Place Leaders Workshop – Parramatta 2015

11 Dec 2015

Buildmedia’s creative director, Gareth Ross, attended the Place Leaders Asia Pacific workshop in Parramatta, New South Wales, in November 2015. Here, Gareth talks us through some of the highlights of the event.

It’s always a pleasure to connect with like-minded people and for me, that means meeting those with a passion for creating extraordinary places.

Buildmedia is a member of Place Leaders Asia Pacific, an organisation for people who spearhead the creation of public spaces throughout Asia and the Pacific. I attended the organisation’s annual one-day workshop in Parramatta City, NSW, recently.

The workshop hosted around 40 industry experts, both local and international, who spoke about various international projects. Speaker Claire Albaret of the Belgian Association of Town Centre talked about parks and the challenge of removing negative connotations associated with inner-city green spaces around the world. Kylie Legge, Director of Sydney-based place-making consultancy Place Partners, gave a strong presentation about how to judge the success of public spaces and her company’s new place experience measurement tool, Place Score.

Place-leaders-asia-pacific-logo

Place leaders create new and transform existing public spaces as vibrant and inclusive places
Parramatta-city-river-plan-2007Parramatta City River plan – Credit Parramatta City Council

The workshop hosted around 40 industry experts, both local and international, who spoke about various international projects. Speaker Claire Albaret of the Belgian Association of Town Centre talked about parks and the challenge of removing negative connotations associated with inner-city green spaces around the world. Kylie Legge, Director of Sydney-based place-making consultancy Place Partners, gave a strong presentation about how to judge the success of public spaces and her company’s new place experience measurement tool, Place ScoreTM.

But what interested me the most was a tour of Parramatta City. Parramatta’s an evolving area 35 kilometres inland from Sydney’s CBD on the shores of the Parramatta River. It has a rich history; the area served as a bustling trade centre for the Aboriginal people for thousands of years as it is precisely where the harbour seawater terminates into the freshwater of the Parramatta river. European settlers have since appreciated its location as a logical centre of activity.

Throughout the last few decades, industrialisation and car-orientated town planning has led to a disconnect between the river and the surrounding urban areas.

However this is all about to change as the centre of the city is undergoing massive transformation.

In five years time, it’s expected to become a bustling precinct thanks to the Parramatta City River Plan, which puts the waterway front and centre plus Parramatta Square, which is one of Australasia’s largest redevelopments ever, are: a world-class public park and a series of quality high-rises and new buildings, knitted together by accessible public spaces. Central to the plan is the River Square, which has a direct connection with Parramatta Square, the city’s most substantial existing public space.

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Parramatta Square – Credit Parramatta City Council

It’s also impressive to see how the history and heritage of Parramatta has informed the redevelopment. Because it’s such a culturally significant place, the plan has a huge archaeological aspect to ensure that that significance isn’t lost. Each and every bucket of earth is being sieved for artefacts – relics from early-settling aboriginals right through to Victorian remains.

All around the world cities are creating and enhancing people places for the use of public but how can you easily quantify how the spaces are being used. Traditionally this is an inaccurate process and often requires workers using manual clicker counters to number off population samples around the city to work out averages at a given time. This has in the past been an inefficient process.

How can we easily measure human activity within an urban environment?


“how can we easily measure human activity within an urban environment”
Placemeter-counting-people-security-footagePlacemeter camera detection – Credit Placemeter

Counting People

A new York based company called Placemeter has developed a method of counting moving people utalising a city’s existing security camera feeds. A camera feed can be setup to measure how many people pass through specific areas to indicated numbers of people walking along footpaths, crossing roads and even entering and exiting doorways. Data is then presented within google analytics style graphs to show historical or real time populations within areas of the city.

placemeter-Counting-people-SOPA-heat-mapSydney Olympic park master 3d model

Further to that, overlays of additional information such as temperature, pollution, traffic and public transport from the likes of what Casa Dashboards are developing could be incorporated too. Allowing the viewer an unprecedented holistic view of how the city is being used. Rolling back in time to see historical data, patterns emerge that can in turn be used to predict what occurs in the future.

This method of presenting and interaction would in turn give urban designers, town planners and place-makers an unprecedented view of how the city is currently being used and how various factors influence change.

Its an exciting future ahead for Place making.

Gareth has been working with 3d visualisation since the days of floppy disks. He now spends his time wrangling a specialised team of creatives at Buildmedia.

Testimonial Gareth Ross
Gareth Ross
Creative Director