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Perspectives on the Planning Institute of Australia National Congress

This year I had the pleasure of attending the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA)’s National Congress in Perth. Perth really put on a great show; highlighting that they are producing some really innovative thinking and groups of professionals in Western Australia. In particular, the key ‘themes’ for me were on public engagement, preparing for an ‘automated’ world and what planners can do, and on human-centred design.

Engagement & YP Connect Session
Young Planners worked with ‘new school’ (Dr. Claire Boulange, Dr. Paula Hooper) and ‘old school’ (Anthony Duckworth-Smith) tools in order to design a suburb. This consisted of playful interactions as groups with hand-made ‘board-game’ style city model. Groups then combined these designs with metrics generated from a GIS platform which calculated yield / health benefits and other indicators. This was an engaging, iterative approach – bringing people together, generate understanding and move projects forward in an inclusive manner. The City of Perth’s 3D model and different tools that planners can use in communicating and streamlining the Development Assessment procedures was another innovative piece in this space.

Driverless future & riding an autonomous bus
Perth is one of the first cities globally to be testing Automated Vehicles in real-life traffic environments ; and are Australia’s very first. The RAC especially are emphasising that their main concern is people safely interacting with these vehicles – inside & out. Lessons learned from these trials will allow us to try and design their use while the technology remains largely under development. It was great to actually be within one of these vehicles rather than just experiencing talk about them!

Human-centred design & Copenhagenize Design Co.
Bringing the keynote speakers from Copenhagenize Design Co. was a big highlight. While talking to a group of planners about the benefits of cycling is preaching to the converted ; it was inspirational to see the change that this small group is able to make. In particular, many of the talks in the conference were touching on human-centred design and thinking ; and these guys are really an embodiment of that and the joy, and health it can bring cities.