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Rethinking The Strip Features In World Landscape Architecture_____

Rethinking The Strip Features In World Landscape Architecture

Australia’s high-street are changing as our cites urbanise and evolve. The way we shop is changing, as is the way that Australians relate to their urban spaces. The ‘Rethinking the Strip’ Forum focused on the challenges facing traditional strip shopping precincts.

One of Melbourne’s historic high-street ‘strips’, Bridge Road is experiencing rapid urban change. After many years as a hub for cheap retail, vacancy rates are rising and its clear that things can’t stay the same forever.

In October 2014, Tract’s entire national staff of 110 people across landscape architecture, town planning, urban design, media and administration, gathered in Melbourne to explore the challenges facing traditional strip shopping precincts; the laboratory was Bridge Road, Richmond. As part of the Richmond community where Tract’s Melbourne office has been for three decades, staff had witnessed the decline of Bridge Road, evident in the climbing vacancy rate (40% in 2014).

‘Rethinking the Strip’ sought to explore reasons behind the decline of the ‘high street’, and devise strategies to reverse the trend, using Bridge Road Richmond, as a case study. Tract partnered with the University of Melbourne’s School of Design – who ran a semester studio on topic – and together conducted an iterative dialogue throughout.

A plethora of communication techniques were adopted to engage a wide audience & disseminate information about diagnosing the problem and ideas for future action – including physical models, films, sketches, charrettes, open mic debates, panel forums, print, radio, and social media.
Over the course of three days, collaborators and guests from academia, industry, government and the local community joined Tract staff to consider relevant issues and generate ideas; a wider audience was engaged through use of social media and bespoke video distribution.

In the month leading up to the Forum, Tract established a pop-up studio (the ‘Tract WorkShop’) in a vacant shop on Bridge Road as a means of creating a more engaging experience for staff, students for the University of Melbourne and forum participants. Forum activities were informed through a collaborative venture with the Melbourne School of Design, who utilised the Tract WorkShop to run ‘The Vacancy Market’ urban design studio.

The larger sessions had a healthy forum atmosphere, featuring members of public, the Bridge Road trader’s association, representatives from the City of Yarra, University of Melbourne and the contributions of Tract’s national team who picked up on similarities between Bridge Road and dwindling strips in the northern states.

Key Forum outcomes included the idea of transition from destination retail to local centre;, the idea that each main street corridor is a town, a community and should be planned as such; and the idea that there is a need to explore disruptive happenings, and to push the regulatory barriers.

Tract is now working with the Bridge Road Traders Association and others to advance the Forum outcomes.

Visit the Rethinking The Strip website to view all the outcomes from the forum, including videos, posters, booklets and image gallery.
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