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Dr Kate Shaw: Melbourne Docklands – where it went wrong and why Australian governments don’t learn.

  • ALT 1 (lecture room) Wilkinson Building 148 City Rd Darlington, NSW, 2008 Australia (map)


Dr Kate Shaw, Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow from the University of Melbourne. Using Docklands as a starting point, she examined the motivations for urban renewal in Australia and drawing lessons from more nuanced practices elsewhere.

Kate Shaw presented a critical view of most waterfront “megaprojects”, characterising such developments in places as far apart as Dubai, Canary Wharf, Melbourne Docklands and Barangaroo as an anodyne version of ‘mixed use’ – a formulaic, office-residential-retail mix with casinos and hotels. This mix in the main is at least high-end if not aiming for a global elite. Kate presented a case for concluding that the economic benefits of projects like these are almost always overstated and that this formula is out of date.

Waterfront developments in Hamburg, Berlin and Copenhagen which are of a much more human scale, with serious cultural facilities, community spaces and affordable housing, and with clear recognition of the value of sites put to lower than ‘highest and best’ use. Kate’s view is that in those places the responsible authorities are just getting on with building in a manner that really does reflect and utilise the particular social, economic, cultural and environmental characters of their cities.

Kate asked: Why do these governments approach the ‘opportunity’ of their deindustrialised waterfronts so differently? Her answer: Because their people make them do so.


Read the full report from the event here

Earlier Event: October 20
What’s the Plan? The Bays Precinct panel
Later Event: October 23
Interested in a career in planning?