Retaining the ‘edge’ – Braddon case study
An integrated approach to revitalising Braddon by Elissa McMillan.
Braddon is the cultural hub of Canberra – a vibrant and eclectic neighbourhood loved for its great food venues, gritty character and creative edge. It’s the place to go for a delicious meal with friends, do a spot of shopping from local designers, or spend an afternoon with the family in Haig Park. It’s also undergoing a lot of change.
Over the next few years Braddon will become home to a much larger population. There are currently four luxury mixed use developments under construction within the business precinct alone, only a quarter of residents have lived there for more than five years, and being on the border of the CBD, there are thousands of visitors every day.
The great Braddon challenge is one being experienced by many other places across the globe:
How do you retain the character of a well-loved neighbourhood undergoing significant development and change?
CoDesign Studio were engaged by the City Renewal Authority, an arm of the ACT Government, as part of a consultant team with Right Angle Studio and Oculus. Our role was to immerse ourselves in the environment, uncover what it is that people love about Braddon, make recommendations for retaining its character whilst improving public spaces and people’s experience of the neighbourhood, within a strategic Placemaking Plan for the next three years.
A project of this type, influencing change on a neighbourhood scale, needs many people’s ideas and commitment to make it a success. Our first step was to engage with the many traders that make Braddon a great place to visit – the people that are there every day watching over the street, with a vested interest to keep bringing people to the neighbourhood. We walked door to door and gathered ideas for Braddon’s future and how traders wanted to be involved in making it happen.
We followed this up by hosting the ‘Hello Braddon!’ event and inviting residents and visitors to come to a winter afternoon of free food, music and live art. The grazing table, featuring produce donated by local traders, as a thing of beauty, as evidenced by the photo below.
At the same time we asked for people’s big ideas for the future of Braddon and collated these into recommendations that informed the Placemaking Plan. A dog park, summer waterslides, street art, live music venues, edible street gardens, seasonal events, coworking spaces, activating vacant land, food trucks, galleries and pop-up play spaces… so many great ideas emerged for ensuring Braddon remains a place that people love to live, work and visit.
Working iteratively and collaboratively, our Placemaking Plan built upon Right Angles founding Place Proposition. Our Plan then informed Oculus’ streetscape design work with integrated plans developed for each streetscape in the business precinct.
“The Braddon Place Plan delivered a clear line of sight from traders and community ideas through to design outcomes for the neighbourhood.”
By drawing on the cross-disciplinary skillset of our team and the creative minds of the community, we developed multi-faceted recommendations that will benefit the neighbourhood socially, economically and environmentally.
It was important that our placemaking strategy for Braddon integrated with surrounding suburbs and did not sit in isolation. In an act of genius, City Renewal Authority commissioned concurrent placemaking projects in Haig Park, Civic Centre and Dickson. This provided a unique opportunity for multiple consultant teams to share ideas, integrate and align recommendations across the entire renewal area. A rare opportunity indeed, and not one we have ever experienced before. Hats off to Andy Sharp, Lea Durie and co from CRA for this initiative!
Reflecting back on this project, one word really stands out as important: integration. Working closely with traders and residents, weaving their ideas into design concepts, collaborating closely as a consultant team, and integrating our work with projects across other renewal areas, has led to more holistic outcomes.
To breathe further life in to this project the next steps in the implementation of the Place Plan must be for CRA to further grow relationships with Braddon traders and residents so that locals will continue to see their fingerprints all over the outcomes. We look forward to seeing how Braddon continues to evolve over the coming years, whilst retaining its edge as Canberra’s coolest neighbourhood.
Artist credit: Poyo Studio