By design?

THE inaugural Fremantle Design Week winds up this weekend, so we’ve had loads of food for thought about how well we design our cities.

Design is not just about beauty and creativity, but needs to be practical and functional as well.

So how well is Fremantle doing at placemaking and designing urban oases, places for people to gather and linger, and is the City of Arts seriously lagging behind with public art?

When Kings Square became Walyalup Koort the community expected great things, but have the council’s promises been met? 

The new children’s playground is a welcome addition, and so are the new lights in front of the also new Walyalup Civic Centre, but why did they stop there? 

Why are the old and low lights still in front of the town hall, why was not more ambience created, and where is the promised Indigenous artwork?

We are also still waiting for the program of activities that was going to revitalise our city square.

The High Street mall is drab, while the masterplan for Princess May Park – that has so much potential – was never implemented. Pioneer Park should have been beautified years ago, to invite people to linger there longer. 

Places that were created are not looked after properly. The Youth Plaza on the Esplanade looks neglected and needs some TLC. The Bathers Beach boardwalk and heritage interpretation are great, but now the painted words on the bitumen have all but disappeared.

Perth has fantastic large mural art, especially in Northbridge, but Fremantle has very little art of substance. 

The great huge murals on the former Myer building disappeared with the redevelopment of the building, and the Numbat art has been demolished in the Henderson Street mall.

Contrary to other local councils, the City of Fremantle rarely buys a piece of art at the Sculpture at Bathers show, so our city’s public street art collection is not outstanding, even though we have the percentage for the art policy, when new development occurs.

We had a small vertical garden/green wall on the previous civic centre, but that too has disappeared. 

Fremantle lacks trees and lovely cosy spaces to gather.

The Market Piazza behind Gino’s is a good example of how to improve streetscapes.

Attempts to close the Cappuccino Strip on Sundays in summer, to make it pedestrian-friendly, were stopped because local traders did not like it. 

I have no idea why. 

People who drive by in their cars are not buying food or drinks and won’t be browsing and shopping either.

One of my favourite places to hang out used to be Hyde Park in Perth. 

It is so simple. 

Two lakes, lots of greenery and shade, plenty of benches, and a children’s playground, makes for a welcoming environment. 

Contrary to that is Elizabeth Quay, a big open space with lots of hard surfaces on different levels, making it difficult for the less abled to navigate; a prime example of mediocre city design. 

Yagan Square, that cost millions of dollars, was so badly designed it has to be redeveloped, just a few years after opening.

We have some lovely street community festivals with the Valley Festival in White Gum Valley, the Lasagna Festival in Lilly Street, the olive harvest 

in Booyeembara Park, etc, but where is the activity at Walyalup Koort, and why is there so little community participation in the modern festivals in Fremantle?

Where is the gorgeous Festival Parade of the past?

Could the Freo Farmers Market find a new home in the inner city, e.g. Princess May or Pioneer Park, or the large carpark below the Roundhouse, or even in our city square? 

It’s the kind of Sunday activation that would be very welcome in the CBD and bring hundreds of people into town.

Designing cities needs to be less about traffic flow and parking, but more about creating ambience. 

Places were the community meets and where we have a real sense of belonging. Great public art is important to achieve that, and so is creative public furniture. There is a lot that can be improved in Fremantle in that regard.

Roel Loopers
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