Curtin students map the way for a trackless tram future

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Curtin University students have helped to create a blueprint of how trackless trams could be incorporated into Perth’s public transport system as part of a new industry-research collaboration.

More than 80 students worked with leading experts across Curtin’s architecture, planning and sustainability fields – including John Curtin Distinguished Professor Peter Newman – to design sustainable ecovillages. The students also worked in collaboration with industry partners across Bentley 360, the Curtin campus and Technology Park, East Victoria Park, the Perth foreshore and Fremantle.

Curtin University Urban Design Lead Associate Professor Francesco Mancini said he was impressed with the proposals developed by master students over the course of 16 weeks.

“Curtin students considered Greater Perth as an urban laboratory to envision the city of the future, connected by trackless trams through higher density housing surrounded by activity centres and leisure precincts,” Associate Professor Mancini said.

“Our great city has an exciting outlook if this is the calibre of work being created by our brightest young minds and the future urban planners, designers and architects of tomorrow.”

The industry partners involved in the collaboration included Hassell, element WA, the City of Perth, the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, the WA Planning Commission, the City of Canning, the City of Fremantle and the Town of Victoria Park.

In one outstanding proposal, a student team devised a strategy to incorporate a trackless tram system into the existing Town of Victoria Park by addressing climate change, encouraging walkability and bringing abandoned corner stores back to life.

First-year Master of Architecture student Rebecca Burciu said: “Our vision was to create a resilient and regenerative city that – through land use, design of density, landscape and movement – is able to address the changing climate, demographics and employment of Victoria Park. I enjoyed implementing structures such as the trackless tram and presenting a project that didn’t want to ‘re-do’ Victoria Park, but rather instead re-activate its most prominent features in a sustainable way”.

First-year Master of Architecture student Lachlan Willix said: “The aim of the project was to address the future challenges facing Victoria Park while also trying to maintain its character and identity. Through the project, I developed my understanding of the role and influence architecture has on the wider urban environment. I enjoyed being able to work on a larger scale to explore how placemaking could have positive influences on entire communities”.

First-year Master of Architecture student Aishling Black said: “Our aim was to design an urban space that had a strong passionate focus on the land we were designing for, in terms of history, culture and how nature naturally unfolds. The design had a strong focus on designing for the future – addressing issues of climate change, urban sprawl, and increased housing prices”.

First-year Master of Architecture student Kaela Andrijich said: “We as a team learnt that when redeveloping a site that is as well established as Victoria Park, it is important to acknowledge the history and sense of place that the site already has, and not to take away its identity but celebrate and enhance it through our design choices”.

First-year Master of Architecture student Jack Spiden said: “Our aim was to analyse Victoria Park at an urban scale to identify opportunities to increase density and walkability, while also consciously integrating a trackless tram system into the existing Victoria Park built form to allow residents and visitors greater connection to their city and surrounding areas”.

First-year Master of Architecture student Idriss Kwiata said: “We aimed to increase density to facilitate the population growth of Victoria Park, creating a precinct that was exemplary to what could be achieved around the greater Perth metropolitan area by connecting people back to the native greenery of Perth and Australia”.

First-year Master of Architecture student Charlie Benson said: “The main ideas of the project included improving pedestrianisation through encouraging healthy travel and linkages to public transport, increasing urban density through a diverse range of mixed-used buildings, and offering greater connections to green spaces. All ideas looked to meet the community and family needs in Victoria Park”.

The project was named a winner at the recent 2021 Curtin Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Awards and will form the basis of the new Perth Urban Research Lab, set to start next year.

The research hub, a platform for researchers, teachers and students to collaborate with industry and government, will explore the interaction between environment, built form and the sociocultural implications of urban life through theoretical and empirical research related to urban cultures and ecologies, histories and theories of architecture and the city, urban planning, building morphology and typology, construction and management.