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HH in Focus – Robert Williams

29/06/2020 - Articles -

Robert Williams – Senior Urban Planner

Robert Williams is a senior urban planner at Human Habitats. Robert has a Bachelor of Environments majoring in Urban Planning. He joined Human Habitats in 2016 as a graduate and worked his way up to become a key member of the HH planning team. At Human Habitats, Robert has worked on a wide range projects, including new communities, residential, commercial, retail, and industrial, accumulating various experience and understanding of the planning system and development industry.

Robert has always been interested in buildings and how they relate to their context. Originally studying to become an architect, Robert’s appreciation for the bigger picture of development of cities and urban planning was sparked through his study of the urban environment.

Q. Planning is often a balancing act of design outcomes and client objectives, is there a project that exemplifies this for you?

RW: The project that stands out for me is Tarneit Towers. The client came to Human Habitats with a vision for a development that would meet the daily needs of the community within a 10 minute walk. This true mixed-use development vertically integrates commercial, retail, education, residential, and accommodation across six multi-storey buildings ranging from 5-14 storeys.

The project sets a new benchmark and will be a leading example of high density living in a greenfield context in Victoria. Human Habitats has worked closely with our client for several years and most recently secured a master plan permit and endorsed Urban Design Framework for the site.

Q. Working on such a complex project, what elements of the proposal were critical to its success?

RW: For a project of this scale, there were several components. Human Habitats negotiated with authorities to ensure the development potential of the site was protected, particularly around road widening and relocation of infrastructure. The ground plane and providing space between buildings was also fundamental. Creating a place where people want to be is crucial to the work we do at Human Habitats. The unique ‘full life cycle’ approach and focus on the outcomes for the community meant we worked with the client to create great spaces at ground level and as well as great buildings. To achieve the client’s vision, it was not just about the built form but how people arrived at the development, how they moved through the site, and how they interacted with the different spaces and land uses.

Human Habitats provided guidance on the site layout, road types, building interfaces, and pavement and landscaping treatments. We provided advice around leveraging off ground floor retail and dining and proposed an urban plaza space to enhance the amenity of the public realm.  The success of the design was, in part, driven by the collaboration between the planning and design teams at Human Habitats. The team’s depth of knowledge ultimately achieved a great outcome for the project and our client.

Q. Given the scale and vision of the proposal and its greenfield context, how did you manage the planning process?

RW: Human Habitats took a consultative approach with our client and collaborated with Council from the outset. Although sometimes this was time-intensive, the regular meetings and design workshops were worthwhile. It taught me a lot about how to work with people, and how to get the best of them to benefit the project.

We took a collaborative approach early as getting support from key authorities was very important to the commercial and client objectives.  Through our contacts, we were able to engage with decision-makers from the outset and get their buy-in into the project.

The Urban Design Framework was an outcome of this collaborative approach with Council. We used the design process to workshop and demonstrate the benefits of the scale and urban design response. This also gave both the client and Council certainty around the development outcomes possible on the site. It was a rewarding and worthwhile process as we were able to take Council on the journey with us and still be successful in achieving a client focussed outcome.