Thursday, 29 March 2012

Five ideas for Freo from...Berlin

Dean Cracknell is the author of this post. He is a Freo devotee dedicated to creating interesting, diverse places for people and is a guest contributor to The Fremantle Doctor blog. 

Dean can be followed on Twitter by checking out: @city_pragmatist

Berlin is widely regarded as one of the coolest cities in the world. Artists, architects and creative businesses flock to Berlin from all over the world, attracted to its liberal, bohemian and inexpensive charm. The good news is that Freo shares some of Berlin’s bohemian feel. So what can Fremantle learn this wonderful city?

Here are some of my ideas (check out the photo below) -

Five ideas for Freo from...Berlin

Distinctive corner features

The building in the photo above really adds a presence to the street. One of the interesting things about it for me is the distinctive corner feature. Corners are important in urban design terms because they are so visible. They frame public spaces and if they are memorable, help people find their way around a city. Architects traditionally made building corners a highlight of their designs. Distinctive corner features are found on many older buildings across Freo – check them out next time you are wandering around the west end.

One way of reinforcing the character of Freo would be to make new developments provide a modern interpretation of the corner feature.

Human scale building facades

Human scale refers to development that relates well to surrounding public spaces and does not overawe passing pedestrians. The ideal height for building facades depends on a number of factors, including the width of the street and the articulation of the building (discussed below).

Human scale usually refers to facade heights of between 2 to 6 storeys.

Large street trees

Street trees soften streetscapes, provide shade and encourage pedestrians. It seems that street trees were forgotten about and not planted for a long time throughout Perth and Fremantle. Only recently have we realised the importance of trees to urban placemaking. It would be very difficult to find a comfortable urban space that does not have at least some greenery in it. The more the better!

Articulated facades

Articulated facades have lots of detail, style and intricate features. Traditional Australian architecture often included elaborate detail. Articulating facades is important as people usually like and respond to difference, colour and detail. Interesting and articulated building facades can also reduce the visual impact of the height of a building.

Balconies for street interaction

Balconies and windows provide opportunities for passive surveillance over streets. Passive surveillance aims to create a perception that people are or could be watching over a space, which can deter crime and anti-social behaviour. Criminal and anti-social activity usually gravitates to areas that are out of the way and where they are less likely to be seen. Streets and urban spaces will not be well used unless people feel safe and balconies help achieve this.


  1. Wouldn't that building, or similar structures, look fantastic in Fremantle!

  2. I like this..not only Freo but the rest of WA too! My favourite city in the world is Paris and has very similar characteristics to what you've named in this blog! Nice one Dean!