Slips Trips and Falls: Access, Safety and Poetry in Urban Places

UD-logo-200x200John Clarke is currently Director of Parish Clarke Architects, and was formerly Principal Architect with GHD Architecture and Principal of Urban Design and City Projects with Brisbane City Council. Contact John Clarke if you are interested in this presentation on slips, trips and access.


Notwithstanding the recent attention to sustainability in Urban Design, there remains a vast difference between the aspirations of public authorities and designers and the built outcomes in our urban places. As a culture, and as designers and place managers, and as custodians of the public realm, we need to be more vigilant, better prepared, educated, and to better understand what is required of built environments. Issues of universal design and particularly accessibility and public safety continue to be misunderstood, and place management poorly conceived or implemented.

Despite a mature design industry and the myriad of policies, regulations, and design guidelines; our urban places and connections fall far short of the goals we deserve. This is partly due to governance and budgetary allocations, but a quick survey of any of our urban places shows that as a culture we struggle with implementing design for safety and accessibility, let alone infusing our places of with human dignity and poetic experience.

This presentation examines the experience of design through visual examples and appraises some of the reasons for their failures and likely consequences in terms of safety and accessibility. Further evaluation reveals potential opportunities that might have been derived if technical, regulatory and OHS design techniques were methodically applied, and if the principles of universal design had been considered at the design and implementation stage. This may expose some the reasons why our endeavours are less than successful. Finally this presentation muses on the path ahead for designers and public authorities and what challenges they need to confront in the nature of future design management, regulation and policies to help bring about universal design.

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