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Cultures, Communities and Design

Reflecting on the Urban and the Regional: Designing for a post-Urban/post-COVID Future
N. Hay & P. Perolini


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As a rapidly developing nation, Australia is a study of the consequences of ill-conceived urbanisation, with a lack of foresight in the planning of built environments leading to inappropriate siting, exponential urban sprawl, environmental degradation, and socio-spatial fragmentation. Historically Australia has followed and appropriated the influences of British and American planning movements, exposing negative ramifications of applying external design concepts to local conditions. With two-thirds of the population living in capital cities they have become increasingly unaffordable. As opposed to Australia’s sprawling cities, regional and rural areas are generally small in population. However, movements towards decentralisation and regional development are gaining momentum, and are increasingly seen as the way forward to reduce uncontrolled growth in major cities. This shift in thinking has further come to the forefront with a significant move of city dwellers to Australia’s regions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With work practices radically changing, many employees and businesses have adapted exceptionally well to remote work. With new modes of work/life balance developing, there has been increased demand for ‘sea-change’ and ‘tree-change’ properties in many of Australia’s well-serviced regional areas, leading to increased housing and rental prices, along with housing shortages. A reconceptualization of what built environments are presently, and what they can be in the future is needed. If regional development is increasingly seen as the way forward to reduce expanding populations in major cities, it is imperative that regional areas do not fall victim to the same short-sighted planning mistakes. This paper discusses design responses needed to meet the challenges and opportunities faced by shifting socio-spatial patterns, tailoring approaches to specific regional circumstances.


Naomi Hay is a multi-disciplinary designer and lecturer in the School of Art and Design, ANU, teaching design theory and practice-based studio courses. Naomi’s research focuses on the role of design in strengthening communities of resilience for sustainable futures, where design is examined in the capacity of a change agent in the arena of community resilience, disaster risk, and adaptive capacity in a changing climate. She has a strong commitment to the development of socially and environmentally responsible design practice working on collaborative projects with community, industry partners, regional councils, and not for profit groups. Specifically, she has extensive experience across stakeholder relations, co-design processes, and best practice processes on multi-actor teams.

Petra Perolini is a Program Director, senior lecturer and studio course convenor in the School of Design at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. As a design educator, she focuses on design and new practice, encompassing interdisciplinary design to push design thinking beyond current practice. In her research, she has worked on a number of projects, which support social inclusion and community housing. Her projects respond to present and future needs in progressive ways addressing current and pressing social and environmental issues that affect city living globally today. Petra is committed to addressing social and environmental justice within the profession and academy. Petra began teaching at Griffith in 2007.