Watch a full version of my interview with Clive Alcock in 2010 when he was a Director of Annand Alcock Urban Design. He know works for developer CIC Australia. You can download a copy of the transcript.
Todi in Italy one of his favourite urban places
It's a confined urban place, a highly urban feeling. We sat there for the whole morning into early afternoon. We saw the morning cafe, the chairs come out for lunch, we saw the path of the sun across the square, the life unfolding in what's a very simple urban place with a lot of density, life, and activity around it. But the view out to the hills, the glimpse of nature being incorporated, and that was a very normal but very thrilling place to be in.
The key elements we should experience in our urban places
The key qualities that were there which I've tried to adhere to in the work that we do are to try to get as much life as possible, to focus on the place, making it as active and interesting as possible. Now you can't do that in the quieter backwaters of the residential areas but in focal point places to make them truly public, to make them truly democratic, so that people can move around in them easily where someone doesn't come up and tell you to stop taking photographs of them.
Image: It's a grand scale wharf of the 19th century which has undergone many changes. It was a part of the wool industry, one of the original reasons for being for the Australian colony as it developed, then it became a troop, drop off, pickup point for warships. It was a point of immigration so that's where a lot of Australian migrants, the Ten Pound Poms, etc arrived into Sydney. It's now being converted into a residential hotel complex with some great restaurants where you can look out on the harbour across, to the Botanical Gardens, the domain and Mrs Macquarie's Chair so you get the integration of nature with this highly urban object. It's surrounded by Woolloomooloo which is a great, old, traditional Sydney suburb set against the flanks of Kings Cross, sort of in a natural bowl, so it expresses that drama that you get in Sydney. So the place is a microcosm of the specialness of the city.
His planning and urban design qualifications
My education in planning was a good, broad education but I feel that I would have been fairly unfocused without following that up with an MA in urban design and I find the education in planning to be good but of kind of all things to all people type of education, whereas the urban design education was very specific, not necessarily trying to push the future too much and an idealized view of the world as many architecture courses do.
Advice for town planners
I do find that planners are often the administrators of the process rather than the initiators of change which I think is the key role. That's quite understandable when you look at the political context that you work in. Just the administrative context of working within a regulated system doesn't necessarily help planners to be able to move beyond that and actually articulate and help to implement visions for really great development.
No, I think the term "placemaking" is the objective; urban design is the professional means to that. But if we're not aiming to make places then we're not urban designers. I think a lot of architects particularly suffer from constrained thinking and see urban design as only a large scale master planning exercise, when in fact most jobs that they will undertake should be starting off with urban context and appropriateness as a driving force rather than as an afterthought in a report.
On New Urbanism
It was a term used as a rallying flag by the people in the US who used it from the late eighties, early nineties onwards and I think it has its purpose in trying to distinguish a movement of people who are very similar to people who talk about smart growth or various forms of appropriate development. At the end of the day, good urbanism is good urbanism whether it's new or old so I think there were certainly some negatives associated with the use of the term. Architects think it's all about little wooden boxes with chintzy windows and fail to see the wider agenda that New Urbanism is trying to address to do with sustainable development and renewal of cities as well as the creation of suburbs. But I think it has been useful as a point of reference for people of a light mind.