Collage Lab Competition Entry

Eco-nomics – Resetting Melbourne’s Metabolism

Eco-nomics is a group entry for the Collage Lab’s Live competition. Our entry is a landscape architecture perspective in an other architecture dominated competition. Even though we didn’t win, it was a great experience in which I learnt a lot about Melbourne’s urban fabric and enjoyed exploring possible ways to create a more resilient and equitable future.

Team members include: Dr Jillian Wallis, Alastair Jaffray, Katherine Kok, Xi Chen and myself Jonathon Chan.

Here’s the entry:

Resetting the City’s Metabolism

1. Eco-nomics

Capitalism cannot meet the needs of the contemporary city. Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne clearly demonstrates this failure.  Shaped by land speculative practices, the city has developed into an inequitable sprawling metropolis which has erased its valuable ecological systems and created social isolation on its extensive suburban fringes. A post capitalist city will shift focus from rampant individualism, excessive consumption and unregulated growth to instead address the systemic ecological and cultural imbalances of the city. We propose to reset the metabolism of Melbourne, shifting from a model fueled by capitalist growth to one shaped by new metabolic relationships between social, economic and ecological systems. This new strategic framework foregrounds exchange rather than ownership as its driving force. Four moves are proposed.

A New Icon

2. A New Icon

A New Icon:  To develop the current premier inner city investment site into a twenty-first century park. In a major symbolic move, this new park will re-orientate the city centre from its historic speculative grid towards the extensive wetland systems which were rapidly destroyed during the twentieth century. This site is currently being offered for development to Chinese investors, with government hoping such investment will continue to stimulate economic growth.  Echoing the ambition of Olmsted’s Central Park, the construction of this proposed park will symbolize the new values of the city premised on a productive and respectful relationship between ecology and inhabitation. Architectural icons designed by star architects will no longer be the symbol of a successful city. Instead a new commitment to nature will become the symbol of a post capitalist order.

Regulate & Connect

3. Regulate And Connect

Regulate: To establish a definitive growth boundary to the edge of the city. This edge will bring a definitive halt to land speculation and the unrelenting spread of low density housing into productive agricultural and bush lands. In 2011 more than 1,000 people per week took residence in Melbourne’s suburban fringe, fuelling its expansion into one of the lowest density cities in the world. Establishing a boundary forms a vital step in increasing urban density, addressing issues of inequitable living standards and limiting the ecological footprint of the city.

Connect: To introduce a new system of exchange which intertwines movement with ecological corridors.  This network will re-establish the ecologically valuable water ways and wetlands of Melbourne, while introducing a rapid public transport system that services the entire city. Existing public transport infrastructure favors the wealthier suburbs. For Melbourne’s expanding suburbs, private transport is the only means to travel. We propose a new poly-nodal transport system that will operate as a catalyst for new patterns of urbanism which facilitate more equitable access to jobs and services. Ecological corridors will parallel this system, allowing for the reinstatement of biodiversity as well as providing open space and amenity.


4. Re-Organise



Re-organise: To transform housing from the individualism of the detached house to collective ownership. Housing affordability in Melbourne is amongst the lowest in the world, with the median priced house an average 6.7 times the median household income, second only to Hong Kong. Housing has reached crisis point.  We propose new government led strategies for transitioning mortgage stressed home owners into a rental system where properties operate under community ownership. This will feature an incremental program of infill housing which shifts emphasis from the individual plot of land to higher density living supported by extensive community infrastructure such as parks, social services and leisure activities. Over time this will become the dominant housing model.


A New Metabolism

A New Metabolism

These strategies combine to produce a new urbanism premised on a productive exchange between nature, the citizen and the city. Released from values of capitalism, a post-capitalist Melbourne is characterised by an emphasis on diversity, efficiency, equity and resilience. The city will evolve from a low density city of just over 4 million into the world’s most livable city with a thriving population of 10 million.  But most significantly, this growth will not come at the expense of the underlying ecological systems. Instead they will become a driving force in this revised order, central to establishing a new metabolism for the city.