Michala Lander

GHD

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Tell us about yourself

I started my career as an occupational therapist but quickly became interested in the social model of disability that explored how the design of the physical environment enabled people to conduct activities. This started my passion in investigating how we can make the public environment a better place for everyone to enjoy and participate in civic life. I began to specialise in community engagement and understanding how to design and develop places that work for people. I focussed on social infrastructure working across State and Local Government to develop guidelines on how to plan social infrastructure that takes into consideration the demographic of the population (current and future), stakeholder need and understanding rates of provision to ensure equitable access. However, after writing lots of social infrastructure strategies, I really wanted to focus on place activation. All of this experience, made me realise that what i really wanted was to create places that people would fall in love with and be proud of living in. This thinking led to the development of the Loveable Cities concept, whereby place identity and the affinity we have for it influences how we plan and design our cities, towns and public spaces.

What are the top 3 trends in your transport/smart city niche that everyone should look out for in the next 5 years?

1. The focus on the importance of place. Train stations aren't just transit points but are gateways to cities and towns, we therefore need to focus on how they contribute to that sense of arrival and place identity.

2. Different transit modes influence how we experience a city. Cycling and walking slow down our speed of travel and this enables us to explore places in a different way, celebrating the local. This enables us to focus on 'delight per metre' by creating interesting streets that stimulate the local economy.

3. Transit oriented development shouldn't mean a 'westfield on every corner' rather metro stations should be gateways to the different experiences a city has to offer. Our time and space paradigm shifts with metro which means different areas can have a different focus catering to the different needs of a city.

How do you/your company innovate?

We stimulate and encourage ideas amongst our staff. Enabling ideas to be put forward and then challenged in a safe space so that they can be nurtured and grown.

Why is encouraging innovation, new ideas, and tech important?

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking to the status quo. We need people to push the boundaries and imagine an alternative. We live in a knowledge economy so we need to support the expression of new ideas. Often it's the extreme ideas that pulls people out of their comfort zone and then the magic really happens.

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