A Toolkit for Co-Designing Streetscapes for A Cool Pedestrian Network in Melbourne, Australia

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Global temperatures are rising, and climate change is leading to an increase in extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms and fires (WMO, 2022). The increase in unusually hot days and heatwaves is also noticeable in Melbourne, Australia. By 2050, Melbourne is projected to have an annual average of 16 hot days above 35°C (DELWP, 2019). Extreme heat and heat waves have significant impacts on people's health, the economy, the environment and the city’s infrastructure assets.

To address this issue, this graduation project focused on the development of a toolkit that engages different stakeholders in the design of heat-adapted streetscapes for a cool pedestrian network in Melbourne. Research into the shortcomings of existing often text-heavy cooling toolkits motivated the aim of making the new toolkit tangible and interactive. Literature research identified suitable cooling interventions for Melbourne's climate, while insights from placemaking research inspired the inclusion of placemaking, wayfinding, and walkability aspects into the toolkit to address the overall pedestrian experience beyond just cooling. Based on the research findings, the toolkit was developed and refined through interactive feedback sessions with the council. The final design was tested through co-design workshops in which the city council and citizens trialled the toolkit by developing a streetscape concept for Drewery Lane in Melbourne.

The developed toolkit suggests a new approach to developing heat-adapted public spaces. While existing cooling toolkits are mainly text-heavy documents targeted at governments, planners and policymakers, this new toolkit aims to engage both experts (such as the council and design practitioners) and non-experts (such as citizens) to collaboratively develop concepts for cool streetscapes in Melbourne. Through its gamified approach, the toolkit provides an interactive and engaging manner of exchanging knowledge by 1) learning about citizens' current and future desired experiences within the streetscape, 2) engaging the council’s policy and the design practitioners’ planning knowledge and 3) by providing relevant yet easy-to-understand and accessible information about different cooling interventions. The toolkit also addresses the overall pedestrian experience beyond just cooling by prompting the consideration of placemaking, wayfinding and walkability aspects.

The main recommendations for the future are to 1) further test and refine the toolkit through co-design workshops with all stakeholders, 2) investigate how resulting streetscape concepts can be evaluated in terms of their cooling capacity and 3) consider the development of a community-led version of the toolkit.