environment at University of New South Wales (UNSW).

“We need to better understand the urban fabric, including roads, parks, service infrastructures and buildings, measure their carbon emissions and improve them through design and better management.”

He says research and study into the built environment - while still considering architecture and other design disciplines in a cultural context - now extends to issues such as sustainability, density, urban typologies and the advancement of digital technology applied to design and urban management.

A comprehensive, interdisciplinary knowledge framework will increasingly become central to the way cities are designed, delivered and managed in the twenty-first century – which is particularly relevant to the rapidly urbanising countries within our Asia-Pacific region.

At UNSW, students have the opportunity to study and research these emerging disciplines in an environment which fosters innovation and debate.

In Sydney, Australia’s most complex and international city, urban planning, urban design and architecture is dealt with in a uniquely open and democratic way, says Professor Tzannes.

For example, major planning decisions, such as the current endeavour to redevelop part of Sydney harbour at Barangaroo, are contested and debated in the media and subject to independent and transparent public scrutiny: there are very few countries in Asia or beyond which foster this culture of public engagement and debate on matters to do with the built environment.

“Australia, and Sydney in particular, have advanced laws underpinning the culture and practice of built environment disciplines,” says Professor Tzannes.

“Students are exposed to learning experiences that allow them to think more broadly and examine from different perspectives their own experiences, and apply what they learn here with critical perspective to the culture and practices within their own countries.”

UNSW Built Environment is also home to the City Futures Research Centre, which has built a strong profile in urban and housing policy research in Australia and overseas. One current major research project involves building three-dimensional city maps then loading in complex information about the population and population growth, so that impacts like traffic growth and demand for services can be accurately predicted. In effect, researchers can “visualize” the cities of the future – and their challenges and problems using the power of innovative digital technology.

Students engage daily with issues affecting the city, including its design culture, politics, property and financial structures with access to data and informed public debate that is not easy to find in many other parts of the world, Professor Tzannes says. UNSW Built Environment is also setting the agenda in terms of providing evidence-based knowledge to government and major corporations to guide new policy and strategic decisions.

It recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Council of the City of Sydney to work together in the areas of sustainability, affordable housing and other key urban issues. The Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, said the collaboration between UNSW Built Environment and the City of Sydney would align research activities with the needs of Sydney to achieve leadership, vision and the implementation of the 2030 plan for a more sustainable, liveable city.

“We are making a very relevant contribution which will impact the future. What we are researching as well as our teaching curriculum is at the centre of where our graduates will need to be when they are working and contributing through their own innovation and research to the world’s issues,” says Professor Tzannes.

UNSW Built Environment offers a wide range of specialised degree programs designed to equip graduates with a suite of skills that will set them up for leadership roles in the design, management and delivery of the built environment in a contemporary and global context.

For further information about the University of New South Wales contact:
T. +61 2 9385 6996

For further information about Faculty of the Built Environment contact:
T. +61 2 9385 4799

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