Second Australian Town Planning Conference - 1918
Following the success of the first conference, the Second Australian Town Planning Conference was held in Brisbane in 1918.
Although Town Planning appeared to be gathering momentum and was considered a serious issues by many, criticism of the field still existed. Reflections on the first Australian Town Planning conference noted that “The hardest task of the first conference was to convince a doubting public that we were not a mere band of dreamers and enthusiasts aiming at impracticable aesthetic futilities…” (p. 26).
At the advent of the second conference there remained a degree of criticism. As Governor of Queensland, Sir Hamilton John Goold-Adams remarked in his opening speech, he was disappointed with the sentiment that “there has been criticism at the work which you are undertaking. It has been criticised as being the work of faddists, and … (the) Conference is only an opportunity for junketing” (p.24).
Despite these negativities, the 7 day conference proved to demonstrate the devotion to town planning in Australia, with between 500-600 delegates attending, including one delegate from New Zealand.
The general consensus at the conference was that much harm had already been inflicted upon the population through the lack of town planning over the past decades, and a sense of urgency to remedy the situation prevailed. Poor planning had led to a myriad of problems in cities across Australia: congestion, poor arterial road access, limited access to waterways, multiple industries competing for space in unzoned land, lack of open spaces, and overcrowding.
An important topic at the conference was soldier settlement and the question of repatriation. The conference presented an opportunity to propose the development of the industrial garden city of Darra, an undeveloped part of greater Brisbane. The proposal, based upon the development of farming land surrounding already established factories, would provide local employment opportunities for returned soldiers, affordable housing, rail services, parks, gardens and recreational reserves, infrastructure for river access, reserved bushland and defined farming zones to prevent expansion. The town itself was to be based on the Radial System of planning, and featured a central civic district with extensive public buildings, commercial zones and temporary repatriation accommodation.
A number of aspects to soldier settlement was discussed at the conference including the economics of developing model villages around Australia, providing facilities to support ‘supervision’ of returned soldiers, creating new industries with suitable employment opportunities, establishment of training farms, and construction of soldier homes. Plans for disabled soldier settlements were also proposed by John Sulman.
With town planning beginning to move beyond the philosophical ideals of the movement, topics for discussion at the Second Australian Town Planning Conference rapidly moved on from the overall benefits of town planning, onto the practical issues involved in cementing town planning into legislation, and the principles involved in creating legislation. Roles and responsibilities of making town planning reality was much debated, including the administrative structure and composition of planning authorities across multiple levels of government, and the role of municipal engineers in the planning process.
With the ultimate goals of replanning existing cities and reclaiming urban slums in mind, the design and building of the ‘ideal’ home was a key topic. Discussions at the conference included the characteristics required to make a home healthy, enjoyable, practical and economical. The differences in architecture required for houses across multiple Australian climates was pertinent, and a number of 'ideal home' examples were exhibited, both in plan format and actual model homes were built for display. There appeared to be a strong focus on developing a blueprint for an 'ideal home' designed for the lifestyle, climate and disposition of the Australian population, as distinct from English and American examples.
A strong link between town planning and public health underpinned town planning philosophies. This concern was discussed from many angles including the removal of urban slums, implementing zoning regulations to distance noxious industries away from housing, recommendations for suitable housing with adequate ventilation, lighting and warmth, and the need for adequate open spaces.
Open spaces were described as being “… the lungs of the city….” (p.153) and played an important role in the reduction of tuberculosis and other diseases. Open spaces encompassed small and large parks and gardens, sporting grounds, playgrounds, parkways and boulevards. Parkways and boulevards were "... pleasure drives which are not in parks, and are necessary as a means of making the parks accessible to the people and of connecting one park with another." (p.154). The co-location of kindergartens and other community activity centres with playgrounds was considered at the conference and much debated, particularly in regards to the supervision needs of children.
In these early stages of town planning, different aspects of planning competed for attention. Zoning was one such priority, as illustrated by Henry F. Halloran of the Town Planning Association New South Wales in his opening statement at the conference. "...Zoning of Cities and Towns is the most important and far-reaching problem connected with Town Planning..." (p.163).
The numerous and far reaching benefits of appropriate zoning regulations were outlined: preventing congestion, healthy conditions, community comfort, prosperity and morality, service efficiencies, reconstruction, conflicting industries, grouping like communities, convenience, noxious industries, fire prevention, property values, transportation, expansion, aesthetics and more.
Notable in the discussion on zoning was the difference in opinions on the matter of “grouping together of those whose incomes and tastes are generally similar” (p.164). In this interesting example of early 20th century discussion on socioeconomic status, the language around “the well-to-do”, “segregation of citizens”, “superior residence districts”, and “different class of people” is an interesting observation of the accepted class society of the times.
The digital version of the conference proceedings can be viewed below: