\ ‘Untapped ideas’: Popularity of parks during COVID sparks public space revolution – Committee For Sydney

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‘Untapped ideas’: Popularity of parks during COVID sparks public space revolution

July 20, 2020

Date: 20 July 2020

Author: Matt O’Sullivan

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Sydneysiders have continued to flock to parks and other domains since COVID-19 struck sparking a call for people to devise new ways to reimagine public spaces.

The latest figures from a survey by the NSW Planning Department show 46 per cent of people spent more time in public spaces than before coronavirus restrictions.

Of the 929 people surveyed between May 8 and July 6, 72 per cent appreciated their local parks more, while 96 per cent used public spaces for exercise such as running, walking and cycling.

It has led to the NSW government and advocacy group Committee for Sydney launching an ideas competition for public spaces across the greater metropolitan area.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the pandemic had underscored the importance of public space to people’s mental, physical and social wellbeing, and he expected some “really revolutionary ideas” would come from competition entries.

“So much of the pandemic has been focused on what we can’t do,” he said.

“This is about what we can do – about seizing the incredible opportunity we have to rethink our streets, parks and public spaces.”

He favours creating safer, wider and “more interesting pedestrianised landscapes”, which he hopes will lead to fewer people driving to make local trips, instead choosing to walk, cycle or run.

The competition, which is supported by The Sydney Morning Herald, has five categories, including ideas on the best public facility, best open space and best street, and nine gongs such as a people’s choice award.

The judging panel includes NSW government architect Abbie Galvin, University of Technology landscape architecture professor Elizabeth Mossop and Sydney Festival artistic director Wesley Enoch. Applications close on August 28.

Committee for Sydney chief executive Gabriel Metcalf said the city was home to some amazing public spaces but they could be made better by realising untapped ideas. “Ideas could include transforming an existing public space or creating something completely new,” he said.

AECOM managing director of building and places James Rosenwax said experience elsewhere in the world showed communities embraced space that they helped to create.

“Sydney is blessed by some of the most beautiful and iconic public spaces in the world from Bondi Beach to Western Sydney Parklands. However, our city also features a rich tapestry of smaller less well-known spaces that are integral to the quality of life in our diverse communities,” he said.

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