A prologue to Southbank by Beulah
How do we future proof Melbourne?

Southbank by Beulah Project Prologue

As the population grows and lifestyles change and evolve, so too does the need for considered development that is designed for current and future generations. Beyond Melbourne, cities are beginning to display positive efforts of future-proofing by utilising big data and employing smart interventions. Architects, designers and engineers play an ever-important role in being able to shape communities and optimise lifestyles. Contextualised, these solutions tend to be climatically and culturally specific, adding layers onto the richness of a city’s past.

However, the questions remain; How do we future proof Melbourne? How do we ensure the viability of life through exponential growth? How do we apply global inspiration while accounting for the local?

Australia is forecasted to see an increase of 11.8 million people between 2017 and 2046, approximately four times the population of Melbourne currently.  The projected populations growth will be distributed predominantly across the four major cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Today, the city of Melbourne is already experiencing its biggest population surge, with an increase of 125,000 over the last year, for the second year running. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Melbourne metropolitan recorded an increase in population of approximately 4,500 between 2016 and 2017. This indicates a 12% population increase just in the metropolitan areas alone.

With the push for more knowledge-intensive service sectors by the government, Melbourne metropolitan will only continue to attract more people due to its access to skilled labour and employment opportunities. A population increase will indirectly facilitate greater exchange of skills and ideas, ultimately sustaining the growing momentum of knowledge-intensive service sectors. But it also brings about its own sets of challenges.


Melbourne boasts a young population; more than a third of its population is aged between 25 and 49 years old. Due to its high numbers of international and interstate migration, young adults are forecasted to remain the population majority. This demographic will be drawn towards metropolitan areas, which offer greater employment opportunities than their suburban counterparts. Although this will concentrate a pool of talents and strengthen its competitive workforce, it will also create greater demands on it’s outdated infrastructure and stress on the insufficient housing availability.


Technological advances affect every industry and changes the way we provide and receive goods and services. With a booming entrepreneurial scene in Melbourne and a shift in consumer behaviors, conventional businesses are being disrupted by newer and more innovative ways of conducting business. Brick and mortar business will be affected and along with it, Melbourne’s streetscapes. Organisations running online businesses will also be affected, as their work space environment becomes a greater asset to attract new talents.


As our world witnesses climate change, Melbourne is experiencing an increasing number of extreme weather events, shifting seasons and sudden changes in weather patterns. The extent of the environmental impact these changes cause is not fully known, nor the repercussion of the changed environment on our lifestyle. This uncertainty regarding the impact of climate change emphasises the need for our cities to explore solutions which can accommodate this unknown.


Technological advancements and our changing environment will without a doubt influence the way we work and live. Our common practices today will become obsolete, and the need to keep updating will grow. As the population adapts to newer work and lifestyle, so must our natural and built environment.


These challenges are already complex problems to solve by themselves. The fact that they may appear and exist simultaneously further complicates how we can address the issues in our built environment. An aspect of future development that we can be certain of is that nothing is certain.

Observational analysis of today’s problems will not reflect tomorrow’s changes in Melbourne trends. Evidence-based planning is unable to manage the uncertainty of the future. Hence, we must look into innovative methods that will help us cope with the uncertain future while we future proof our cities. One way is for us to embrace a design-based approach to understanding problems and exploring solutions.


The design-based approach facilitates a robust conversation on Melbourne’s challenges by offering different hypotheses of the city’s future. There are a plethora of works which support this aim, such as the in-depth strategies laid out in Future Cities, Planning for our growing population by Infrastructure Australia, to the speculative and fantastical designs for Melbourne 2046 by Karakiewicz’s architecture design students at the Melbourne School of Design, there is a plethora of works to draw learnings from.


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