28 February 2004
04051 - Rpt E
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 3
1. Introduction 5
2. Defining Subtropical Design 7
3. Neighbourhood Design 9
4. Current Planning Framework 15
5. Case Studies 25

5.3 CORINDA 30
6. Principles 41
Appendix A 55
References 57
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 5
This report is a result of a research project commissioned by The Centre for Subtropical Design focusing on the design principles for subtropical
neighbourhoods. The Centre was formed in 2003 as a joint initiative between Brisbane City Council and Queensland University of Technology and is
undertaking a number of advocacy and research projects.
“The Centre’s main objective is to inspire regionally appropriate building design and construction practices that
accommodate a yearly climate cycle from mild and sun- drenched, to chilly and glorious, to sultry and sweltering.
This compels design responses that are positive, rather than indifferent, to the climate and landscape - design which
subtropical features are neither under nor over-stated, but simply exist to complement the preferences of people and
their lifestyles” (CSD, 2004).
A primary driver for this research is to improve the design of residential subdivisions within a subtropical environment. One of the issues identified in
framing the research question is that subdivisions are purely that - subdivisions - removed from other uses, from different forms of housing and the life
of urban settlement. At worst, a subdivision no matter how well designed, is the basis of urban sprawl and defining subtropical urban sprawl is not a
useful contribution to debates about urban quality in South East Queensland. In order to work towards more sustainable urban outcomes, this research
considers a desirable urban structure for settlements that comprise neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Residential subdivisions must be seen as
neighbourhoods or parts thereof. The research question has become ‘what is the form of residential subdivision within the context of a subtropi-
cal neighbourhood?’

A subtropical neighbourhood can be an elusive concept. How is a subtropical neighbourhood different to a ‘tropical’ or a ‘temperate’ one? Is it to do
with street location, orientation, the response to topography and site features, the scale and spacing of centres, lot sizes and diversity of housing types
or built and landscape form? Could a plan from say, Canberra, be subtropical if constructed in this region with subtropical buildings and landscape? In
some ways, subtropical is a provocative term. Is ‘subtropical’ a theory to inform actions, a way of applying universal principles in a particular location
or a way of seeing or sharpening our perceptions of ourselves and this region? Subtropical neighbourhood design may not be inherently different from
good neighbourhood design or sustainable design. Are these terms essentially the same thing? Where are the points of agreement or difference? Is a
subtropical neighbourhood just an elaboration of good design? This research partly focuses on this dilemma and proposes a framework to explore these
First, an understanding of where the neighbourhood sits in relation to the broader context of settlements is useful. The built environment can be
considered at a number of scales: regional scale, settlement form, neighbourhood design and building design. Neighbourhoods therefore have a direct
relationship with determining the settlement form. Building design plays a significant role and location within a neighbourhood.
• Where we build or not, urban footprints and boundaries. Relationship of settlement to regionally significant river systems and major
riparian corridors, ecological values, visual and cultural landscape elements.
• Major infrastructure including public transport infrastructure. Centres location of cities and towns, and their interrelationship.
Integration of major public investment eg. universities, TAFE, Hospitals etc
• Location of higher order roads and other movement networks and relationship to settlement form.
• Structure of settlements and their organisation. Relationship of urban settlements with regional qualities and infrastructure and their
role within the region.
• Form of settlements around centres and broader landscape areas
• Relationship of neighbourhoods to each other to form corridors, towns, settlements and satellites
• Form scale and type of neighbourhoods. Centres type and scale. Relationship of settlement form to locally significant visual and
cultural landscape elements, ecological values, watercourses and riparian corridors
• Street layout, qualities of streets
• Building typology that reflects the variety, density and mix of residential and other uses that comprise a neighbourhood
• Lot design and building footprint locations
• Building planning, design and character
• Design for energy efficiency, relationship to the street
1. Introduction
• Privacy
• Relationship to private outdoor areas and landscape
A useful description of a neighbourhood comes from the Charter of the New Urbanism.
‘….neighbourhoods should be diverse in use and population; designed for the pedestrian and public transport as
well as the car; shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; framed by an architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building
For the purposes of this research project and report, neighbourhood design has been thought of as both urban or social, and biophysical sustainability.
The primary concerns of social and urban sustainability, could be listed as follows.
Relationship of neighbourhoods to urban structure
Type, location and scale of centres
Walkability and connectivity
Mix of uses
Mix of housing densities
Public transport integration
Distribution of open space
Lot size, frontage and depth
The primary concerns of biophysical sustainability at the neighbourhood level, could be listed as follows.
Environmental corridors and habitats
Relationship of development to topography and natural site features
Stormwater management
Integration of total water cycle management
Integration and diversity of vegetation

Sustainability within the development industry tends to focus on biophysical sustainability issues such as water quality, retention of riparian corri-
dors, water harvesting and energy efficient housing design. While these issues are fundamentally important, there is generally less interest in urban
sustainability and social sustainability. Diverse housing types accommodating varying income groups, the integration of employment to achieve a live
/ jobs balance as well as public transport integration tend to be ignored as much more difficult problems. What we have achieved with this approach is
more sustainable sprawl within beautifully landscaped environments. It is therefore important to have a combined focus on both social and biophysi-
cal sustainability. A subtropical neighbourhood has therefore been considered as how both social and biophysical sustainability are applied within a
subtropical landscape.
The research was conducted in a predominantly linear progression and as such, the report follows this progression. The report is structured as follows.

Defining Subtropical briefly outlines the essential nature of a subtropical climate.
Neighbourhoods provides a short history of the concept of neighbourhoods and neighbourhood planning, particularly as the term has been used in
Queensland. Good subtropical design for a neighbourhood must be based on principles of good neighbourhood design.
Current Planning Framework
The section reviews a number of recent schemes and other documents that influence the design of urban development in Queensland. The review cov-
ered eight current planning and other influential documents mostly from the South East Queensland. This document contains a summary commentary.
The full analysis is presented in an appendix.
Case Studies
Six case studies were examined in inner and outer urban locations with different features.
Recommended Principles
The principles are identified in a number of ways, including a table and concept plans of how a neighbourhood might be configured to apply these prin-
ciples. The final subsection is an A5 principles document that is a summary of the entire research and can be published separately.
• The way in which neighbourhood design is applied in a
subtropical climate, and
• Any additional features or features of special relevance to
the subtropical climate
Biophysical Sustainability Urban Sustainability
• Relationship of Neighbourhoods
to Urban Structure
• Type, Location & Scale of Centres
• Walkability and Connectivity in
Movement Network
• Mix of Uses
• Mix of Housing Densities
• Public Transport Integration
• Distribution of Open Space
• Lot Size, Frontage and Depth
• Environmental Corridors and Habitats
• Stormwater Management
• Integration of Total Water Cycle
• Integration and Diversity of Vegetation
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 7
The subtropical zone in the southern hemisphere is located between the latitude belts of 25 and 35 degrees. It is regarded as a transitional climate zone
between the tropics and temperate zones. The sub-tropical zone is characterised by hot, often wet, summers with mild dry winters. Prevailing breezes
come from the coast, (the north-east and south-east) and the dry, high winds come from the inland, the south-west. There is some climatic variation
from the coastal strip to inland and hinterland areas.
The Brisbane City Council’s ‘Living in Brisbane 2010’ initiative promotes the design of Brisbane for subtropical living. The Centre for Subtropical Design
distills the essence of subtropical living this by describing South East Queensland as “a region that is characterised by its unique interplay between
human environments and distinct subtropical climate and topography” (Subtropical Values and Principles of Subtropical Design for the South East
Queensland Region, CSD, p.3).
‘Living in Brisbane 2010’ outlines a Subtropical City as one where:

Green space and open air is preserved
Houses are designed for Brisbane’s climate with natural light and ventilation
Each community is part of a village atmosphere
Housing styles preserve the old styles and encourage the best of the new housing styles
Outdoor living is popular
The elements highlighted in both documents provide a useful reference point for this research. The documents highlight the importance of a holistic
approach to designing our built environment. In order to design for a subtropical climate, considerations of passive solar design in houses such as
cross-ventilation and sunshading are essential. Street, lot orientation and neighbourhood layouts, as well as the design of public places, also need to be
Another consideration is how our settlements have been developed in the past and how the community ‘imagines and perceives’ these qualities. Many
residential areas are identified as unique subtropical environments, irrespective of their technical performance by design. These perceptions are of build-
ings set in the subtropical landscape where built form tends not to dominate the landscape. The architecture is ‘light and flimsy’ buildings of roofs and
frames rather than mass of walls.
“Design for South East Queensland must be informed by the essentially subtropical nature of our environment if it is to be appropriate and sustainable.
While a dynamic and innovative local vernacular design vocabulary has evolved in response to these conditions, it has largely been confined to low
density residential applications” (Subtropical Values and Principles of Subtropical Design for the South East Queensland Region, CSD, p.3).
2. Defining Subtropical Design n
Leafy rear gardens Gaps between buildings in a vegetated setting
Paddington, present
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 9
This section discusses issues and principles of neighbourhood design in an international and Australian context.
The concept of a neighbourhood is essential for the ambition of sustainable settlement design. However the history of neighbourhood design is not well
known or documented. These principles are also relevant in South East Queensland and in recent years some have been implemented in a range of
planning documents. In the last three decades, a number of models of development and associated terms emerged. These terms and models include:
Pedestrian Pocket
Traditional Neighbourhood Development (TND)
Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
Urban Village
Accessible Urban Neighbourhood
Walkable Neighbourhood
Smart Growth
Emerging Community
Liveable Neighbourhoods
All of these terms mean similar things.
The history of urban design has provided a number of examples of model towns. Forest Hills Gardens is a suburb of New York in Queens and demon-
strates an early good example of a neighbourhood. It was designed by Grosvenor Atterbury and the Olmstead Brothers, was built in 1912 as a model
suburban residential town 15 minutes by rail from Manhattan” (Architectural Design 51, 1981, p.33). Forest Hills Gardens is a community based around
the railway station. It is organised around a continuous line of movement from the railway station to Forest Park, transitioning from higher density into
residential neighbourhoods. Station Square provides a community focus and contains higher density buildings which house apartments, shops and
places of employment.
Forest Hills Gardens contains a diversity of individual, semi-detached housing and apartments. Houses have been grouped and arranged to form central
courtyards which enhance privacy and create a balance between individual expression and commonality while open space areas are located at the
centre of smaller neighbourhoods and correspond with the elementary school.
“Forest Hills Gardens is an example of value sustained by superior design, rather than exclusion, as Forest Hills Gardens is not a walled subdivision but
is connected by streets to adjacent communities” (Duany et al, 2003, p.99).
A resident of Forest Hills Gardens at the time was the planner Clarence Perry. In 1929, Perry published ‘The Neighbourhood Unit: A Scheme of Arrange-
ment for a Family Life Community’. This work was done with the Regional Planning Association, In this book, he advocated building “neighbourhoods”
as the basis for city growth. The “neighborhood unit” was a self-contained residential area that would be bounded by major streets, with shops at the
intersections and a school in the middle.
The neighbourhood unit featured in the New York City Plan of 1927. Key features of the plan included:
The neighbourhood is scaled upon a radius of a five minute walk (400 metres).
Neighbourhood has community facilities and green areas in the centre as the focus for neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood is bounded by wide arterial roads that eliminate through traffic in the neighbourhood.
Within the neighbourhood there is a hierarchy of streets, laid out to discourage through traffic.
Retail and commercial facilities on the arterials at the edges of the neighbourhood.
Neighbourhood Unit, Network Plan 1927, Clarence Perry
Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, New York, 1912
3. Neighbourhood Design
Photos of Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, New York, designed in 1912
Around this time Canberra was under construction to the Plan by the Griffins which was won by competition in 1912. The inner area of the Griffin Plan
remains relatively intact, albeit with a different built form. It was the expansion of Canberra beyond the Griffin Plan that has given Australia a wealth
of thinking about neighbourhood design and urban structure and form. This has been admirably demonstrated in “Ideas for Australian Cities”, first
published in 1970, by the urban theorist and historian Hugh Stretton. Stretton described in detail the design of the residential area of Canberra as it
developed (areas generally outside of the original master plan by Walter Burley Griffin).
“The city is built of units, neighbourhoods that can support a primary school and a walk-in shopping centre. Three or
four of them are grouped to share a larger shopping and service centre. Three or four or five of such groups make a
district of 60,000-120,000 people with a major town centre. Any number of these can proliferate around the single
metropolitan centre, in a pattern usually called a ‘metropolitan cluster’. For communications the Canberra cluster would
rely chiefly on a network of roads. From the residential cul-de-sac to the freeways which skirt and link the districts,
these roads will be more radically differentiated, safer and faster than any comparable network in Australia.” (Stretton
“So if I live in Canberra’s Woden Valley it will probably be in a house on 7-10,000 square feet of its own ground.
Nearby there should be a playground, kindergarten and bus stop. Within half a mile or less, a neighbourhood centre:
primary school, playing field, post office, bank and news agencies, barber and beauty parlor, a couple of food stores;
chemist, butcher, filling station; probably doctors, possibly a dentist, perhaps a land or insurance agent.” (Stretton p.54)
The scale of the neighbourhood in Canberra was within the efficient spacing of arterial roads at about 800 metres intervals. This created an area of 250
“Running the arterial roads outside the neighbourhood may keep some passers-by out of it, but may also speed up its
communications with the rest of the city.” (Stretton p.64)
The population of the neighbourhood was planned at 4,000 people generally fitting into an 800 metres radius circle, with 800 metres accepted as a
comfortable 10 minute walk for the average person. At 0.2m2 per person, the retail component of the neighbourhood was 800m2. Stretton observed
that smaller centres and corner stores seemed to be going out.
Stretton provides a number of versions of the plan for one of the neighbourhoods: Belconnen 17 which was later named Higgins. The neighbourhood
fits generally into an 800 metres radius circle. The arterial through streets define the edges of the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood design places
emphasis on a green heart that contains open spaces, schools and the retail centre.
Safe pedestrian access along green corridors to school and the centre is a strong design determinant. Pedestrian crossing points with roads are
minimised and underpasses are included where major roads are crossed. The subdivision is shaped to enable green fringes to touch many lots. This
is achieved with Radburn planning where the rear of lots face onto narrow publicly accessible green ways that lead to linear parks. The internal street
network was curvilinear and indirect to discourage through traffic but routes to the centre are not efficient making the provision of public transport
problematic. Some plans had a range of housing types, but these were placed in large lumps rather than finely mixed. Co-locating the retail centre
with schools and open spaces removes opportunities for higher density housing adjacent the neighbourhood centre, that could help establish a vibrant
precinct. The emphasis on defined edges to the neighbourhoods as the through traffic routes means the neighbourhood effectively turns its back on the
adjacent neighbourhoods and town.
One of Stretton’s diagrams suggests an overlapping catchment where the centres are placed on the surrounding arterials between major intersections.
The centre does not straddle the arterials but is placed to one side with underpasses from the continuation of the neighbourhood on the other side of the
arterial. The street network allows no through routes to the adjacent centre. Again efficient public transport routes are impossible and the bus routes
along the arterials have no dwellings overlooking them. This however was conjecture on Stretton’s part, as there are no examples of this neighbourhood
Since the times of New York Plan and the Canberra neighbourhood plans, there has been a number of urban design theorists identifying qualities of
urban places and urban structure and form.
Higgins neighbourhood, Canberra, configured on an 800 metre
(10 minute walk) radius
Higgins neighbourhood, Canberra
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 11
In 1985, Ian Bentley and other staff from Oxford Brookes University advocated concepts for good urban design in their publication ‘Responsive Environ-
ments’. They argued that the “design of a place affects the choices people can make, at many levels” and then nominated seven qualities in making
places responsive. The qualities were:
Permeability – which affects where people can go and is the number of alternative ways through an environment
Variety – the range of uses available to people
Legibility – how easily people can understand what opportunities are offered
Robustness – the degree to which people can use a given place for different purposes
Visual Appropriateness – the detailed appearance of a place that makes people aware of the choices available
Richness – adds to people’s choice of sensory experiences
Personalisation – the extent to which people can put their own stamp on a place.
Around the same time in the United States of America, “The Pedestrian Pocket Book – A New Suburban Design Strategy” was published. The editor of
the book highlights in the preface that the subdivisions and homes we are building no longer match the demographic of the population.
“Of the seventeen million new households to be formed in the 1980’s, it was estimated that 51 percent would be
composed of single persons…….The nuclear family, for whom suburbia was conceived, now represents barely one out
of four households.” (Kelbaugh 1989)
The Building Better Cities program of the Hawke (1980’s) and Keating (1990’s) Labor Governments made a great contribution to urban policy in Aus-
tralia. A major project was the ‘Joint Venture for more Affordable Housing’ which advocated ‘Green Street’ development, introduced the zero lot house
to residential development, promoted increases in density through small lot development. The Australian Model Code for Residential Development
(AMCORD) grew from this work and has been an influential document. A precursor to this document was Victorian Code for Residential Development
(VicCode) in 1992 . It was developed in part by a recent graduate from the Oxford Brookes University schooled in Responsive Environments.
VicCode identified that,

“approaches to subdivision design over recent years have emphasised engineering, surveying and lot yield efficiency.
While all these are important, the primary objective in planning any new part of a city or town is to design a framework
for a community that is sustainable, safe and stimulating.” (VicCode p.15)
This code proposed an approach to subdivision design that was based around creating neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood design, or community design
included providing elements such as a focal point or centre for the neighbourhood, an interconnected street network and a variety of lot sizes and types.
In order to implement the Code, the Government began to run training sessions for the development industry. Some of these were convened by Paul
Murrain, a lecturer from Oxford Brookes and one of the authors of Responsive Environments.
This document was the precursor to the widely known national Australian Model Code For Residential Development (AMCORD). Amcord Urban (1992)
called for more compact urban forms with ‘affordable urban housing in locations that support the needs of a changing population.” (Amcord Urban p.10)
Around the time AMCORD was developed, there was also the United States publication of Peter Calthorpe’s work proposing Transit Oriented Develop-
ment through “The Next American Metropolis” published in 1993. A TOD is defined as:
“mixed-use community within an average 2,000 feet (700 metre) or so walking distance of a transit stop and core
commercial area. TOD’s mix residential, retail, office, open space, and public uses in a walkable environment, making
it convenient for residents and employees to travel by transit, bicycle, foot or car.” (Calthorpe p.56)
A TOD therefore has a transit stop at the centre of a neighbourhood. Retail and commercial uses are close to the centre and transit stop.
Transit Oriented Development Diagram, Calthorpe 1993, showing
importance of 10 minute walk (800 metres) to major transit stops
In 1995, the Australian federal government released an updated version of the (AMCORD 95). This resource guide promoted a performance based ap-
proach to development, while encouraging integrated planning and neighbourhoods. As with other documents, there was a move away from segregat-
ed homogenous and car dependant areas to more sustainable forms of communities. The influence of Calthorpe from ‘The Next American Metropolis’ is
evident, but no other proposals for urban structure are offered.
The WA Liveable Neighbourhoods: Community Design Code, known as ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ is based on a document that was initially on trial as a
substitute to the planning regulations in Western Australia. The trial document was prepared to meet the objectives of the State Planning Strategy in WA
and was well received by the development community. It has since been adopted as a statutory planning code for new subdivisions.
‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ addresses both strategic and operational aspects of subdivision development via a planning and assessment policy for the
preparation of structure plans and subdivisions layouts. It has set a benchmark in the industry and across Councils in Australia as an integrated ap-
proach to encouraging neighbourhood based subdivisions.
Peter Calthorpe, author of the TOD model, visited Brisbane in 1993. He met with representatives from the Queensland Government who were working
on the Albert Corridor Development Control Plan. The ACDCP introduced the concept of an Accessible Urban Neighbourhood showing the clear ap-
plication of Peter Calthorpe’s ideas in the South East Queensland context.
The Albert Corridor DCP was one of the first planning documents in Queensland to advocate the principles of transit oriented development. This DCP
also sources the concept of a five-minute walk or 400 metres to the Urban Transit Authority of British Columbia in 1980.
“The Urban Transit Authority of British Columbia in 1980 identified a five minute walking distance as that which most
people are prepared to travel to use public transport. While most people will walk for five minutes, some will walk much
further while others will not even walk half that distance. The average speed of walking is approximately 5km/hr. A
five minute walking distance therefore corresponds to a distance of approximately 400 metres. These figures have
since been widely supported as a reasonable measure of transit catchment in several publications both in Australia and
overseas.” (ACDCP p7-3)
Interest in more sustainable urban form has come from the sphere of economics in relation to economic development with employment types and loca-
tions. Research by the then Queensland Government Department Business Industry and Regional Development, (DBIRD, now State Development)
identified that with the decline in manufacturing, there was a growth of service industries, home based employment and small business growth. Many
businesses were no longer needed to be in typically industrial buildings that had significant impacts on residential areas. A new type of mixed-use
precinct was proposed, an Integrated Employment Area where many businesses could be compatibly mixed with various forms of housing, through good
In 1993, DBIRD convened a design workshop on Integrated Employment Areas run by the VicCode team of urban designers, Paul Murrain and Wendy
Morris. The workshop explored concepts of neighbourhoods and towns in relation to meeting emerging social and economic needs. A comparison was
made between traditional mixed use communities and modern segregated urban forms. A working definition of good mixed use was penned by Paul
Murrain during the workshop.
“A finely grained mix of primary land uses; a variety of housing and workplaces with housing predominant, closely
integrated with all other support services and public transport, within convenient walking distance of the majority of
homes” (Murrain, DBIRD Workshop 1993)

In the following years, a number of other events occurred.
In 1994, Chip Kaufman, from Ecologically Sustainable Designs in Melbourne, visited Brisbane promoting concepts of new urbanism and neighbourhood
design. There was also workshop for the development of Eggersdorf Road that applied the principles of neighbourhoods as a design solution.
The Coomera Charrette, held in 1995, explored concepts put forward in the Albert Corridor Development Control Plan, specifically that Coomera become
Urban Village, UK Urban Task Force
Accessible Urban Neighbourhood after Albert Corridor DCP6
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 13
the major centre in that region. Outcomes from this charrette informed the Coomera Local Area Plan.
Shaping Up is a guide to the better practice and integration of transport, land use and urban design techniques developed by the Queensland De-
partment of Transport in partnership with Main Roads, the Department of Local Government and Planning and the Local Government Association of
It outlines ways in which land use and transport planning and urban design can reduce both the number and length of trips by private vehicles, as well
as supporting walking, cycling and the use of public transport. Shaping Up provides a number of practical examples for regional transport corridors,
business and activity centres, new and existing public transport interchanges, new residential subdivisions, medium density developments and business
centre intersections.
Within Brisbane City Council, around the same time, the concept of Emerging Communities evolved. Emerging Communities was a way to plan for
and encourage new large subdivisions to be designed as neighbourhoods rather than purely residential estates. The Town Plan for the City of Brisbane
1987, was amended in 1997 to state “[the integration of subdivision and development in the emerging community areas within the Future Urban Zone
will be encouraged to provide a diverse range of housing types and supporting uses consistent with the social and environmental outcomes sought in
this Strategic Plan”.
More than any other document, “Liveable Neighbourhoods’ actively promotes the formation of urban development as neighbourhoods scaled upon the
five minute walk, with an urban structure where neighbourhoods, seven to nine cluster to form towns. This document has done more than most other
documents in embracing larger scale city planning issues. It is an acclaimed document with State level PIAAwards and CNU Regional Planning Award
in 2001.
A recent contribution to the debate on urban sustainability in the United Kingdom was by the Urban Task Force chaired by the eminent architect Lord
Richard Rogers. The Task Force report presented an idealised urban environment that had the following characteristics.

High street as the centre of the neighbourhood
Diversity and density of housing 4 storey perimeter block of high density mixed uses
Integrating employment
Urban greenways
These documents demonstrate the importance of understanding urban settlements with an identifiable structure based upon a neighbourhood. The
scale of the neighbourhood varies in different contexts, but the basis of a five minute walk (400 metres) to centres, with a ten minute walk (800 metres)
to major public transport stops emerges.
Neighbourhoods cluster to form towns, linear green corridors through
neighbourhoods, WA Community Code
Analysis of the urban structure of Brisbane’s west, from Milton, to Ashgrove, to Oxley, provides a powerful argument for the importance of
neighbourhoods in the urban structure.
The diagram adjacent shows the spacing of centres in Brisbane’s west, with a 400 metres radius drawn around each centre. The types of centres
include corner store focused centres, such as in Torwood and Graceville, to Paddington Central and Corinda which are supermarket-based, to
Indooroopilly Shoppingtown and Toowong Village, which are regional centres. Similarly, Higgins in Canberra, can be seen as a cluster of 400 metre, five
minute walk neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods focus on the main retail centre, as well as parks and community facilities.
A number of neighbourhood types have emerged from this analysis. They are characterised by the different types and scales of centres. This in turn
has an influence on the surrounding land uses and amounts of mixed use, community facilities and medium density housing.
The smallest neighbourhood could be characterised as a community neighbourhood focusing on a community facility such as a child care centre and
a park. A small amount of medium density housing would surround the park. It would contain no retail. This is similar to the sub-centres within the
Canberra neighbourhoods, and Northlakes, a case study analysed in a later section of this report.
The next type of neighbourhood focuses on a corner store. This type would have a little more medium density housing. The next neighbourhood centre
is one with enough retail to make a small main street. These centre types would not have a supermarket. A supermarket based neighbourhood is the
highest order neighbourhood. Larger centres can be considered as ‘town’ or ‘regional’ centres.
Despite the type and scale of centres, a spacing of 400 metres between centres is still appropriate.
On the following page is a table showing the characteristics of different neighbourhood types, as described under the following headings.
Description - Centres Type and Scale
Riparian and Environmental Corridors
Retail and Commercial Centre
Community Uses
Open Spaces
Housing Diversity and Mixed Use
Neighbourhoods in Brisbane’s west, based around a 400 metres radius Higgins in Canberra, a cluster of neighbourhoods based on a five minute
walk (400 metres)
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 15
A literature review of eight planning and policy documents currently in use in South East Queensland was undertaken. The documents reviewed are
listed below.
Brisbane City Council draft Subdivision Code
Ipswich City Council Planning Scheme
Gold Coast City Council Planning Scheme
Maroochy Shire Council Planning Scheme
Queensland Residential Design Guidelines
Queensland Streets
Liveable Neighbourhood (Western Australia)
Draft principles for Rochedale Master Plan, Brisbane
Four planning schemes were chosen from councils in the South East Queensland region including Gold Coast, Maroochy and Ipswich. A portion of
the planning scheme from Brisbane was also reviewed. This portion was the draft Subdivision Code, as it stood at July 2004. The other documents
reviewed included Queensland Streets and Queensland Residential Design Guidelines, as these documents are broader policy documents that are
referenced in various planning schemes. The Liveable Neighbourhoods: Community Design Code from Western Australia was also chosen to review
as it is an acclaimed and influential document. While it has no formal significance in Queensland, it is often used as a guide and was therefore useful to
review. The eighth document reviewed was the draft principles for the Rochedale Master Plan (Brisbane), which at the time of writing, was being devel-
oped. Rochedale is on the southern side of the Brisbane City Council area and is one of the last remaining ex-farming areas to be developed.
Each of the documents were reviewed against a number of criteria. The criteria chosen were loosely based around elements contained in ‘Liveable
Neighbourhoods’ as the document is well regarded and accepted as a good reference for neighbourhood design. The criteria can be grouped into the
sub-headings of Environmental Management and Landform, Neighbourhood Planning, Movement Network and Detailed Layout.
Environmental Management and Landform
Protection of environmental features such as key habitats and wildlife corridors
Relationship to topography and natural site features
Integration of total water cycle management
Neighbourhood Planning
Definition of neighbourhood and relationship to urban structure
Location, scale and number of centres
Incorporation of mixed uses, integration of residential uses with centres
Number and distribution of parks and public open space
Provision of utilities and service corridors
Movement Network
Street network, access to centres, public transport routes
Pedestrian and cycle network
Detailed Layout
Lot size, frontage and depth
Diversity of housing types
Street and lot orientation for energy efficient design
Street and lot orientation - general
Integration of Vegetation
In order to assess the documents in a specifically subtropical context, a number of other criteria were also used. These were as follows.
Relationship to topography
Relationship to riparian and environmental corridors
Relationship to existing landscape elements
Orientation of streets for good solar design
Vegetation - size, area for growth
4. Current Planning Framework
Parks and public spaces
Shade in public areas
Vegetation types
Micro-climate design
Streetscape relationships and character
The review of the selected documents therefore should give an indication of the state of neighbourhood design in South East Queensland. A summary
of the findings is included in the following pages. A full analysis in matrix form is included in Appendix A.
This Code is a draft version of controls for reconfiguration of lots, to be included in the current IPA compliant planning scheme for Brisbane City Coun-
cil. The version as it stood at July 2004 was reviewed. It is noted that this Code has been reviewed in isolation from the rest of the controls in City
Plan relating to residential development and other urban development. In essence it is only one control mechanism relating specifically to the control of
reconfiguration of lots.
As with other documents reviewed, emphasis is placed on the creation of neighbourhoods. This draft code emphasises that the neighbourhoods are
to have a strong sense of identity derived from their relationship to the surrounding urban context and the natural topographical features and other ele-
ments that will influence the ultimate layout of the neighbourhood.
Neighbourhoods are recognised in this document as essentially mixed use areas and do not consist of broad scale homogenous land uses.
Neighbourhoods are those areas where employment opportunities, residential as well as recreational uses are provided.
The BCC draft Subdivision Code also has principles such as seeking a close relationship between land use and transport. A range of choice in mode of
transport between points of attraction is encouraged. To facilitate this, the movement network is to be both legible and have good connectivity.
Design for climate issues are addressed through lot orientation.
This document was written in order to implement the AMCORD 1995 document in Queensland as well as the South East Queensland Regional Frame-
work for Growth Management (RFGM).
The QRDG “have been prepared to provide clear guidance for developing residential areas in Queensland.’ ….’The purpose of the guidelines is to have
a document that is more practically suited to Queensland conditions than the current AMCORD. They are designed to promote a degree of consistency
across local governments in their approach to residential development, and to respond to market demands by promoting flexibility and taking a perfor-
mance-based approach to development assessment.”
The QRDG is “consistent with the aims of regional planning in Queensland, as clearly evident in the various projects being undertaken throughout the
State. For example, the South East Queensland Regional Framework for Growth Management…”
The stated overall intent for the document “is to illustrate best practice in urban residential design, widen the choice of housing and land development
styles that are currently available, and enable more creative and efficient use of land.”
The document is divided into four sections, dealing with single detached housing, attached housing, integrated development and subdivision, which pulls
out the relevant elements from the integrated development section.
As it is based on AMCORD, a performance-based approach is used. Some quantitative measures are listed, however mostly as Acceptable Solutions.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 17
For instance in the neighbourhood design element, no strict definition of a neighbourhood is offered, but an acceptable solution for a public transport
criteria is ‘90% of dwellings to be located within 400 metres radial distance from an existing or potential bus route’. Similarly the document recognises
lot orientation as important in achieving micro-climatic benefits, but offers no acceptable solutions.
Despite the lack of quantifiable measures or acceptable solutions, the elements and criteria cover a broad range of issues and include such topics as
water quality management, neighbourhood design and building envelope and siting.
Queensland Streets was produced by the Qld Division of the Institute of Municipal Engineering Australia and first published in 1993. It was written to
supplement AMCORD by providing further technical information and design detail for new subdivisions.
The document defines a neighbourhood as a homogenous residential area, with facilities such as a primary school, small shopping centre and neigh-
bourhood park. A neighbourhood is therefore based around a primary school catchment which also loosely relates to the optimum spacing of major
roads and the capacity to sustain a local shopping centre. Major roads and railways are seen as barriers to movement and are encouraged to be used
as boundaries of neighbourhoods. This creates a scale of neighbourhood at closer to 250ha. The document offers little on the location of centres and
the relationship to residential areas.
The document is otherwise centred on traffic engineering and sets out an order of preferred road hierarchies for subdivisions. The document discour-
ages allotments fronting streets that carry an ‘unacceptable’ volume of traffic. The location of primary schools or number and location of parks is not
specifically addressed. Other details such as street or lot orientation in regard to energy efficiency is also not addressed. Street design is however,
encouraged to follow the contours of the land as much as possible and mention is also made of the aligning and grading streets to preserve landscape
features such as groups of trees.
‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’, produced by the Western Australian Planning Commission, is intended to be the implementation document for the WA state
planning strategy. The code was adopted as an alternative to issues-based subdivision policies and is an integrated planning and assessment policy
for the preparation of structure plans and subdivision layouts. It “is used as an assessment tool for new urban (predominantly residential) development
in the metropolitan area and country centres, where two or more lots are created on ‘greenfield’ sites at the urban edge, or on large infill sites within
developed areas”. (Liveable Neighbourhoods, p.1)
The principle aim is on the creation of walkable compact neighbourhoods and the closer association of land use and transport in order to provide more
sustainable communities. The Code recognises the value of the creation of mixed-use centres that can act as vital activity nodes and provide a focus for
community life within each neighbourhood.
In a broader urban context, ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ seeks to create discrete well-defined and highly interconnected neighbourhoods. The basic unit
of a well structured urban form (neighbourhood) is defined by the 400 metre / 5 minute pedestrian walking distance. Groups of neighbourhoods form
towns where individual centres within each neighbourhood are structured and provide a role in accordance with the centres hierarchy.
The document is comprehensive in its covering of issues and objectives regarding urban development. It does not however prescribe detailed solutions
to each objective, leaving room for individual solutions to be achieved according to site constraints.
The WA code takes main through streets through the centres of neighbourhoods and each neighbourhood is about 60ha in area, much smaller than
Queensland Streets.
As the document deals with a number of climatically diverse areas and does not therefore prescribe any building or subdivision solutions specifically for
a subtropical climate.
Cover of WA Liveable Neighbourhoods Community Design Code Cover of Queensland Streets Design Guidelines for Subdivisional Streetworks
The ICC Planning Scheme is an IPA compliant scheme, written in accordance with IPA Plan Making Guideline 1/02. It was written in-house and was one
of the first schemes to be written under the guideline.
The scheme provides a good guide to the creation of neighbourhoods. The specific outcomes in the Reconfiguration Code notes that the layout and
design of the reconfiguration, provides a residential neighbourhood with a strong and positive identity which responds to its site characteristics. This
includes responding to existing vegetation, creeks and topographical features.
The scheme also recognises the value of compact neighbourhoods and locating increased residential densities around well-connected and walkable
centres. Any mix of uses (residential and commercial) within centres however, is encouraged only in the major centres.
Design for climate provides details on building responses (building and room location and orientation, eaves and overhangs etc) as well as details on lot
orientation. Reference is not made specifically to subtropical design.
The urban corridor from Brisbane to the Gold Coast is an important and developing area in the South-East. The GCCC Planning Scheme, as with other
schemes, focuses on centre based development. There is a strong focus on neighbourhood design, although no clear definition of a neighbourhood.
Centres are catchment based and defined by population figures. There is no specific reference or elements to facilitate mixed use in the centres.
In this scheme, there is also a large emphasis placed the identification and protection of environmental habitats, wildlife corridors and other ecologically
significant areas. However, relationship to topography or riparian corridors or other existing landscape elements is not addressed.
Little detail is given to streetscape performance criteria and no specific setbacks are outlined, relying on proposals meeting the performance criteria. In
relation to micro-climate design, there is a lack of detail of vegetation types and micro-design generally.
The Maroochy planning scheme was one of the first planning schemes in Queensland to be written under the Integrated Planning Act 1997.
This scheme does not specifically define neighbourhoods, but does have an emphasis on diversity of housing types and a mixture of land uses. A hier-
archy of centres is outlined and detailed in the Strategic Plan. More here The scheme also places equal emphasis on vehicular and pedestrian/ cyclist/
public transport movement networks. It includes provision for parks to be well distributed and provided where appropriate.
The Maroochy scheme has a particular emphasis on the protection of environmental features. It addresses relationship of urban form to topography and
riparian corridors and other existing landscape elements. Different vegetation types are addressed and provision is made for parks to be well distrib-
uted, although no specific numbers or locations are detailed.
In terms of micro-climate design, there is a strong emphasis on shade in public areas and on developing streetscape character. Other elements of the
micro-climate are covered in limited detail. Orientation of streets and lots for good solar access is not addressed.
Written by Brisbane City Council as a guide to the master planning of the new Rochedale Urban Village, the draft principles and requirements were an
appendix to the Master Plan Brief. Rochedale is one of the last remaining large areas to be developed in Brisbane. The draft principles do not replicate
or override the controls of the Brisbane’s City Plan, but rather, provide additional support to City Plan’s controls. Essentially the principles were intro-
duced to raise the standard of expected outcomes.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 19
The principles are a group of ideas, notions and avenues of thought regarding both neighbourhood and subtropical design. The document therefore
does not and cannot represent a cohesive and comprehensive approach to either neighbourhood or specifically subtropical design. It does however
consider these issues including those issues not normally considered in traditional reconfiguration codes. Issues such as integrated water management,
shelter in public areas and the effects of radiated heat from hardstand areas are included and are relevant to other locations within a subtropical climate
Defining an Urban Structure
Urban structure is the provision of a rigorous, well considered, forward looking planning structure over emerging areas of urban development. It is an
area recognised by most documents reviewed as a worthwhile exercise, but is invariably not well executed. Planning schemes are generally nominating
rigorous boundaries to urban development separating areas of urban and non urban activities. But the structuring of those designated urban areas is
formless except for the nomination of waterway corridors and the occasional retail node or major arterial road. There is no recognition of urban structure
as an interconnected network of discrete neighbourhoods.
Guidance in the way urban areas are structured is therefore limited in regard to both principles and direction.
‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ in contrast, provides direction with respect to the structuring of urban areas. It notes in regard to town structure, that a town
should have the following characteristics:
• Be formed by the clustering of neighbourhoods, typically with six to nine neighbourhoods needed for adequate population to sustain
a town centre with public transport and a wide range of goods and services;
• The town centre is central to the cluster of neighbourhoods, well linked and within reasonable walking distance of most residents.
• Major new transport routes are based on desired town and neighbourhood structure;
• For commercial viability and accessibility the town centre is located adjacent to the intersection of arterial routes and has a major
public transport stop, wherever possible; and
• Provide a range of housing types with residential densities that increase towards the centre and can, over time, support sufficient
population to foster local self containment.
Defining a Neighbourhood
Unlike defining urban structure, the concept of neighbourhood planning appears to be reaching some consensus, especially as planning schemes prog-
ress and become more resolved under the current legislation. Most of the documents make reference in some way to a “neighbourhood”. It appears
universally accepted that a neighbourhood is the most basic self contained building block of urban structure. The scale of the neighbourhoods differs be-
tween the documents reviewed with Liveable Neighbourhoods focussing on a 60ha neighbourhood, whilst Queensland Streets creating neighbourhoods
of closer to 250ha.
It is intended under the planning schemes, that large scale subdivisions should no longer deliver a monoculture of single detached housing over the
landscape. Instead, an ordering of the urban form around the creation of a discrete neighbourhood is encouraged. What defines a neighbourhood is
not always spelled out in a similar way or even defined at all within the documents reviewed. All seem to agree that it is self contained, to some degree,
inwardly focused on some form of activity centre, should be well connected to other neighbourhoods and be able to meet changing needs and expecta-
tions of the community.
One of the better examples of the principles of defining a neighbourhood comes from the Maroochy Shire Planning Scheme which notes with respect to
the neighbourhood concept that they are to:
• Offer a wide choice in good quality housing and associated community and commercial facilities;
• Provide for local employment opportunities;
• Encourage walking and cycling;
• Minimise energy consumption;
• Promote a sense of place through neighbourhood focal points and the creation of a distinctive identity which recognises; and
• Where relevant, conserves the natural environment and places of cultural heritage significance.
‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ also provides a good list of neighbourhood elements. It notes that neighbourhoods should have the following characteristics.

• Size and shape generally defined by a five minute walk from the neighbourhood centre to its perimeter, typically 400 metres;
• The centre acts as a community focus with a compatible mix of uses which provide for a variety of daily needs and may include
community facilities and urban open spaces such as a town square;
• To assist retail exposure and accessibility, the centre is located on or at the intersection of important local streets served by public
• An interconnected street network with strong links between town and neighbourhood centres that has good accessibility, route
choice and detailing to make walking and cycling pleasant, efficient and safe; and
• A range of densities that increase toward the neighbourhood and town centres.
In terms of defining neighbourhood character, the documents reviewed invariably point towards those elements, particularly natural elements of land-
form and topography, which provide a basis for character for each neighbourhood. It seems appropriate that the character of each neighbourhood be
derived from those historical, cultural and natural elements which it contains, rather than contriving an artificial or themed character which is subject to
fashion and not linked to the nature of the location of the neighbourhood.
Perhaps defining and designing a neighbourhood are inextricably linked. If you achieve one, the other is achieved.
The Ipswich City Council planning scheme provides a reasonable approach to determining character in a neighbourhood where it notes with respect to
the character of neighbourhoods that:
• Provide a strong and positive identity by responding to site characteristics, setting, landmarks, views, places of cultural significance
and through clearly legible streets and streetscaping themes, and in the case of residential neighbourhoods, open space networks;
• Provide a mix of lot sizes and enables a variety of housing types, commercial and industrial establishments and other compatible
land uses;
• To be cognisant of linear open spaces ... and ensure they are located to define the boundaries of neighbourhoods; and
• Reinforce neighbourhood identity by locating community, retail and commercial facilities at focal points with convenient walking
distances for residents.
Neighbourhood Centres
As with the concept of neighbourhood planning, the idea of an Activity Centre being at the heart of each neighbourhood is becoming recognised. No
longer is the local centre simply a retail space. The “Activity Centre” of each neighbourhood is encouraged to also be the focal point for community
services, social interaction, recreation, entertainment as well as retail and commercial services.
Curiously though, it seems the emphasis still remains on retail and commercial services as the primary activity for each centre. Centres although en-
couraged to contain a mix of services and facilities are recognised in the documents only for their role within the retail centre hierarchy.
This has serious implications for neighbourhood planning. When all neighbourhoods are focused on a centre, which in accordance with the planning
schemes are retail based, the extent of the neighbourhood with respect to size, would be defined by a retail catchment. Issues of compactness and
walkablity of centres begin to fray under this model as neighbourhoods would need to expand beyond the 400 metres if they are to accommodate a
viable retail catchment.
No mention is made in the documents reviewed with respect to activity centres being underpinned by anything other than primarily a retail focus.
Neighbourhoods which may have at their heart an Activity Centre underpinned by an open space area are not considered, even though these parks/
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 21
open spaces areas could be the focus for increased residential densities, public transport and social interaction.
Most principles in the literature revolve around concepts such as those set out in Ipswich Planning Scheme as shown below.
The scheme states:
Neighbourhood Centres and local shopping centres are designed and located:-
i. To take advantage of major entry/ exit points to residential communities with good visibility and access from major roads;
ii. To be conveniently accessible to the catchment area they are intended to serve;
iii. To be conveniently accessible, where possible, to public transport and pedestrian cycle routes;
iv. To provide a focus for community interaction and meet demonstrated community needs;
v. Where possible, to be near schools, parkland and community facilities in order to form part of a community node; and
vi. Sized so as not to compromise the viability of higher order centres or other existing or planned neighbourhood centres.
If there is to be recognition of other forms of Activity Centres forming the central focus of neighbourhoods, then this implies perhaps a number of design
responses in terms of types of neighbourhoods. The essential difference being whether or not the centre provides some form of retail facility. This
neighbourhood typology could be incorporated in planning schemes and would greatly assist in the ordering of urban development and the creation of
neighbourhoods with a strong sense of place and identity regardless where a retail service focus is present or not.
Mixed Use
Mixed use is not well considered within the literature. All encourage the mixing of uses, at a strategic level, but provide little detail on how this is to be
achieved in a practical design sense. Indeed no detail is provided on the nature or form of buildings or the nature of the urban environment in which
mixed uses will exist. All the literature seeks to encourage the mixing of uses in higher order retail based centres and see that mixing uses has benefits
in terms of its contribution to the vitality and richness of the urban environment, but there is little follow up in development provisions.
It should be noted that lower order retail centres/ neighbourhood centres are generally not considered as candidates for mixed use (residential/ retail)
such as shop top housing. This could be a missed opportunity.
Commonality in theme within the movement network is also apparent. It stems from the realisation that if the land use and transport model is to be ef-
fective, then neighbourhoods, with their increasing residential densities focused around Activity Centres, must be well connected in order to facilitate the
creation and expansion of public transport networks.
Within neighbourhoods similar themes also emerge between documents. Streets are used to define the edges to open spaces areas and provide move-
ment networks for both vehicles and bicycles within the neighbourhood.
Streets are designed to minimise speed and modify driver behaviour within a clear street hierarchy.
The Draft Brisbane City Council Reconfiguration Code provides some reasonable principles with respect to connectivity. They are:
• The Movement network must have a clear structure and component roads must conform to their function in the network consistent
with the road hierarchy; and
• The movement network must provide a high level of internal accessibility and good external connections for local vehicle, pedestrian
and cycle movements, with traffic management to restrain vehicle speed, deter through traffic and create safe conditions for other
road users.
Street Networks
The Draft Brisbane City Council Reconfiguration Code provides some reasonable principles with respect to street networks. They are:
• The street network is based on a modified grid pattern that is altered to adapt to the site topography and other constraints and
• The movement network must cater for the extension of existing or future public transport routes to provide services that are
convenient and accessible to the community;
• The vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian networks, land use mix and lot density:
- Reduce local vehicle trips
- Reduce travel distances and speeds
- Maximise public transport effectiveness
- Encourage walking and cycling to daily activities;
• Net residential densities within walking distance of public transport stations and stops must be set at levels that take advantage of
the infrastructure investment and support the economic operation of services;
• Routes and neighbourhood net residential densities comply with any Local Plan and/or Structure Plan, Queensland Streets 1993
and the Transport and Traffic Facilities Planning Scheme Policy;
• Highest likely public transport ‘trip generating’ land uses are located in the vicinity of existing public transport facilities;
• At least 90% of lots are within 400 metres straight line distance of an existing or potential public transport route;
• Public transport connections provide ease of movement from the development to:
- External areas
- Other public transport routes (including future designated routes)
- Activity centres;
• Proposed bus routes and facilities are provided at an appropriate level and carrying capacity within the road network hierarchy; and
• Buses are located on traffic routes carrying more that 3000 VPD.
Walking and Cycling
Most documents seek to provide legible pedestrian networks that provide direct access between points of attraction and activity centres. In this regard
there is recognition of pedestrian movement as another form of transport which it is highly desirable within compact neighbourhoods. This principle is
coupled with principle that there is choice available to residents and visitors when accessing daily convenience needs and as a source of recreation and
community interaction.
The new Ipswich City Council Planning Scheme notes the following with respect to the provision of pedestrian and cycle routes:
• Provides well located vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian networks that minimise local vehicle trips, maximise public transport
effectiveness, and encourage walking and cycling to daily activities and to provide a source of recreation; and
• Walking and cycling are encouraged by providing safe, convenient and legible movement networks to points of attraction within and
beyond the development and to nearby centres and employment areas.
It is generally recognised in the literature that parks and open space areas provide a multitude of roles in the urban environment, from maintenance of
habitat and waterways, to provision of spaces for active or passive recreation. What perhaps is less well spelled out, is the role that open space can
play as a centre for social activity and as a setting for higher density forms of residential development.
Included increasingly, in the literature, are standards of provision of open space and stipulation on the proximity of open space areas to dwellings. This
presents a formulaic approach to open space provision and there perhaps needs to be more emphasis placed on the provision of quality spaces more
than just quantity.
Typical of provisions included in the literature is that from the Gold Coast Planning Scheme.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 23
A public open space network must be provided which:
• Provides or incorporates a range of recreation settings and can accommodate adequate facilities to meet the needs of the
• Provides well distributed open spaces that contribute to the legibility, accessibility and character of the development;
• Creates attractive urban environments settings and focal points;
• Establishing a clear relationship between public open space and adjoining land uses;
• Facilitates appropriate measures for stormwater and flood management and care of valuable environmental resources;
• Enables the retention of significant vegetation, wetlands, waterways, and other habitat areas, their associated buffer and linkages/
corridors and natural and cultural features; and
• Is cost effective to maintain.
The majority of rhetoric and control relates to the physical siting of buildings on their lot entitlement. These controls deal with the requirements to site a
structure given building requirements and requirements for infrastructure. Lot sizes may also vary to incorporate vegetation and other natural features.
What perhaps is missing, is the recognition of the role that landscaping can provide to climate mediation, particularly in subtropical areas. Consideration
needs to be given to landscape in terms of its role in climate control, maintenance of privacy, habitat and refuge for wildlife and with regard to amenity
and aesthetics.
Siting & Orientation
This is an area generally well conceived in the planning schemes, particularly with respect to the orientation of buildings for surveillance to public and
semi public spaces such as parks and streets.
The new Ipswich City Council Planning Scheme notes the following with respect to siting and orientation.
• Buildings address the street frontage or frontages rather than being aligned at right angles or diagonal to the street;
• Buildings are designed so that overlooking and opportunities for casual surveillance of public spaces, pedestrian paths and car
parking areas are provided;
• Generally, as much as is practical, the habitable parts of a building are located towards the street, in order to develop a strong
relationship between private accommodation and the street;
• Buildings are sited and designed to provide a clearly delineated transition space from public spaces (eg. the street or communal
open space) to dwellings and associated private use areas; and
• The site layout ensures that the front entrance of each dwelling is easily found, and that amenity is maintained between buildings.
Climate & Design
This is another area that is well recognised in most of the documents in terms of importance, but not well expressed in terms of controls. Essentially
controls reviewed relate to the orientation of lots in a proposed reconfiguration design. Whilst lot orientation can facilitate the location of a dwelling that
is climatically responsive, ultimately it is the dwelling and its design that will determine the success of the response.
Given that the planning and design of single detached dwellings is primarily a self assessable activity in planning schemes, there are few controls
beyond lot orientation that can be brought to bear on this issue for single detached houses. This however does not prevent the issue of climate control
being explored for more intense forms of residential and commercial development.
This is an area that receives less attention than would seem appropriate. However, the nature and condition of the public realm is broadly outside the
control of the planning schemes as the schemes deal with development on private land.
The treatment of public areas is largely the responsibility of local government and through other mechanisms such as Brisbane City Council’s Suburban
Centre Improvement Plans (SCIP’s).
Councils can and do request works to be undertaken in the public realm as part of private developments. The documents reviewed provide few prin-
ciples with respect to achieving good public outcomes particularly with respect to issues such as shade and seating.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 25
5. Case Studies
Six case studies were selected from the South-East Queensland region to offer a quick snapshot at some of our current neighbourhoods. They were
chosen to give a range of inner and outer ring areas, as well as older and newer areas. The selected centres are listed below.
James St, Teneriffe inner ring higher density, urban renewal area
Paddington Central inner ring medium density character area
Corinda middle ring medium density railway and bus corridor
Windemere outer ring low-medium density new infill
Edenbrooke outer ring low density new development
North Lakes outer (Pine Rivers) low density new development
A number of criteria were used when analysing the centres. The criteria was based on consolidated criteria of the literature review and can be grouped
under the following headings:
Neighbourhood Planning
Type and scale of centre
Mix of uses
Size of centre
Diversity of housing types
Open Space
Distribution of parks
Movement Network
Street Network
Access to public transport
Pedestrian and cycle network
Environmental Management and Landform
Relationship to landform and natural features
Relationship to topography
Relationship between street and watercourses
Detailed Layout
Integration of uses
Lot size, frontage and depth
Street and Lot orientation
Integration of vegetation
Shade in public areas
A description of each centre is given based on these criteria. Annotated drawings and photos are also used to explore the characteristics of the six case
James Street, Teneriffe
The James Street centre is within the inner urban neighbourhood of New Farm in Brisbane. The centre is based around a
local corner store, a pub and a number of restaurants and is generally surrounded by low density housing in the form of historic
workers’ cottages. There is some medium density housing close to the centre and some regional and specialty shopping areas
within a five minute walk.
James Street stretches from the regional commercial and retail centre of the James Street Markets to the large regional park,
New Farm Park. Public transport, in the form of buses, runs through the centre connecting it with both the Fortitude Valley and
New Farm/ Teneriffe.
The street network is typical of an older suburb and has a rectangular grid of streets with the long streets running northeast/
southwest. This allows more lots to have a desirable orientation, although there is a 45
difference to optimum orientation.
Many of these streets are wider or narrower than typical suburban streets. On the narrow streets, there are often only narrow
footpaths, with little opportunity for street trees to be planted. There are also recent medium density housing developments on
these streets that are built up to the property boundary but don’t provide awnings over the footpaths. There is therefore little
shade over these streets.
There are green spaces in the neighbourhood however there are no riparian corridors and stormwater is piped. There is no
open park in walking distance from the centre, but the residential lots with detached dwellings provide have large backyards
and established trees. This is one of the advantages of the small building footprints of the workers’ cottages. The centre also is
reasonably close to the large regional park of New Farm Park.
Within the recently developed specialty shops adjacent the centre, is the James Street Markets. This development showcases
how vegetation and shade can be successfully incorporated into the building areas. This has been achieved through the
extensive use of street trees and the integration of vegetation within the forecourts of the retail spaces. Both permanent and
temporary shade structures have also been used to provide cool areas for people to gather creating a vibrant atmosphere all
Corner store as centre for the neighbourhood. Mixed use commercial and residential development provides
higher density housing close to centre.
Cinema integrated with cafes along James Street Low density housing abutting the centre Cru Bar and covered outdoor dining area along
James Street
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 27
Variety of housing including over a restaurant (shop top
Character residential housing on wide street Medium density housing on narrow street. Narrow verges pro-
vide limited opportunities for street trees
Recent medium density housing
James Street runs down to the valley from
saddle between Teneriffe Hill and Carlton Hill
near the river
Grid street pattern with James
Street running down to a gully
Low density, with medium
density residential closer to the
neighbourhood centre
Streets run at 45 degree angle
to desired orientation
Centro on James, vibrant
mixed use precinct
Character residential
Paddington Central
Like many older suburbs in the subtropical environment of South East Queensland, Paddington is a neighbourhood with a
centre along a ridgeline. A bus route travels along the ridgeline and services the centre. The Paddington centre provides a
strong community focal point with generous shaded pedestrian areas that are associated with cafes and restaurants. These
create spaces for social interaction and allow a vibrant community to develop.
The neighbourhood around the centre has a reasonable variety of land uses with housing, retail and commercial, although a
large percentage of the area remains character residential. There is a limited amount of medium density housing, some of
which is expressed as additive forms of smaller massing elements.
The street network is a regular grided network running north-south and east-west. The grid takes little reference to the
topography and has little consideration for drainage lines and riparian corridors. Many of the north-south streets are directly
up steep hillsides to the ridge. A positive feature of the interconnected street network however, is that is offers a number of
alternative routes to the centre.
There are no parks within 400 metres of the centre and no allocated wildlife corridors. The area was originally cleared to allow
for housing, however the area now has a generous open and vegetated character. The depth of the residential lots at 40-50m
and the traditional small building footprints have allowed for the growth of some wild and highly vegetated rear gardens. Where
the housing is now higher density, the form of the housing has not allowed for significant vegetation and has large areas of
hard surfaces. Many of these developments have close to 100% site cover.
The streetscapes in the neighbourhood are mostly characterised by narrow lots with traditional workers cottages positioned
close to the front boundary. While this allows for large vegetated backyards, the streetscapes are often not vegetated, with
little or no room in the front yards to plant significant vegetation. There are some large street trees and some median strips
that are vegetated, although this is not consistent across all streets. The traditional housing form of workers cottages respects
the landform of the street by raising the house on stumps and thus minimising cutting and filling. This also allows overland flow
of surface water under houses and through backyards.
Medium density housing near centre scaled as collection of
Small scale houses are raised above the slope. Generous shaded outdoor seating
and gathering areas
Public transport integration and active street frontage overlooked
by shaded outdoor areas
Paddington, 2004
Ridgeline main streets, gridded street network accentuates topography. Large
treed backyards; collections of small scale buildings are raised over the steep
Large shade structure as landmark within centre
Paddington 1902 - cleared for subdivision
Paddington 1929 - increase in density and growth of vegetation
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 29
Overland flows paths are in large, lush, well vegetated rear gar-
dens that are visible from the street.
Spaces between buildings look into
treed back gardens
Topography accentuated by streets, which climb up the steep
Traditional grid pattern ignores drainage
lines and overland flow paths
Paddington is on a central ridgeline
with panoramic views
Paddington Central is a supermarket
based centre. It has a good range of
housing types and densities.
Interconnected street layout with large
blocks and trees in backyards
Good orientation of streets - Generally north/south
facing streets, east/west facing on lesser streets
Few street trees, despite ample verges. Little or no shade over
many footpaths and road surfaces.
Increased area of hard surfaces with some forms of medium
density development increases surface water run-off.
Character residential closer to the centre
forces more medium density to the outer
areas of the centre
Corinda is a neighbourhood on a suburban railway line about 15km from the Brisbane city centre. The centre is located on
Oxley Road, which runs roughly parallel to the railway line and is a key road connecting a number of neighbourhoods. It is
therefore serviced by both trains and buses.
The centre is located on a flat ridge east-west ridge. A sense of arrival is created from both directions of Oxley Road as there
is a gentle approaches this ridge.
The neighbourhood is based on a supermarket and a good range of other land uses including a medical centre, library, RSL,
Catholic church and school, Lutheran church, St Aidan’s school as well as retail and commercial uses and a large amount of
medium density housing including public housing,
The street network is a rectangular grid with the long streets running east/west allowing for more lots to have a northerly aspect
and creating many alternative routes to the centre. While the railway line provides a very effective form of transport to and from
the centre it also acts as a divider in the community. There are no streets crossings from the low density housing to the centre.
Street trees have been used along the main street of the centre to create shaded public areas. Community facilities including
the library and the Catholic church have added visual appeal and comfort to the street with the use of large trees to their
forecourts. Many of the residential areas around the centre, particularly in the low density areas, have established vegetation
creating cool, green, shaded streets.
Like many older neighbourhoods, there are no parks within the centre, although the Oxley Creek corridor forms a strong natural
boundary to the neighbourhood about 500-600m from the centre.
Main street with non-glare footpath surface and trees
provided with room to grow
Council library on Main Street with attractive treed
Shaded outdoor eating area for tavern Catholic Church and school well located close to
centre. Shaded by established shade trees.
Coles supermarket with shade structures
over car parking areas
Medium density residential surrounds the centre
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 31
Medium sized, supermarket based centre.
Main Street on arterial road. Wide range of
community facilities and schools
Large area of medium density
housing around centre
Simple grid street pattern. Pedestrian access
only from western side of station
Centre located on flat ridge that runs from
western ridgeline over the Brisbane River
down to the Oxley Creek
Low density with low medium density
closer to the neighbourhood centre
Streets generally run east/
west in a simple grid
Very little parkland and green space
integrated with the centre. Established
vegetation in large rear gardens, less in
medium density
Character residential housing near the centre Residential street with established vegetation
Public housing provisions near the centre
Layers of shade and vegetation between street and front of house Footpath well shaded by established
Windemere is a new residential area in a strategic riverside location adjacent to an existing regional bulky goods retail centre.
The neighbourhood centre has all the ingredients for a vibrant and diverse centre. It includes local shops, a childcare centre,
employment areas, a tavern and soon a supermarket. However the landuses are poorly integrated and some uses are in odd
The centre does not act as a focus for the surrounding residential area. Generally the housing has been designed to turn its
back on the centre. The street network provides indirect access that is generally not legible. Pedestrian street access to the
local centre is along rear fences and the footpaths are narrow with minimal landscaping.
The neighbourhood incorporates a good amount of higher density housing however many of these developments are walled
enclaves that turn their back on streets and surrounding uses, creating large area of fencing along pedestrian streets.
The street network generally provides street frontages to the green corridor. The streets are within 30
of the north/south east/
west grid allowing many of the lots to have good orientation. The streets generally relate to the existing streets and to the river.
The residential subdivision has a strong central green spine around the riparian corridor. This attractive environment is
edged by streets that allow the housing to overlook the space. As this area was originally farmland, this corridor does require
revegetation in order to provide shaded areas. The residential area is bound by the Brisbane River to the north. Parkland
along the river also provides a focus for the community though again more shade is required.
Local shops provide shading over entrances, although little shade
from street or in car park. High glare surface on car park.
Wide streets with large front setbacks and no fences.
Wide verges have opportunity for street tree planting and
provision of footpaths, although not currently provided.
Large public open space adjacent to the river Green corridor as focus for low density residential area, streets
along the edge
Poor access to local shops from residential area to ear of
shopping centre at the end of cul-de-sac.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 33
Gated medium density residential limits choice of routes to
centre and is located away from neighbourhood centre.
Variety of housing evident but medium density
is not near centres
Pedestrian links suffer from lack of casual surveillance from
streets and houses.
Small centre including community facilities
facing commercial developments although
does not act as community centre
Street network does not provide direct
and legible routes to the centre
Watercourse and parkland act as a strong
feature through the development
Enclaves of medium density housing poorly
integrated with neighbourhood centre
Street and lot orientation is within 30 degrees
of north/south, east/west grid and relates to
existing streets and the river edge
Streets generally provide frontage
to green corridors
Riparian corridor retains existing vegetation
Pedestrian routes are attractive but could be unsafe as
they are not visible from surrounding residential uses.
Bulky Goods Retail
Poor relationship between residential areas and tavern.
Back fences of medium density housing lines street.
Pedestrian walkway to shops along
rear and side high fences with little
Aged pensioners estate
Edenbrooke is a high quality residential development within a sloping, treed valley on the edge of Sinnamon Park in the
western suburbs of Brisbane. A small industrial area is located to the north that has been surrounded by housing in the last ten
years. The new infill development is within an existing 1970’s subdivision.
The small centre that services the residential area has a range of shops and a child care centre. There is some medium
density housing close to the centre however generally there is little diversity in the housing with the majority of it being low
density. The green corridor which is a focus for much of the housing is not integrated with the centre and there are no
gathering areas.
The central sweeping and winding street creates a long and indirect route through the subdivision making access to the
centre difficult. The smaller streets roughly conform to a modified north/south, east/west grid generally providing most lots
with good orientation. The streets provide frontages to green corridors. While attractive, separate pedestrian and bicycle
routes are provided to the local centre adjacent to this green, riparian corridor, these routes are not legible and there is no
casual surveillance from the surrounding residential area. Therefore these routes are potentially unsafe. While there are other
pedestrian routes to the centre along the street network, they are not direct.
The streets are well detailed and integrate stormwater infiltration and extensive planting, including trees and lower planting.
Like many new residential areas, the riparian corridor provides a green focus and considerable care has been taken with
the landscaping. This high quality open space accommodates playground equipment and walking and riding tracks. Some
existing trees have been retained and the space is lush and provides many cool and shaded spaces.
View to local shopping centre and child care centre.
Bicycle and pedestrian path
through parkland.
Central drainage swale in road corridor Back fences fronting streets create uninviting and potentially
unsafe environments.
Local shopping centre
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 35
Green corridor of existing vegetation provides backdrop to
Housing generally low density detached Industrial area adjacent to centre
Pedestrian paths along rear fences
unattractive and potentially unsafe
Small centre with a range of shops and
employment integrated (childcare centre)
Convoluted street network that
does not provide direct connection
to neighbourhood centre
Watercourse as a green feature
through the development
Main through street winds arbitrarily through the de-
velopment going nowhere. Smaller streets conform
to a north/south, east/west grid. Frontage and rear
fences to through streets
Green corridors are well
defined by streets.
High quality public open space
Path to shops includes bridge over pond with dense vegetation.
Employment area (earliest
Edenbrooke focuses on the
south east section
Development from the 70s and 80s. Green areas
are leftover spaces behind many rear fences
Northlakes is a new residential area within a master planned community 35km of the Brisbane city centre. It could be
described as a better quality subdivision rather than a neighbourhood.
There is little diversity of land use in the subdivision, which includes only housing and open space. Another weakness of the
area is that public transport is limited. However the open space in the subdivision is well located. The central park acts as a
focal point for the community and has therefore been considered the centre in this case study. It is prominent within the plan
and terminates a long avenue that leads down to the lake. This creates a legible spine and a focus for the subdivision. The
park provides shaded gathering areas for the community and some recreation facilities.
Despite a small amount of medium density housing around the park, densities within the subdivision are generally low. Given
that the subdivision is close to a major regional shopping centre more diversity in density would have been appropriate.
The subdivision has an interconnected street network that allows legible paths through the area. The streets are generally in a
north/south east /west simple grid. Rear lanes are provided for the medium density housing overlooking the central park which
allows these dwellings to front the park and have car access via the lanes.
There is a series of parks in the subdivision with a larger parkland adjacent to the lake. Landscape of the public areas and the
relationship to the topography has been well considered. Footpaths, parks and traffic calming devices are planted with native
vegetation and will provide good shade in the future. Views opening to the parklands have been maintained. All parks have
housing overlooking them and streets abutting them. Therefore housing does not back onto the parks which can minimise
casual surveillance of these areas. Bicycle and pedestrian pathways are provided along the lakeside parklands.
Looking up street towards park. Limited shade
trees but room for more.
Pedestrian linkages are provided to park Predominantly low density detached housing. Footpath shaded by dense, medium height vegetation
Vegetated street. Wide verges and no fences give room
for trees to establish.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 37
Interconnected street network
Streets are generally north/south,
east/west in a simple grid
Wetland and water management corridor as
a green edge to the neighbourhood
Lakeside park with play equipment Attractive shade structures and play equipment in central park Low-medium density housing overlooking park. Rear lanes for car access keeps front streetscape free of garages.
Small residential green areas
Looping street achieves connectivity
adjacent to arterial
Development backs onto arterial road
Pedestrian walkway provides connectivity
between residential areas and open space
Low-medium density housing park with
rear lane access facing public park Park used as focus for neighbourhood
Streets between development and
green areas
Street linking park to open space along
drainage corridor
Large open park defined by street and fronted
with houses, provides space for active recreation.
The review of these case studies identifies a number of significant themes.
The older areas such as Paddington, the street layout and centre locations have an interesting relationship to the hilly
topography. The main through streets follow the ridgelines and valleys with the secondary streets in a grid draped over the
topography. This is exemplified by the journey from Milton through Paddington to Red Hill.
The trip from Milton to Rosalie, Baroona Road, is along the valley and watercourse, filled and built over, past the large park of
Milton State School through Rosalie Village, then up a steep rise up to the ridgeline where Paddington Central centre is located
with the large canopy terminating the view. Following the ridge to the north is Enoggera Terrace, snaking up to a higher
ridgeline, which has panoramic views down streets or between houses to the treed valleys to the west and the CBD to the east.
This simple journey through inner western Brisbane provides strong and contrasting experiences of the landform from low to
high places. Views are plentiful from low areas to ridgelines and from high areas across the landscape. The treed settings of
these suburbs are evident. Other than the Milton State School Park, there are no additional parks on this route. Indeed, parks
were rarely included in these traditional neighbourhood designs.
The early gridded street networks have the overland flow paths running across blocks and through private property. With small
building footprints, houses raised on stumps, large treed rear gardens with the traditional rain water tank collecting rainwater,
this solution provided a relatively good water sensitive urban design response. This is no longer possible with larger buildings,
more garages, greater site cover and concrete slab on ground construction. The open creek networks were left along green
corridors lower in the catchment.
With the change of philosophy with water sensitive urban design to make open landscaped corridors, new neighbourhoods
now have attractive landscaped areas that can combine parkland and can act as focal places in the development. The most
recent developments of Edenbrooke, Northlakes and Windemere have these strong green features. Where streets are placed
on edges, instead of development backing on to the green space, the neighbourhood opens out and embraces the landscape.
A feature of many of these neighbourhoods is that their centres are placed in significant landscape features of the locality.
Corinda and Paddington are on ridgelines. The central park in Northlakes is places on a hilltop overlooking the main lake and
linear parkland network. Edenbrooke is located adjacent to a riparian corridor although the centre has a poor relationship to it.
Rosalie, Milton and James Street are all in valleys that have been filled and built over.
All centres are placed on the main through street network, larger centres on arterial on sub-arterial roads with smaller centres
on lower order thought streets. Where not in memorable landscape locations, they remain accessible on the through street
The review of the case studies reveals that a number of neighbourhood types exist. At the larger scale Paddington and
Corinda are supermarket-based centres with a good mix of commercial and retail as well as restaurants and cafes. There is a
large amount of medium density housing in Corinda together with community facilities such as churches, schools and library.
Paddington is constrained by the character housing nearby.
The centres near Edenbrooke and Windemere contain small strip shops but no supermarket. Childcare centres and some
medium density are integrated, although in Windemere the housing is not well located or integrated.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 39
Urban Structure and Neighbourhood Types
Smallest scale neighbourhood focusing upon a community facility and
park as some neighbourhoods may not be able to support retail
Public transport on one through street
Riparian corridors are respected and made a feature within the neigh-
bourhood design eg.. location of centres, community uses including
schools, location of through routes along green corridors to enhance
legibility and sense of place
Local Community uses incorporated act as the primary focus of the
neighbourhood. Community uses could be a Primary School
Parks are associated within or close to centres and within riparian cor-
Small amount of medium density around the community facility and
park. Home based businesses encouraged within medium density
housing at least
Ideal small neighbourhood incorporating a corner store scaled retail,
that can attract a broader range of housing densities
Public transport on one through street
Corner Store, with shop top housing incorporated, acts as the
primary focus of the neighbourhood
Community uses are incorporated that serve the local community
Parks are associated within or close to centres and within riparian
Larger amount of medium density around the centre, along (and
fronting onto) through Streets and open spaces
Home based businesses encouraged within medium density housing
Typical neighbourhood incorporating enough retail to create a small
‘Main Street/. Enough critical mass to begin to achieve a vibrant
mixed-use centre with good urban quality. This neighbourhood type
can attract a broad range of housing densities
Public transport on through streets
A series of shops creating a short ‘Main Street” act as the primary
focus of the neighbourhood
Community uses are incorporated that serve the local community
Parks are associated within or close to centres and within riparian
Larger amount of medium density around the centre, along (and
fronting onto) through streets and open spaces and in surrounding
streets forming a distinctive precinct. Greater variety and density
within housing forms around the centre
Small amount of mixed-use in higher density buildings
Home based businesses encouraged
Ideal neighbourhood integrating a supermarket and incorporating
enough retail to create a substantial ‘Main Street’. Enough critical
mass to begin to achieve a vibrant mixed-use centre with good urban
quality. This neighbourhood type can attract a broad range of housing
densities and employment types and is a strong contributor to a more
sustainable urbanism. Includes in its catchment some of the smaller
neighbourhood types. Public transport on through streets with conver-
gence of more than one bus route
Larger mixed-use centre incorporating a supermarket, additional retail
and commercial uses together with a broader range of community uses
Additional community uses incorporated that serve the broader com-
Parks are associated within or close to centres and within riparian
Substantial amount of medium density around the community facilities
and parks. Larger amount of mix-use incorporating a range of busi-
nesses. Home based businesses strongly encouraged.
At the smallest scale, Northlakes, the central focus is a park with a small amount of medium density housing facing onto the
park. The local roads and bus route also travel past this focal place. In between these types, not in the case studies but
evident in Brisbane are smaller centres, almost corner store sized centres. These could include Torwood on Haig Road, or
Dean Street, Toowong. Four types of neighbourhoods can therefore be identified (refer Urban Structure and Neighbourhood
Types table).
The case studies reveal themes that can inform the principles of the subtropical neighbourhood
• Response to topography and landform of the street layout
• Location of centres and parks in distinctive parts of the landscape
• Types of neighbourhoods of varying scales of centres, mix of uses and housing density and variety.
• Small-scale ‘light’ buildings within a landscape setting with regular vegetated gaps between buildings with rear gardens large enough
to grow substantial trees. This creates a vegetated setting for buildings.
• Streetscapes comprising visible and accessible entrances, with vegetated front gardens. Front verandahs on dwellings form a rich
transition from public to private space.
• Importance of the landscape and the relationship of the neighbourhood to it.
Torwood Centre on Haig Road
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 41
The principles arising for the design of subtropical neighbourhoods are explained in this section. The principles are both general and quite specific.
The principles are arranged in a table form, under six headings, that have been developed through undertaking the literature review and case study
analysis. These are:
• Neighbourhood Planning
• Movement Network
• Streetscape, Lot Layout and Building Footprint Location
• Open Space
• Topography, Landform, Landscape and Environmental Qualities, and
• Comfort.
In a broad sense, a good subtropical neighbourhood is the good design of a neighbourhood in a subtropical climate. All of the elements of a good
neighbourhood are relevant to a subtropical neighbourhood. There are also a number of neighbourhood elements that are of particular importance in a
subtropical climate. Some of the general elements and how they are applicable and some of the more specific elements are listed below.
• Importance of a mix of uses in and close to centres to reduce travel distances between uses and support pedestrian travel
• Importance of open space and waterway management for stormwater detention and flood management
• Importance of a variety of quality and well located open spaces that support subtropical journeys through the neighbourhood
• Importance of vegetation throughout the neighbourhood to cool ambient air temperatures, shade buildings and support subtropical
• Importance of good lot and street orientation for buildings to capture prevailing breezes and respond to climate
• Importance of opportunities for casual surveillance of public spaces to support outdoor living
• Importance of safe and interconnected pedestrian and cycle links between uses to support outdoor living
• Importance of permeable ground surfaces for surface water penetration
• Importance of shade in public places including footpaths and other pedestrian paths
The table outlining all of the principles drawn from this project, has three columns. The topic/issue is in the far left column and principles that relate to
good neighbourhood design in general, are in the centre column. The right column is how the issue applies in the context of subtropical design, in some
cases as an elaboration or interpretation of the neighbourhood design principle.
Following the table is an example neighbourhood that demonstrates many of the principles. The plan is annotated in two ways. The first set of annota-
tions demonstrates neighbourhood principles while the second diagram shows how subtropical principles are applied to the same design. The combina-
tion of principles with their application is a useful communication strategy.
There is also included a summary document of the entire research that can be printed as an A5 stand alone document.
6. Principles
Centre, scale and location, land use mix and
use transitions
Street network within neighbourhood

Qualities of streets, relationship of buildings
to streets and to the landscape setting of
the neighbourhood
Residential subdivisions are designed to form neighbourhoods or parts of neighbourhoods, scaled
upon a walkable catchment of 400 metres (five minutes)
The neighbourhood design focuses on a neighbourhood centre as a vibrant and memorable com-
munity heart, through the mix of uses retail, commercial, community facilities, parks and home based
business with surrounding housing within easy walking distance. A vibrant neighbourhood centre en-
courages (and justifies) the incorporation of a greater variety of housing types and densities integrated
close to the centre, for enhanced housing choice and a broader social mix.
Transitions of land uses are compatible. Different land uses and housing forms from higher to lower
densities are achieved through the street patterns and along rear boundaries. Same uses generally
face each other across streets.
The centre is located in an accessible location on higher order streets through neighbourhoods.
The street layout has a legible pattern that provides choices of direct routes to the centre and public
transport routes. The street network provides a safe environment for all street users and minimises
impacts of through traffic. Streets are interconnected in a modified grid. Streets define blocks are
generally between 1-1.5 Ha, 70-120m deep and 150-220m long to encourage walkability.
A diversity of lot types are incorporated to allow for variety of dwelling types.
Buildings face all streets including higher order through streets (collectors and sub arterials) with
entrances accessible and visible from street.
Buildings front onto higher order streets. Vehicular access is from rear or side.

Neighbourhood centres are located in places with a distinctive relationship to the topography and/or
natural features of the site. These include ridgelines, valleys, stands of vegetation in order to enhance
the contrasts between natural and developed areas. Where not located in centres, community facili-
ties are located near distinctive parts of the landscape and open space network. Highest density built
forms contrast strongly with the natural qualities of the neighbourhood.

Neighbourhood design has a distinctive relationship to the topography of the site, eg... with ridgelines,
valleys, hilltops, strengthening local character and identity.
Alternate pedestrian and cycle routes away from the major through vehicle and public transport
routes form subtropical journeys through the neighbourhood. These routes form linkages between
parks, riparian corridors, centres, education and community facilities such as schools and are de-
signed and located to allow casual surveillance of them.
Streets, not back fences, define edges to green corridors and open spaces.
Streets are orientated to create lots that enable climatically responsive design of subsequent dwell-
ings and other neighbourhood building types. Streets face within 20º west and 30º east of north and
Front facades are articulated to incorporate substantial vegetation in some locations between the
buildings and street. Buildings and front garden design form a rich transition of outdoor to indoor
space with layered facades and sheltered outdoor spaces between street to building entry. Building
footprints allow substantial vegetation in rear gardens.
Street trees shade footpaths and road surfaces. Street design incorporates substantial avenue plant-
ing to assist in the creation of a memorable street and to provide shade of the road surface to lower
ambient air temperature.
Streets and open spaces are designed to allow stormwater infiltration and manage large peak water
Road and large areas of hard surfaces use low glare materials. Mid-tone colours that are bright rather
than subdued are used.
On steeper land, lots are wide enough to minimise the use of retaining walls above ground. Retaining
walls are no greater than 1.2 metres in height and not constructed on property boundaries.
Higher density housing forms are developed with rear vehicle access to achieve high quality
streetscapes. Higher density housing is configured as collection of buildings with gaps for ventilation
and light and to enhance the landscape setting of buildings. Higher density housing with limited site
cover allows for the planting of substantial vegetation in ‘backyards’ to improve privacy where adjacent
lower density housing.
Neighbourhood Design
Subtropical Design
6.1 Comparative Table
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 43

A network of well distributed parks and open spaces of a variety of types and sizes, are provided
within close proximity to residential areas.
Parks are designed as positive shapes and are located to be additional focal points of the neighbour-
hood, surrounded by streets with houses enfronting, and not as leftover spaces behind predominantly
rear fences of dwellings.
Street edges form frontage to riparian corridors.
Visually significant ridgeline vegetation is maintained to enhance the setting of neighbourhood.
Lots are sized to allow retention of significant vegetation and other site features.
Existing vegetation is maintained and integrated into the development.
The network of parks form a key component of the subtropical journey of the neighbourhood.
Parks are located on distinctive parts of the landscape along riparian corridors, hilltops where there are
existing trees, welcoming, safe places that provide adequate shade from vegetation and other shade
structures, gazebos, pergolas etc. Existing vegetation is retained.
Neighbourhood collector streets are located along distinctive landscape elements such as ridge lines,
hill tops, stands of significant vegetation, valleys and riparian corridors to reveal the landscape qualities
of the locality and demonstrate the relationship between the developed and natural areas.
Site planning allows natural areas of sites for substantial tree planting and to absorb stormwater. Spac-
ing between buildings allows the planting of trees and cross ventilation.
Riparian and drainage corridors are incorporated as a focus for the design reinforcing the natural land-
scape setting of the site within the design of the neighbourhoods.
Subtropical journeys form through the neighbourhood with the incorporation of existing trees, location
of parks, riparian and green corridors.
Biodiversity is maintained through selection of non-native and native plant species. There are no large
plantings of monocultures. A range of low maintenance and hardy plants are selected.
Streets run down towards riparian corridors ‘opening’ the neighbourhood to green areas and creating
long views down streets to the treed backdrop. Landform topography is respected with cutting and fill-
ing minimised.
Water is incorporated where appropriate to mediate temperatures and humidity.
Materials for building surfaces reduce glare and reflection. Materials and colours are selected based on
high daylight intensity and nighttime lighting. Materials are appropriate to humidity, high temperatures
and the effects of sunlight.
Shelter on the west of buildings minimises impacts of winter westerly winds. Streets, buildings and
open space are oriented to take advantage of pleasant summer winds. Large breaks are provided in
the built form and varied building heights are encouraged in order to minimise the impacts of turbu-
Social interaction is enhanced through seating and other street furniture. Trees and plantings along the
footpath provide psychological safety and protection for street users.
Neighbourhood Design
Subtropical Design
Movement Network
Street design creates a centre in an accessible and
visible location.
Neighbourhood Planning
The neighbourhood design creates a vibrant and
memorable centre through the mix of uses retail, com-
mercial, community facilities, parks and home based
business with surrounding housing.
Topography and Landform
Existing vegetation is maintained and integrated
into the development.
Movement Network
Street design creates an accessible and legible pattern
that provides choices of direct routes to the centre. The
centre is located in an accessible location that has a
distinctive relationship to the topography and or natural
features of the site, eg. ridgelines, valleys, stands of
vegetation etc
Open Space
Parks are designed with positive shapes as a focus
of the neighbourhood, surrounded by streets with
houses enfronting, and not as leftover spaces
behind predominantly rear fences of dwellings
Neighbourhood Planning
The creation of a vibrant neighbourhood centre both
encourages and justifies the incorporation and inte-
gration of a greater variety of housing and densities
close to the centre, thus achieving enhanced housing
choice and a broader social mix. These denser hous-
ing forms have not been common in recent subdivi-
sion design.
6.2 Key Neighbourhood Design Issues
Lot Layout
A diversity of lot types are incorporated to allow for a
variety of dwelling types.
Movement Network & Lot Layout
Neighbourhood collector street with bus route. The
neighbourhood street and lot design addresses the
issues of frontage to higher order streets. Frontage
should be achieved with vehicular access from the rear
or side of lots or from short service streets that connect
into the internal street network. This respects the street
hierarchy of current traffic engineering practice
Topography and Landform
Street edges form frontages to riparian corridors.
Open Space
Parks are designed as positive shapes and are located
to be additional focal points of the neighbourhood, sur-
rounded by streets and housing.
Topography and Landform
Lots are sized to allow retention of significant vegeta-
tion and other site features.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 45
Streetscape and Lot Layout
Street design incorporate substantial avenue planting
to assist in the creation of a memorable street and to
provide shade of the road surface to lower ambient
air temperature.
Topography and Landform
Subtropical journeys are formed with the incorpora-
tion of existing trees, location parks, riparian and
green corridors.
Topography and Landform
Riparian and drainage corridors are utilised as a focus for
the design thus reinforcing the natural landscape setting of
the site within the design of the neighbourhood
Open Space
Parks are designed as welcoming, safe places that
provide adequate shade from vegetation and other
shade structures, gazebos, pergolas etc. Existing
vegetation is retained
6.3 Key Subtropical Design Issues
Movement Network
Streets are oriented to allow sites for dwellings to
face within 20º west of north and 30º east of north
creating better opportunities for climatically respon-
sive design of subsequent dwellings.
Topography and Landform
On steeper land, sites are wide enough to allow
retaining walls above ground to be no greater than
1.2 metres in height and not constructed on property
Neighbourhood Planning
The neighbourhood centre is located with a distinctive
relationship to the topography of the site, eg.. ridge-
line, valleys, riparian corridors, etc. Highest dense
built form contrasts strongly with natural qualities of
the neighbourhood.
Movement Network
Streets are oriented to create lots that enable climati-
cally responsive design of buildings. Streets face
within 20
west and 30
east of north.
Open Space
Parks are located in distinctive parts of the land-
scape along riparian corridors and hilltops, where
there are existing trees. Parks are designed to be
welcoming, safe places that provide adequate shade.
Movement Network
Alternate pedestrian and cycle routes away from the
major through vehicle and public transport routes
form subtropical journeys through the neighbour-
hood. These routes form linkages between parks,
riparian corridors, centres, education and community
Streetscape and Lot Layout
Higher density housing is configured as a collection
of buildings with gaps for ventilation and light to en-
hance the landscape setting of buildings. Limited site
cover allows for the planting of substantial vegetation
in ‘backyards.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood : Introduction
This document describes eight principles that can create an appropriate neighbourhood design for a subtropical location. Each could be consid-
ered an example of good design that could be applied anywhere but these principles have particular relevance in a subtropical place. They are:
The Subtropical Neighbourhood is a Neighbourhood
the forming of residential subdivisions as neighbourhoods
Subtropical Neighbourhoods aggregate to form a Subtropical Town and City
the role of neighbourhoods in the overall structure of the city
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has a distinctive relationship to its site and landscape
the role of the landscape form and its relationship to neighbourhood design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood is characterised by its parks and open spaces
the importance of vegetated open spaces
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has Subtropical Streetscapes
the qualities of streets for comfort, safety and richness of experience
The Subtropical Neighbourhood creates sites for Subtropical Buildings
the importance of orientation for subsequent design of buildings
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has a Subtropical Landscape and allows one to grow
the importance of the landscaped setting
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has walkable journeys that are legible, memorable and comfortable.
the development of subtropical journeys as a basis for walkability
Each is now described in turn. The right hand page describes the principles in words and the left hand page shows examples of the principles.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 47
Idealised neighbourhood
Parks are incorporated
in accessible and visible
Interconnected street
network provides direct
routes and choices of routes
to Centre.
Neighbourhood Centre with a
mix of uses creating a vibrant
community heart
Higher density and variety of
housing closer to neighbourhood
centre and along busier streets
and open spaces
Areas of neighbourhood
within a five minute walkable
Green spaces and wildlife
corridors are integrated
Through-streets with public
transport routes linking to
adjacent neighbourhoods
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood is a Neighbourhood
In order to achieve more sustainable urban outcomes, all residential developments are formed as part of neighbourhoods or created
a new neighbourhoods. Neighbourhoods are scaled upon a walkable catchment, generally a five minute walk – 400 metres.
The neighbourhood is characterised by a neighbourhood centre as an identifiable, vibrant and memorable community heart. The
centre contains a mix of uses, with retail, commercial, employment, community facilities and parks surrounded by housing within
easy walking distance. A vibrant neighbourhood centre encourages (and justifies) the incorporation of a greater variety of housing
types and densities close to the centre, for enhanced housing choice and a broader social mix.
Centres are located in accessible locations on higher order streets. Transitions of land uses are compatible, with different land uses
and housing forms from higher to lower densities achieved through the street patterns and along rear boundaries. Streets generally
have like uses facing each other across the street.
The primary through street network are the public transport routes. The street network provides a safe environment for all street us-
ers and minimises impacts of through traffic.
The street layout has a legible pattern that provides choices of direct routes to neighbourhood centres, other community focal points
and public transport routes. Streets are interconnected in a modified grid and define blocks of a walkable scale, generally between
1-1.5 ha in area, about 60-80m deep and 150-220m long.
Six Summary Principles
Clustering of neighbourhoods
defined by regional and
local landsape features (Mt
Community Small Medium Large
Neighbourhoods with varying Scales of Centres with associated land-uses and densities.
Inner western area of
Brisbane shown as a cluster
of neighbourhoods based on
a five minute walk
Structure of robust urban neighbourhoods within Brisbane’s west
Clustering of
neighbourhoods are
defined by regional
landsape features
(Brisbane River)
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
Subtropical Neighbourhoods aggregate to form a Subtropical Town and City
A series of interlinked neighbourhoods within the setting of regional and local landscape elements of river systems, waterways,
coastlines, hills, ridges, vegetation and other unique features aggregate to form a town and city.
Within the town or city, neighbourhoods have different types and scales:
Community neighbourhoods are less dense and focus upon a park and community use, such as a child-care centre with
little housing variety.
Small neighbourhoods focus on a corner store in addition to the park and community uses and contain some medium
Medium scaled neighbourhoods contain a centre large enough to form a small main street. A broader range of medium
density and community facilities are incorporated.
Larger neighbourhoods integrate a supermarket into the centre with associated community, employment and a mix of
uses, with a large amount of density and variety of housing.
Good neighbourhood design is robust and allows incremental growth over time from one type to the other. Robust urban form has a
close clustering of neighbourhoods of all types.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 49
View over valley Neighbourhood centre on ridgeline Distant views to city from ridgelines Dwellings step with the landscape
Main Street focusing on a ridgeline, Paddington Central, Brisbane
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has a distinctive relationship to its Site and Landscape
Subtropical neighbourhood design has a distinctive relationship to the topography of the site, eg. ridgelines, watercourses, creeks,
rivers, valleys, hilltops or stands of significant vegetation. This relationship strengthens local character and identity.
Centres, community facilities and parks are positioned in memorable natural locations such as ridgelines and hill tops, adjacent
riparian corridors and stands of significant vegetation. High land allows views over the landscape to other parts of the broader
settlement. Riparian corridors are the places where water flows and collects.
Centres adjacent to significant green areas create strong contrasts between urban development and natural areas and assist in
creating urban amenity within a landscape setting. Where not located in centres, community facilities are located within the open
space network linking community life to the natural landscape.
Green areas have public frontages with streets forming the edge with development overlooking. The neighbourhood opens to its
setting and landscape and does not privatise it within private property or made inaccessible hidden behind rear fences.
The primary movement network of neighbourhood collector streets are located along landscape elements such as ridge lines, hill
tops, stands of significant vegetation, valleys and riparian corridors to reveal the landscape qualities of the locality and demonstrate
the relationship between the developed and natural areas. Streets run down towards riparian corridors ‘opening’ the neighbour-
hood to green areas and creating long views down streets to the treed backdrop. Street edges form frontage to riparian corridors.
Landform topography is respected with cutting and filling minimised.
Park as community focal point Shade structures
Parks act as focal places within
the neighbourhood in visible and
accessible locations
Active public open spaces with mature shade
Streets provide vistas into parks
Streets edges to open spaces
Green corridors
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood is characterised by its Parks and Open Spaces
Parks are well located in close proximity to residential areas on significant parts of the landscape along riparian corridors or hilltops
or where there is existing vegetation worthy of maintaining. Parks act as welcoming, safe places that provide adequate shade
through vegetation and other shade structures such as gazebos and pergolas.
Existing vegetation is retained and parks are located to do so. Parks are designed as positive shapes and are located to be addi-
tional focal points of the neighbourhood, surrounded by streets with houses enfronting, and not as leftover spaces behind predomi-
nantly rear fences of dwellings.
The network of parks form key elements of the subtropical journeys through the neighbourhood.
The street network reinforces the location of parks and green spaces with street vistas towards parks and streets along green cor-
ridors edges.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 51

Views from street between individual
houses to vegetated backyards
Trees within street reserves
Rich layering of entrance transition and occupied verandah areas of houses
Generous street trees and footpaths Dwellings front onto streets
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has Subtropical Streetscapes
Street design incorporates substantial avenue planting to assist in the creation of a memorable street and to provide shade of the
footpath and bitumen to lower ambient air temperature. Trees and plantings along the footpath provide psychological safety and
protection for street users. Social interaction is enhanced through the provision of seating and other street furniture at community
focal points.
Buildings face and overlook all types of streets including higher order through streets (collectors and sub-arterials) with entrances to
buildings accessible and visible from the street. Setbacks between buildings and street are varied. Front facades of large buildings
are stepped and articulated to allow the planting of substantial vegetation.
Buildings and front garden design form a rich transition of outdoor to indoor space with layered facades and sheltered outdoor
verandah and garden spaces between street and building entry. Building footprints are discontinued so glimpses between dwellings
to a vegetated rear garden backdrop is achieved.
Car access and garages do not dominate the streetscape. Higher density housing forms are developed with rear vehicle access to
achieve high quality streetscapes. Higher density housing is broken down in mass and scale and configured as collections of build-
ings with gaps for ventilation and light to enhance the landscape setting of buildings.
On steeper land, lots are wide enough to minimise the use of retaining walls above ground. Visual impacts of retaining walls are
minimised with construction of short stops separated by planting.
20º north of east
30º south of east
20º west of north 30º east of north
20º south of west
30º north of west
20º east of south 30º west of south
Neighbourhoods with appropriate street orientations with streets generally running north-south or east-west
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood creates sites for Subtropical Buildings
The appropriate orientation of streets and lots creates lots and sites for better energy efficiency and good subtropical design for
housing of the various types and densities in the neighbourhood. To achieve this, streets are generally run north-south or east-west
with variations between 20º west of north and north of east and 30º east of north and south of east.
North/south streets allow the long sides of lots and dwellings to face north. Long verandahs can face north and narrow built forms
are possible which are good for cross ventilation.
East/west streets allow for north facing rear or front gardens. Building forms can be more compact and shading of western facades
needs design consideration.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 53
Paddington, 1902 - Land cleared for subdivision
Small building footprints allows a
vegetated backyards
Median strips are planted Areas of existing vegetation are preserved and integrated
into parklands
Street setbacks allow significant
and diverse vegetation
Paddington, present - vegetated streets and
back yards
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has a Subtropical Landscape and allows one to grow
The subtropical neighbourhood has a landscaped setting and allows the landscape to grow and mature over time. This landscape is
found on public and private lands and spaces.
Streets and Public spaces form the essential elements of the subtropical landscape. Appropriate vegetation is incorporated in public
space, road reserves, parks and open spaces.
On private lands, site coverage of building footprints is limited to allow deep planting at the rear, front and to some extent, sides of
buildings. Higher density housing has limited site cover of extended basements or podium parking structures to allow deep planting
zones for substantial vegetation.
The subtropical landscape includes a mixture of native and non-native vegetation species to ensure that biodiversity is maintained,
as subtropical plants grow in more biodiverse environments. Monocultures encourage disease and pest outbreaks.
Streets are shaded Shade structures provide comfort for
Trees are preserved in
street reserves
Legible, comfortable journeys through the neighbourhood to
community focal points
Neighbourhood centre
Linear green corridors
Stormwater treatment integrated
into parks
Architecture Urban Design Community Design
The Subtropical Neighbourhood has walkable journeys that are legible, memorable
and comfortable
Subtropical neighbourhoods provide safe and comfortable walking and cycling routes. These pedestrian and cycle routes are
located away from the major through vehicle routes and form alternate routes for subtropical journeys through the neighbourhood.
These journeys follow neighbourhood connector streets that incorporate significant shade trees and median planting. These routes
provide ready access and form linkages between centres, parks, riparian corridors and community facilities such as schools. In do-
ing, so the experience of the life of the community and the setting of the neighbourhood is experienced.
Subtropical journeys connect into the broader regional walkways and cycleways along riparian corridors.
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 55
Appendix A
Architecture Urban Design Community Design 57
Architectural Design no51, 10/11, 1981
Bentley et al, 1985, Responsive Environments, The Architectural Press, London
Brisbane City Council Draft Subdivision Code, 09.06.04, BCC
Calthorpe, 1993, The Next American Metropolis, Princeton Architectural Press, New York
Charter for the New Urbanism
Draft Principles for Rochedale Urban Community, 2003, Master Plan Brief, BCC
Duany et al, 2003, The New Civic Art, Rizzoli International Publications, New York
Gold Coast Planning Scheme , 2003, Gold Coast City Council
Ipswich City Planning Scheme, 2004, Ipswich City Council
Kelbaugh (Ed.), 1989, The Pedestrian Pocket Book, Princeton Architectural Press, New York
Liveable Neighbourhoods, Edition 2, 2000, Western Australian Planning Commission, Perth
Maroochy Planning Scheme, 2000, Maroochy Shire Council
Mixed Use Developments - An Information Paper, 1996, Queensland Government Department of Tourism, Small Business and Industry (DTSBI)
Queensland Residential Design Guidelines, Queensland Department of Local Government and Planning
Queensland Streets, 1993, Institute of Municipal Engineering Australia - Queensland Division
Shaping Up, Queensland Transport
Stretton, H., 1970, Ideas for Australian Cities, Georgian House, Melbourne
Subtropical Brisbane Through The Lens, 2004, Centre for Subtropical Design
Subtropical Design Guidelines for Council Projects, 2003, Brisbane City Council
The Regional Framework for Growth Management
Victorian Code for Residential Development (VicCode), 1992, Victorian Department of Planning and Housing