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High praise for East Perth

THE East Perth renewal project is an excellent example of good urban design, according to a world-renowned urban design expert who was in Perth last week.

Jan Gehl said East Perth was designed with people in mind.

He believes one of the failings of urban designers around the world was that they often ignored the “first principles” of urban design that appreciated the relationship between people and the built environment.

“East Perth is designed to ‘human scale’. That is, the building height, street width and relations between buildings and the water’s edge are in proportion to the human senses and how people move about,” Mr Gehl said.

“East Perth meets these demands and, having seen so many projects damaged by the over use of concrete, glass, steel, and oversized dimensions, I’m very impressed with East Perth’s streetscape.”

Mr Gehl graduated from the School of Architecture, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1960. He holds an honorary degree from Herriott-Watt University of Edinburgh and was awarded the St Patrick Abercrombie Prize by the international Union of Architects.

He recently completed a documentary called People and Cities which examines relations between people and their physical surroundings.

“My documentary outlines principles applied in the design guidelines adopted by East Perth. East Perth is exactly the type of area we, as ordinary people, like to visit, to live in and to move about in,” Mr Gehl said.

He was also impressed with the mixed-use principles of combining commercial and residential development adopted by the East Perth Redevelopment Authority.

“A ‘mixed-use’ development is an excellent design feature, but often hard to achieve. I get the impression that EPRA has made it work and I am most impressed at the development guidelines and EPRA’s ability to protect them,” he said.

The statements contradict what Mirvac managing director Robert Hamilton said while in Perth late last year.

Mr Hamilton said because of poor design, East Perth could become the slum of the future.

He said the East Perth Redevelopment Authority had made a mistake by trying to remove cars from the front of the houses with what he called the “back lane syndrome”.

“The proliferation of the lanes, in my opinion is a mistake. I understand it’s a solution to the vehicle problem, but the back lane should have disappeared with the horse and cart, if not definitely with the dunny man,” Mr Hamilton warned.

“No one will look after them, they become filled with derelict cars, garbage and become a problem.

“Although very well treated they are secondary streets, a mass of garage doors, essentially detracting from what is a very good suburb.”

“WA is very lucky to have such a strong, attractive location so close to the city that can be redeveloped.”

However, Mr Hamilton appears to have changed his attitude to the area following the merger of Mirvac and the Fini Group, which is investing heavily in the East Perth property market.

EPRA CEO Tony Morgan said EPRA had employed people with a good sense of design, so they had been able to articulate the vision and encourage its automation.

“Now in the completion stages, East Perth is a catalyst for a similar inner city renewal projects in Subiaco, Northbridge, Bunbury and the Gateway. In this way, East Perth is a genesis,” he said.

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