Baugruppen in Berlin

While in Berlin I met with Berthold Pesch, an architect and project manager for UTB – a company that delivers Baugruppen housing across Berlin and Germany. A reminder, Baugrupen means ‘group housing’ and is the term used to describe owner built multiple dwelling developments.

Berthold Pesch from UTB

Berthold Pesch from UTB

As mentioned in my post on Freiburg, this tends to create much more attractive developments, but is also more likely to include sustainability initiatives and tends to cost about 10% less than developer built housing (no developer profits to factor in).

I was keen to learn more about how this works in practice when the ‘developer’ is removed and a collective of owner occupiers work together to design and construct the housing they want to live in.

UTB have become a specialists in the field and I was shown around one of their largest and most recent projects in the trendy Berlin suburb of Templehoff. Continue reading

A lesson in national healing

Berlin wall memorial

Berlin wall memorial

There are a lot of useful lessons that can be learned from Germany about healing and reconciliation after terrible national trauma.

It has been fascinating and deeply moving to visit the sites where terrible atrocities occurred under the Nazis and in the aftermath of WWII, to see them remembered, explained and memorialized.

Many memorials are only in German, because they are not designed for tourists, but for Germans to acknowledge understand. With the help of my local guide who translated, I watched as a mother explained to her young son what Berlin’s book burning memorial was all about.

Jewish memorial, Berlin

Jewish memorial, Berlin

German students learn about the atrocities of WWII, not to feel ashamed and guilty, but to understand and ensure they are never repeated.

I have been watching with interest as Fremantle debates how it should celebrate Australia Day, and I am deeply disappointed I am not there to participate. Continue reading

Reflections from Vauban: utopia or ‘tofu ghetto’?

the infamous light rail

the infamous light rail

When I arrived at my Airbnb in the heart of Vauban, I asked my host what it was like to live there. He called it a ‘tofu ghetto’ – a monoculture of wealthy, white middle class academics – not what I expected at all!

He knew it was a great place to raise a family, but he was concerned his kids would not be raised surrounded be different languages, experiences and points of view (he is from Venezuela).

quality design and sustainability go hand in hand in vauban

quality design and sustainability go hand in hand in vauban

Vauban does a lot of things right. Most famous is the implementation of alternative transport options from the commencement of the development, with light rail was built through the centre of the district as the first of its 5500 residents moved in.

My tour guide Steffan described the history of citizen activism that made Vauban the exemplar community it is today. Through a series of protests and interventions, the community successfully made the case to use the government owned land to create a community they wanted to live in, rather than what developers wanted to build. And the result is outstanding. Continue reading

Is Tiny Sprawl possible? Lessons from BedZED and the UK

One thing that concerns me about the growing popularity of Tiny Houses is the potential for Tiny Sprawl.

Like me, many people love the idea of a quaint little cottage surrounded by garden that would be both affordable and sustainable. However that means we continue to develop outwards, using land in an inefficient manner at the expense of our wetlands, green spaces and urban bush. We need to make better use of the existing urban footprint.

UK from the sky2

Typical urban development in the UK

As I travelled through the United Kingdom last week, it struck me how much green space, fields, woods, farms and even castles there are between each of the towns and cities.

The UK has a population of 64 million people, two and a half times that of Australia, and it’s land mass is just 243,610 km². Meanwhile, just 9- 15% of the land area is classified as urban or is built on. This reflects my observation about the vast amount of green space in the densely populated country. To compare, Australia’s population is 24 million and land area is 7.68 million km².

So how do they do it? House a mammoth population on a tiny island and keep the local character and green belt in tact? Continue reading

Diverse housing discussion – coming soon

innovative housingDiverse and innovative housing continue to be a hot topic.

This week I was on ABC radio to talk about what the City of Fremantle is doing on diverse and innovative housing.

You can listen to the interview here

In September we will be undertaking extensive consultation with the community on these issues.

The Council is currently conducting a survey on the topic – tell us what you think.

Continue reading

South Beach swimming zone – success!

south beach 2The Department has supported the overwhelming Community feedback in favour of a swimming zone the entire length of both beaches at South Beach.

It was the most number of submissions they have ever received on an Aquatic Use Review with 2533 submissions received. There were 750 in support of the DoT proposal (with the boat channel at the north of little dog beach) and 1650 opposed (120 were neutral)

“This is a great outcome for the whole community. The Department of Transport is to be commended for supporting the community and the Council’s wishes to make South Beach a safe swimming zone,” said Cr Rachel Pemberton.

“Fremantle Council designated South Beach a swimming zone in 2015, but we are limited in how we can inform boat users and enforce the safe swimming zone. This decision means that the DoT will now do that.”

“The community is to be congratulated for the tremendous campaign to make all of South Beach a safe swimming zone, as was shown in the overwhelming number of submissions made.”

The Fremantle Sailing Club has also welcomed the decision.

“Fremantle Sailing Club is aligned with the Fremantle City Council in supporting the Department of Transport to ensure a safer environment for both the boating public and beach goers. The proposed speed restrictions and the introduction of restricted access to the beach for powered vessels at South Beach will go a long way to achieve the Aquatic Use Review objectives for a safe, equitable and sustainable use of our important waterways,” Fremantle Sailing Club Commodore Terry Baker stated.

“In conceding access to the beach by powered vessels, the club’s preferred position was to retain a narrow access corridor, but recognise and accept the strong feedback from the local community. We have long stated whatever the outcome, the impact of club members is minimal and going forward believe we can work with the community to build our relationship to our mutual benefit” he added.

The decision has been made but it wont take affect until May when it is gazetted through an act of Parliament.

The Department of Transport’s statement is here.

Continue reading

South Beach safe swimming zone

swimming zoneAlong with hundreds of other people, I swim between the groynes at South Beach and Little Dog Beach almost daily from September to May. Sometimes when the waves are choppy I go off course and end up some way out to sea, beyond the groynes. This doesn’t concern me, other than when there are boats nearby as I fear they wont see me between the waves.

As such, I welcome the Aquatic Use Review. I thoroughly support Fremantle Council’s initiative to make South Beach and Little Dog Beach a swimming zone, excluding all motorized vessels. I think this highly urbanized beach that caters for thousands of swimmers every day warrants this type of protection.

I am somewhat disappointed that the Department of Transport proposal includes a boat access channel in the northern end of Little Dog Beach, therefore excising 120m from the swimming zone. I hope that this proposal will be withdrawn after the public comment and review period, as it is unnecessary and will undermine the swimming zone. Continue reading

Stinger net for south beach?

Stingers make swimming at Fremantle’s beaches a challenge and for some people, a risk with nasty reactions, hospitalisations and scaring from stings. Personally, I find the little ones irritating and they make swimming unpleasant and the large ones are frightening and keep me out of the water altogether!

Fremantle council has been investigating options for a stinger net at South Beach to offer some protection from stingers. A proposal and budget request for a stinger net will be debated by Council this month (Wednesday 9 & 16 Dec) and I’m keen to hear what people think. Continue reading

Plastic free Sunset Markets

I am really proud to be working with the wonderful Georgie Adeane from the South Beach Sunset Markets to make the food market ‘plastic free’ this summer.

Georgie and I hope this initiative will be embraced by customers who will welcome her environmentally responsible approach in the sensitive South Beach environment.

Continue reading