Friday, 31 August 2012

Predicting the future of 1925

Earlier this month regular guest contributor to the Freo Doctor Blog, Dean Cracknell, wrote another cracker of an article about five car parking myths. Well, he's done it again. This time Dean forwarded me the cover of the August 1925 edition of Popular Science Monthly.

It's titled "May Live to See, May Solve Congestion Problems" and has an accompanying image predicting how people may live and travel around the city by 1950. 

Check out the 'aircraft landing fields' and the four levels of transport, plus the freight tubes in the bottom right hand corner. I also appreciate the transition from offices to living quarters and playgrounds.

It is interesting to think about how people in 1925 saw the future of cities. That old congestion nugget was around even way back then.

I wonder what Freo will look like in twenty five years? I'll have just painted the town red for my 60th birthday.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Thwaites & Wilberforce III: The Fremantle Football Club to Cockburn Chronicles

SCENE SETTING: an office in a football club administration building, early on a winter’s day in 2012. A crisply dressed man in his forties is seated at a large desk, reading on his iPad 3. A frown gradually deepens on his brow as he scans the screen.

BOSS, calling loudly: "Thwaites. THWAITES. In here now."

A baby-faced man in a shirt and tie sitting in the open plan area outside the boss' office minimises the minesweeper game on his computer and races in.

BOSS, still frowning and staring at the iPad: "I need you to to draft a media release, Thwaites."

THWAITES: "Another incident already, sir? I only just finished the last one..."

BOSS, looking up, suddenly attentive: "Ah yes, I've been meaning to talk to you about that. It needs redoing. I know you’re a new arrival, but when a player stuffs up there's a procedure to follow, do you understand? Get him in front of some cameras, cue puppy dog eyes, cue sincere apologies, and spread a rumour about possible internal suspension. (Pauses.) Hold that thought, make sure they don’t actually suspend him. I’m running out of trades for my dream team. (Settling back in his chair.) No, this is something else. The fans are getting restless about this move to Cockburn. Hit them with some soft soap."

THWAITES, raising his eyebrows: "So this move could really go ahead?"

BOSS: "Of course. Why would that surprise you?"

THWAITES, looking incredulous: "I would've thought the name alone...I mean, Cockburn? The Cockburn Dockers? (Gives a snorty laugh.) It sounds like something from Wilberforce's video collection. Especially if we went one step further and alliterated it."

BOSS, growing red: "It's pronounced COE-BURN, you ignoramous! Good lord. Anyway, we won't be changing the name. We'll still be 100% the Fremantle Dockers."

THWAITES: "I see, sir. So the first key message in the media release will be that we're still 100% Fremantle...except for our location."

BOSS: "That's right."

THWAITES: "Right. (Hesitates.) So how might I explain..."

BOSS, sighing wearily: "The Dockers will always be 100% Freo in spirit. It's our heritage, our heartland, yada yada yada. (Rubs eyes.) I simply do not understand the antagonism to this move. I mean, St Kilda did exactly the same thing. It's not like we're the first."

THWAITES, breaking into a smile: "Ah, so there's a precedent! Phew, that's a relief. So, St Kilda changed sites and then went from strength to strength? (Jotting into a notepad.) And I expect broke the drought of decades and won a premiership? (Looks up, beaming.) Gosh, all those nay-sayers who talked about their fans getting disenfranchised sure must have egg on their faces now."

BOSS, shifting uncomfortably: "Pretty much, pretty much. Don't reference the Saints in the media release, though. Just focus on those key words - heartland, spirit, fans."

THWAITES: "All for the fans...(Muttering to himself as he scribbles.) And the site itself, sir? Should I put in some photos, or a map?"

BOSS, stiffening as though an electric current has suddenly passed through his body: "Are you bloody insane? NO maps, DEFINITELY no photos. (Wipes a sudden bead of sweat from his brow.) For goodness sake."

THWAITES: "Oh. So I guess mentioning the masterplan is also a no-no."

BOSS: "What masterplan?"

THWAITES: "Ummm, the one that the club worked on for about two years with the AFL, the South Freo Bulldogs, and the City of Fremantle?"

BOSS: "Where on earth did you find that?"

THWAITES: "I stumbled on it the other day when I was hiding...I mean, "filing". Veee-ry dusty. It's just that it seemed to suggest that remaining in Fremantle would be the preferred option."

BOSS, exasperatedly: "Greater Fremantle, Thwaites...Greater Fremantle. Anyway, it's just a masterplan. What about that one you were telling me about the other day, from your old job? The Phillimore Street Integrated Master Plan, I think it was? And you said nothing had been done on it since it was finalised in 2004?"

THWAITES: "Oh, it's that kind of masterplan. Now I'm with you. (More scribbling.) And should we address the loyalty angle?"

BOSS, exasperated: "What loyalty angle?"

THWAITES, chuckling: "Ha, exactly sir. Good one. (Boss looks bemused.) You know, sir, the angle that fans are being unrealistic expecting loyalty, because the idea that loyalty exists in football clubs is just a wrongheaded outside perception. This is a businessplace like any other. I mean, if Coles changes sites or its CEO moves to Woolies, their customers don't get all bent out of shape, do they? So why are we any different? I mean, yes we ask for volunteers. And get people to buy raffle tickets. And memorabilia, and uniforms. But why does loyalty need to be introduced into the equation?"

BOSS, shaking a stern finger: "Stop right there, boyo. I thought I told you to keep away from the coaching box! (Sits back, thinking.) Now, I think what's missing is a focus on just what kind of training facility we could build..I want people thinking elite, worldclass..."

THWAITES: "Back in the old days in LG we would start with having a good name."

BOSS: "Now you're onto something. Let's hear some ideas."

THWAITES, after a long pause: "How about Cockb-, I mean 'Coeburn' Regional... Administration... Purpose-built facility?"

BOSS, shaking his head: "I want something with World Class or Elite in it."

THWAITES: quickly writing something on a paper: "Ok then, this one will blow your socks off...World class Awesome New Kickass Elite Recreation Super facility?"

BOSS, shakes his head, still not convinced.

THWAITES: "Well, we could start with a military sounding acronym and work backwards. I don't know...something like ETAF or SFORCE."

BOSS: "Now you're talking."

THWAITES, scribbling: "What about Elite... Training... Administration... Facility?"

BOSS: "Not bad. It does sound a little like a secretarial training college...but if it puts this issue to bed I can live with it. Now, off you pop and start your first draft." (Thwaites nods happily and makes for the door.)

BOSS: "Oh, and Thwaites? Send someone from I.T. in. There's something wrong with facebook - it keeps saying Harvey's blocked me."

DISCLAIMER: I've spent a bit of time pondering any potential move that the Dockers may make to Cockburn. It's a bit rich to suck out the life of the place you purport to be from. It smacks of cynicism to me. I do hope that those in the know at the Fremantle Football Club come to their senses and make the right move by staying in Freo.

Below is some additional reading on this topic:

The orginal Fremantle Football Club media release on this topic.

City of Fremantle's plans to house the Dockers at the Stan Reilly site (looks pretty good to me).

Caroline Wilson's article describing the some of the post-relocation problems faced by the St Kilda Football Club.

Roel Loopers' blog 'Freo's View' is keeping all of us in the loop.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Off the rails

The bumper cars didn't last long.
Any plans to get them fixed?
My wife and I recently enjoyed an old fashioned movie night, during which I introduced her to such genre masterpieces as Alien and Die Hard.

To lighten the mood after a squabble over the remote during Alien (my finger kept slipping and changing the channel during the scary bits, resulting in forced confiscation) my wife and I concluded the evening with a viewing of Dumb and Dumber.

For those not familiar with the film, early on the pet budgie of one of the main characters meets a sticky end and is left headless. In need of some quick cash, the budgie's erstwhile owner Lloyd sticky-tapes the head back on and sells the dead budgie to a blind boy. The scene concludes with images of the blind boy patting his strangely mute companion and crooning its name, while Lloyd spends his cash on a novelty cowboy hat.

Thinking about the recently completed Bathers Beach upgrade with its strip of asphalt, the dustbowl and now the bumper cars I can't help but feel like the blind kid who got swindled by Lloyd. I'm afraid that we've been left with a bit of a lemon.

What's wrong?

When it first became evident to local residents and businesses that this project was heading down the proverbial placemaking gurgler, those responsible at the City and Council stuck their heads in the sand. They issued a now infamous media release (click here for my translation) claiming that community consultation done way back in 2004 was evidence enough that the City was right and the community was wrong. That was in February.

Not much has changed. The long strip of asphalt still resembles a car park. The asphalt is now grey and it still presents terribly.

Lost opportunity?
It's completely under-used except as a hugely unnecessarily wide footpath - although come summer when the sun heats up the tarmac to nuclear temperatures I suspect even that use will dwindle.

The dustbowl also remains, functioning only as a pathway that people pass over as quickly as possible.

Another lost opportunity?
The dustbowl really does put the 'd' into dysfunctional. An image of a sticky taped budgie flutters into the mind again. What a lost opportunity.

Sandwiched in between the asphalt and the dustbowl is the green area. It isn't really my cup of tea. The bumper cars seem impractical and almost beg for tender fingers to crush, and the area appears a little too cluttered. But I suppose I can live with it. One thing is for sure, the lawn really does serve to emphasise the jarring and blunt feeling of the project's design.

Whats the point of these?

The lawn softens the area.

The railway tracks appear to be a winner with the kids.

What's next?

It's time to start looking at what can be done to transform this place from dysfunctional into desirable.

Here are eight ideas that spring to mind:

1. First things first. Let's see Council and the City change its thinking about this project.
Walking through the area, I get the feeling that this project has been over interpreted. The heritage interpretation has been done in isolation. Heritage interpretation and having a nice, fun place that everyone can enjoy are not mutually exclusive. Actually, I think it is high time that Council and the City started practising what they've been preaching when it comes to placemaking. How many times do they need to pay for David Engtwicht to come out for a feel-good talkfest before his advice actually delivers some results?

2. Take the parklet example and see if it can be applied to the strip of asphalt, which as it is, is a complete failure.

3. Extend the lawn into the dustbowl.

4. Introduce some decent lighting.

5. Introduce more fun. How about another simple (and safe) example of kid-friendly interactive public art?

6. Invest in a pontoon for the beach. This is a no brainer and could be in place for this summer.

7. Give people the option to bring their own food by putting in a shared BBQ facility.

8. Start including Bathers Beach in Freo's Festivals.

Friday, 17 August 2012

How would an algorithm data mine Freo's visual identity?

There is an interesting article on Atlantic Cities about data mining a city’s visual identity. It got me thinking about Freo’s visual identity.

It is generally accepted that there is no city quite like Paris.  For me, the allure of Paris isn’t so much its great monuments and awesome museums and art galleries. What I'm fascinated by is that I can take a stroll down any residential street in one of the twenty arrondisements and there is no escaping the fact that I’m in Paris. I agree with
Emily Badger, the author of the article, who opens with her view that Paris looks like, well, Paris and like nowhere else on earth.

(Upon editing this article, my wife started chuckling and prodding my tummy. In between jiggling my man boobs, she also claimed that a big part of why I like Paris so much has a lot to do with bistros, butter and pastries. I don’t know what she is talking about.)

Cool algorithm that data mines the visual identity of cities

Emily points out that people who have been to Paris become adept at identifying the place. In a recent study, researchers showed participants a sampling of images of Paris as well as decoys from eleven other cities. The results showed that the participants nailed Paris 79 percent of the time. (Check out the game here.)

The study allowed the researchers to conclude that people are remarkably sensitive to the geographically informative features within the visual environment. I reckon that this statement characterises the majority of us Freoites.

The findings of the study has led to an algorithm being developed that attempts to data mine the visual identity of cities. Below are some results from Emily’s article:

Random and Extracted visual elements from Paris via
Random and Extracted visual elements from Boston via
Random and Extracted visual elements from San Francisco via

Interesting stuff. The researchers found that the algorithm had problems data mining the visual identity of American cities. They concluded that this may have been because many American cities are not all that unique. 

So what does this mean for Freo?

1. The Local Identity & Design Code: Central Fremantle

Freo’s visual identity has kind of been mapped. A couple of years ago, ratepayers funded a study of Fremantle’s identity. This study produced a very, very, very comprehensive Local Identity & Design Code: Central Fremantle document.

If we all agree that Freoites are remarkably sensitive to Freo’s geographically informative features within the visual environment, then what do we think about this document?

And how is the City using it to inform the design guidelines that will support Scheme Amendment 49?

(Click here to check out this document.)

2. A problem with car and road dominance

The researchers discovered that one of the main reasons that American cities lacked uniqueness was the car. In fact, they found that the prevalence of car brands and road features contributed to the overall blandness of these cities.

This is something that we should all be aware of when planning for the future of Freo. I’d hate to think that future algorithms that data mine Freo’s visual identity come up with cars brands and road features rather than awesome West End architecture.

3. Freo’s a lot like Paris

To paraphrase Emily Badger: compared to Perth, Freo looks like, well, Freo and like nowhere else. That is really important! (Note to wife: first exclamation point in general text of one of my posts for a really long time.)

I firmly believe that Freo’s redevelopment doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

But it will be crucial that new development is built up to a standard and not down to a price. I want to be able to walk through Scheme Amendment 49 territory and feel like I’m walking in Freo and not a clone town. That means having an idea of Freo’s visual identity and insisting that these elements are reinforced.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Five car parking myths: Why we need to get smarter about parking

Dean Cracknell is the author of this post. He is a Freo devotee interested in creating diverse places for people. He is a guest contributor to The Fremantle Doctor blog. Dean can be followed on Twitter by checking out: @city_pragmatist

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 was a landmark moment in the civil rights movement and was based around the principles of fairness and equality.

I have also had a dream ... that one day, we can provide free pizza AND free beer to all citizens regardless of their race, gender, beliefs or religion. Not quite Martin Luther King I admit, but wouldn’t it be nice? Free pizza and free beer!

But, in the cold light of morning, I know this dream could never happen in real life. For one thing, we would probably run out of pizza and beer given there is usually huge demand for something that is given away free. And who would end up paying for it all? As the dismal economists take perverse pleasure in telling us, ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. Someone always has to pay the price. It is also true that some people don’t actually like pizza and beer. Would it be fair to provide free stuff for some while others miss out?

As weird as it may seem, I am going to argue that there are some parallels with the dream of handing out free pizza and beer and the reality of providing free car parking in our cities. So, let’s get down to the dirty business of busting five common car parking myths.

Myth 1 – Free Parking is Really Free

Parking is never free. Think about it. The “free” car parking space where your car now stands idle has been constructed and paid for by someone, usually a developer or a local government. The major cost is the land used for car parking, but there are also the construction costs of the parking bay, plus the vehicle manoeuvring areas, signage, ongoing maintenance costs and even the often pathetic attempt made at landscaping.
Guess who pays the price? We all do.

The costs of providing car parking are passed on to us by developers and are responsible for inflating house prices and the costs for everyday goods and services. Even a loaf of bread will include a small cost for providing the “free” shopping centre car parking. Sure, but can’t governments pay for parking? Yes, they do. But who funds governments? Ratepayers and taxpayers. So we all pay higher rates or taxes to provide “free” car parking or we get reduced services as money is funnelled into providing “free” car parking.

The worst thing about this situation is that people who don’t drive subsidise “free” car parking for those that do drive. The prices at the shop or house prices are the same whether you drive or not. Likewise, rates and taxes are also the same whether you drive or not. This is unfair as well as being unsustainable, given the environmental, economic and social costs associated with driving. What we actually have is a tax on non-drivers (the people who don’t like pizza or beer) to subsidise car drivers (the pizza and beer lovers). Some of us get a pretty good deal as it currently stands.

Parking guru Donald Shoup explains the situation well in his book The High Cost of Free Parking. Shoup summarises how “free” parking distorts the whole economy:

“When we shop in a store, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly because its cost is included in the prices of merchandise, meals, and theater tickets. We unknowingly support our cars with almost every commercial transaction we make because a small share of the money changing hands pays for parking. Residents pay for parking through higher prices for housing. Businesses pay for parking through higher rents for their premises. Shoppers pay for parking through higher prices for everything they buy. We don’t pay for parking in our role as motorists, but in all our other roles—as consumers, investors, workers, residents, and taxpayers—we pay a high price. Even people who don’t own a car have to pay for ‘free’ parking.”

Parking is never free - the costs are just cleverly hidden.

Myth 2 – Car Parks Are Boring and Ugly

Most car parks are boring and ugly. But they don’t have to be. The main missing ingredient I reckon is a bit of love. The car park pictured below in Miami is amazing and just shows what is possible with a bit of care and attention.

This carpark in Miami is pretty cool via
Car parks generally have their own colour scheme – an uninspiring shade of prison grey concrete. Adding some colour could produce remarkable results though. How about this one?
Amazing what a splash of colour could do to some of our carparks via
The Condor Carpark in Perth has created a kickass gallery of street art.

Interesting street art humanises carparks via
This myth has some truth - car parks are generally ugly, but they can and should be places of colour and imagination.

Myth 3 – Car Parks Are Only For Cars

Artrage’s ‘Rooftop Movies’ in Northbridge was a unique experience. They hired the entire upper floor of the Roe Street Carpark in Northbridge and attracted huge audiences hungry for something different. Hundreds of deckchairs were placed in front a big screen showing cult movie favourites.

The setup also included palm trees, astroturf, a bar and lights. Some of the pics are below:

Activating the roof of a idea via
This carpark is buzzing! via
Communities are also reclaiming parking spaces for themselves. The photo below is from Berlin:
A reclaimed carpark being used for a bit of fun via
Car parks don’t have to be reserved exclusively for cars. We need to re-imagine the way car parks are used, particularly when they are empty. 

Myth 4 – We Need More Car Parking

We often hear the simplistic cry that “we need more car parking”. More car parking, it is assumed, will solve the perceived “parking problems”. Unfortunately, it is not that easy in real life. Providing more car parking only encourages more people to drive and reduces the incentive to walk, ride or use public transport. Pretty soon, the extra car parking capacity is full at peak times and empty at quiet times, only serving to make the area look ugly and lifeless. It is also a very expensive option given that parking is never free.

A better approach is to think smarter and better manage the car parking we already have. Parking professional Todd Litman says that:

“The real problem is not inadequate supply, it is inefficient management.
A cost-effective, integrated parking management program can often reduce parking requirements by 20-40%, while improving user convenience and helping to achieve other planning objectives, such as supporting more compact development, encouraging use of alternative modes of transportation, and increasing development affordability.”

For example, one simple idea is to provide better information to motorists on where car parking is available in real time.

Information signs help with managing parking more efficiently
Some cities are now even providing less car parking, and attracting more people as a result. Cities like San Francisco, New York, London and even Los Angeles are encouraging new parklets on land previously reserved for car parking.

An example of a San Francisco parklet via
Freo has its very own parklet at Moore Moore cafe in Henry Street:

Freo's very own parklet at Moore & Moore Cafe
Car parking is important, but better management of parking and sometimes even providing less parking may be a way to attract more people and revitalise our town centres.

Myth 5 – We Know How Much Parking Is Needed

Parking is very important to the way our cities work. Most people assume that the bureaucrats have a very good idea of how much parking is needed for each new development or land use.

Unfortunately, this is not true.

In fact, there has never been a detailed parking study conducted across metropolitan Perth. Instead we base our car parking standards on New South Wales standards from 2002, which in turn are based on parking surveys from 1994 conducted in areas where new residential subdivisions were being built. Public transport accessibility in such areas was/is often limited. These studies have little relevance to parking in Perth’s town centres in 2012.

Donald Shoup compares city planners to early astronomers, who came up with misleading but convincing models of planetary orbit. By providing precise parking requirements, city planners give the impression that they can accurately forecast parking demand before a building’s construction. But Shoup says planners and engineers relentlessly repeat the mistakes of other planners and engineers in setting parking regulations. It’s like a giant merry-go-round of dodgy assumptions.

In short, we don’t know how much parking is needed because there have never been proper studies conducted for the local context. We are just guessing.

Cities need to be designed for people first, then cars I reckon. We need to get smarter about car parking.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Freo Quick Shot: Placemaking power salute to Moore & Moore Cafe

Regular Freo Doctor Blog readers will appreciate that when I'm out and about I enjoy coming across examples of little things being done well to create a welcoming place.

It turns out that a classic example of what I enjoy so much has been under my nose for the past couple of weeks. 

Cool little signs at Moore & Moore Cafe

Fans of Moore & Moore Cafe will be familiar with Freo's first parklet (the alfresco seating area on Henry Street). For me, this little parklet is an example of the types of quality, small wins that can be implemented in Freo.

The other day, I noticed these little signs that have been installed at the parklet for a little while now.

'Street Seating for Furry Greeting' sign at Moore & Moore
'Priority to Puppy Power rrrhank you!' sign at Moore & Moore
Another example of how the little things count in creating a welcoming place
A hearty thank you and an accompanying placemaking power salute to Moore & Moore Cafe for illustrating that little things do count in helping to create a welcoming place.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Mini Freo Monuments V - Freo's puppets

Some mini Freo monuments
Source: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre via
This edition of mini Freo monuments is entirely devoted to Fremantle's puppets - and no, I'm not talking about the Fremantle Dockers.

Freo is lucky enough to be the home of one of Australia's best puppeteering outfits - the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. Anyone who grew up in Perth in the last thirty years will no doubt remember seeing a show or two. They even made it up to Karratha when I was a dodgy, roof-rocking teenager.

However, to consign Spare Parts soley to the realm of childhood entertainment is to do it an injustice. Some of the productions are pure art: strange, fantastical beings floating around in beautiful sets like something out of a dream.

When my wife and I were growing up, it was the shows of Noriko Nishimoto that we saw. Noriko was the artistic director of Spare Parts for many years and it was her talent that elevated the theatre to something really special, that was recognised nationally as one of the best of its kind. Every now and then, Noriko puts writing her haikus on hold and comes out of retirement to direct a special show - Tim Winton's The Deep being her most recent production - or lend her experience to up-and-coming directors.

In a time when gold medals for athletic prowess don't seem to be coming our way, maybe the answer is to look to the world of puppetry instead? Because Noriko was just awarded one of the highest international awards in the world of puppetry. In May, the Union de la Marionette Women’s Commission acknowledged Noriko’s Outstanding International Contribution to Puppetry at their World Congress and Puppet Festival. This award is a big deal. Noriko is the inaugural winner, and it will be presented only once every four years.

When my wife and I went to check out 'The Deep', we spent some time afterwards looking at the amazing puppets on display. They are real works of art, full of personality. It struck me that each of these puppets are mini Freo monuments in their own right. So here are some images of my favourite puppets that I've sourced from the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre website:

'Bunyip' Source: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre via
'Ruffy' Source: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre via
'Enid the Chook' Source: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre via
'Cat Balloon' Source: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre via

To find out more about adopting these awesome puppets (aka mini Freo monuments) click hereNoriko's next production will be the classic 'Cat Balloon', scheduled to be performed this October at Spare Parts. I'm going to be there with bells on. My thanks to those involved at the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre for all of their wonderful mini Freo monuments that they've brought to life over the years.

For more info about this awesome Freo based organisation here is the website: 


Record month in July!

July was a kick ass month for the old blog! I'm chuffed to report that there was a record number of page views visiting the old blog in July. (In the early part of the month, I noticed that lots of views came from France, so thanks again Mum.) Many thanks to my regular Freo Doctor Blog readers, and to the newish readers who have visited my blog over the past couple of months. I appreciate the support.