"There's Something about Subi": Defending and Creating Neighbourhood Character in Perth, Australia

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Journal Article
Journal of Urban Design, 2012, 17 (2), pp. 189 - 212
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Planning policy in Australian cities currently favours a more compact urban form, but proposals for higher-density development are frequently resisted by residents who argue that the `character of a place would be damaged or destroyed. This paper explores the factors underlying this resistance and assesses the extent to which character can be designed for. The paper relates a case study of the Perth suburb of Subiaco, where the design of a major redevelopment project was shaped by the form of surrounding areas, but where long-standing residents claim that it is `out of character nonetheless. Reflecting on the case through theories of place, urban design and `affordances, it is suggested that this rejection of the project owes much to the way that urban designers focused on replicating certain physical features of Subiacos character, while neglecting a host of everyday social and experiential meanings that were of equal significance to residents.
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