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.
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.
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.
Community Small Medium Large
Neighbourhoods with varying Scales of Centres with associated land-uses and densities.
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.

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.
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.