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Arcadia landscape architect says flexible urban design will ensure Brisbane Olympics achieve “legacy game” status 

Arcadia landscape architect says flexible urban design will ensure Brisbane Olympics achieve “legacy game” status 


Landscape architect and urban designer Ben Newell says the key in ensuring the city’s 2032 Olympics are the world’s first climate-positive games is to utilise urban designers. 

Urban designers and landscape architects are tasked with shaping the public spaces and buildings in our cities. Newell, based at Arcadia’s Brisbane firm, believes professionals in these design fields are instrumental in helping Brisbane make judicious choices concerning the location, look and feel of the Olympic precinct. 

Newell, who has 20 years of experience working on significant city projects around the world, says the drive to create Brisbane’s “legacy games” should be guided by four key pillars – community, convenience, connection and climate. 

He firstly explains how state and local governments should determine what local residents are hoping to gain from the precinct areas long-term, and also how they live, work and play within their suburbs. 

“It is crucial when building a lasting legacy to understand the aspirations and aggravations of how people live,” says Newell. 

Newell also strongly advocated for the perspectives and insights of First Nations representatives to be included in such consultations. 

Creating a flexible urban environment is also paramount, says Newell. Sporting fields should be designed to be converted into market venues or skate parks after the games, alongside ensuring athlete accommodation has the potential to be transformed into mixed-use developments for retail, residential and hospitality.

Additionally, Newell says communities can continue to enjoy the Olympic precinct after the games if the areas are “easily accessible to in-demand amenities and services.” The precinct should be located in close proximity to medical, commercial, hospitality and residential dwellings. 

A vital pillar to prioritise in developing the city’s legacy games is connection – developing efficient and long-term transport links that cater towards Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate.

“​​We need to create shaded corridors that enable people to use transport in comfort,” says Newell. 

The landscape architect also recommends proactively attending to the implications of a humid climate by planting shade trees whose canopies will reach an advanced level of maturity by 2032. 

Pedestrian walkways should also be framed by shaded archways, and a sufficient amount of space for prams and mobility aids. Following the games, these walkways can be repurposed into thoroughfares for people seeking a comfortable way to move around the city. 

Newell is excited for the games to showcase Brisbane’s future-focused attitude towards sustainability. 

“With good design as our guide at a macro and micro level, we can assure a legacy that’s sustainable for both our environment and community,” says Newell. 

He said the precinct construction should avoid reliance on hard surfaces such as concrete and dark paving as it attracts heat. 

“Where hard surfaces can’t be avoided, using temporary installations that can be removed after the games will make way for softer materials that promote natural ventilation,” he says.

Newell also anticipates a tricky debate will develop between the benefits of reuse and demolition. “We should always be searching for sustainable solutions, but sometimes, the resources and energy required to extract materials from an existing structure may be prohibitive.”

Overall, Newell believes state and local governments should already be engaging with urban designers and landscape architects to make the city’s Olympics one to remember. 

Photography supplied by Arcadia.

For more in firm news, see John McAlsan + Partners celebrating five years since Sydney studio opened 


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