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Central Perth, Western Australia

Spring 2012

Supervised by Dr. Stephen Neille



In the beginning of the settlement, Swan River was always the centre to the transport, administrative development, commercial and recreational activities. The river was the medium that links the region and lends it an identity. However, since the creation of railways and bridges in Perth, river is no longer seen as connecting space.
Rivers not only forms the spatial, but also thematic behaviour for urban development. Proposed waterfront sites are distinctive by its nature and form the focus on different notions of development and different interests. These distinctive urban developments will be developed as an integral part of the well-connected system on Perth Water. This research will demonstrate how polycentric regions can be proposed as a constellation in an attempt to shift the urban focus back to the river.

A Polycentric High-density Development

The amplification of site-specific urban order on the five activity centres surrounding Perth Water will lead to polycentric development. This is similar to the idea of Howard’s Garden Cities that has ‘town centre’ at the centre, not just a series of streets serving centre (city-status) land uses. However, in the proposed vision for Perth, this ‘centre’ does not exist perceptually, but conceptually through the formation of the five individual development.
Perth’s population is projected to more than double by 2056, a massive increase up to approximately 3.5 million people.2 Subtracting people accommodated on 23,000 hectares of land zoned for residential development on the periphery of Perth, another 865,200 people still need to be accommodated by infill development within Perth Central area. 3 (fig. 2) Notwithstanding the possibility that predictions can be wrong, this research is constructed to understand the opportunities and constraints for a compact and efficient urban development that emerge from an essential appreciation of the existing landscape conditions. The doubling of residential mass of the city implies that the existing infrastructure system needs to be doubled in a way that Perth can grow distinctively to a sophisticated high-density city.
The scenarios proposes alternative form of extending the Perth future density to concentrated high-density development in the proposed sites for main water transportation hub, within Perth Water. These centres will need to accommodate the future density within Perth Central Area (fig. 4). The polycentric nodes will then serve as centres of high-density urban fabric, while  water-based transit infrastructure will act as efficient networking system, as well as cultural and landscape amenity.


A River City

Historical significance of The Swan River has profoundly contributed to the shaping of Perth City planning. Past potentials of the river as a defined central area seem to be forgotten since the significance of water-based network was replaced by high-dependency on land-based transit mode.
The river is re-introduced as the element that links the separated activity centres within Central Perth area as a whole entity. This interconnectivity is generated by extending the current single cross river service, from Barrack Square to Mends Street Jetty to the other three existing urban centre. Connecting multiple activity centres around Perth Water, will construct the river as a conceptual urban space, where the river will be the centre of different concentrated polycentric urban development.
Existing urbanization, landscape typology, and nostalgic experience plays a major role to define distinctive expression as the identity to each proposed site. The sense of place will then be developed as a place to absorb Perth future density, creating clustered nodes of high-density urban fabric. Elizabeth Quay evolves to be the initial waterfront development of polycentric network within Perth Water. Plain Street Precinct is to be a high-density green landscape defined by ‘garden’ atmosphere. Mends Street Precinct is the blend of the ‘walk’ typology and the presence of linear high-density development. Coode Street Precint becomes an extension of education-based ‘town’ based on the development of existing college as main activity centre. And Ellam Street Precint, that incorporates water ‘cove’ typology to develop primarily a retail centre supported by medium-density housing surrounding the area.
Each activity centres relates to the river as urban centre in the sense that these polycentric nodes are traditionally interdependent, but being connected by the efficient water-based transit network, they are made dependent on the whole. This approach will shift the current Perth urban focus from the land to the river, making Perth a River City.

A River Metropolis

A compilation presented in this research in the process of making Perth as a polycentric river city does not propose a finished solution. It invokes the potential of further possibility for the idea of polycentric urban development to be applied on greater extent of Perth Region, constructing Perth as the centre of Polycentric River Metropolis.

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