Tuesday 11 February 2014

Studio work and presentation time

After a few days off to refresh and explore Sri Lanka, students regrouped at the University of Moratuwa to continue their design studio work on Weligama sites. A Young Planners session was also held with UoM undergraduate students, which included a getting to know each other icebreaker activity and devising collaborative solutions to contemporary planning scenarios.
Icebreaker activity at Young Planners Session

The following days were spent on the design studio component of Weligama and preparing the presentations for the final day.

Design studio work
Presentation day arrived quickly, with 5 project groups outlining their case studies and design responses for various sites including:
- Weligama Railway Precinct
- Weligama Town Centre
- Weligama beach (east and west)
- Midigma Turkish Village (Tsunami relocation project)
Presentation on Weligama Town Centre Design responses

Feedback on presentations from University of Moratuwa staff

Question time and feedback followed, with students' efforts recognised and the importance of understanding cross-cultural planning issues reflected upon.
With the presentations wrapped up, the group celebrated with a Sri Lankan barbeque and made their way to the airport to continue with further travel or return to Australia, while a number of students continued to explore Sri Lanka.



Fieldwork at Weligama fishing beach

The words 'group work' are enough to make most uni students cringe, but a whole new dimension is added when the exchange of ideas takes place across language and cultural barriers. Our usual modes of communication, and the assumptions of commonality they are based on must give way to a more elemental, considered process, so that both local knowledge and fresh perspectives can balance and harmonise to create intuitive solutions to the issues we are addressing.

Weligama beach (western end)

The western end of Weligama beach is an area removed from the general hubbub of tourism activity, home to the local fishing fleet and the activities associated with it - net mending, drying facilities and a fish market. Traversing the length of the beach, we were able to both observed the daily activities and engage with local fisherman, traders and tourists to get a snapshot off how the area is currently used. In this, our approach has been to ask 'why', as well as 'what' and 'how'.

Fishing boats at Weligama beach

Engaging with local fishermen


Our challenge is to preserve the identity of the area while enhancing its character to make a usable and enjoyable space for both locals and tourists, providing for expanding economic growth, and making the area more accessible from the town centre. With rapid changes spreading across Sri Lanka, particularly the Expressway joining Colombo and the south coast, we see the potential for Weligama to carve a niche where internal and international tourists can partake in an array of traditional and contemporary fishing, culinary and recreational practices, preserving and environment and culture that is both uniquely Sri Lankan and widely appealing.

Kate Clarke, Second Year
Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning

Thursday 6 February 2014

Midigama Turkish Village relocation project

Yesterday's site visit was an incredible experience where all students learnt a vast amount of information regarding the relocation of individuals who were affected by the 2004 tsunami. During our site visit we were able to have informal conversations with the local and visiting population, our sample included shop owners, government officials, elderly men & women, children and even one family invited us into their home and made us feel very welcome with a morning tea feast.
Students hearing from residents about life in the Tsunami relocation village 

A consensus was made amongst the students that the individuals relocated into this area were very happy and that the relocation project was successful. However, one lesson learnt was that if another disaster were to happen in the future the developers and designers need to consider the role and importance of food in particular cultures. A common suggestion we heard from the people was that the kitchens were far too small, therefore many of the families built on an extension where they were then able to have an outside kitchen.
Kitchen extension to Tsunami housing 
It was a fantastic experience in which we learnt some vital information that will help us in the future whichever career path we chose to take.

Midigama Turkish Village

Erin Smith
Bachelor of Community Development

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Hambantota - mega projects

La Trobe Uni lecturer Andtew Butt discussing the development of Hambantota
No urban planning trip to Sri Lanka is complete without visiting Hambantota, southern Sri Lanka. Large scale development  projects are currently underway to turn the region into a major urban centre through the construction of an international airport, convention centre, port, administrative centre and      cricket stadium.

Port of Hambantota visit 
Students were provided with an in-depth overview of the vision for the area and visited some of the key sites such as the Port of Hambantota, which is flagged to be a major economic driver for the region complete with a 48 hectare man-made "entertainment island".

Much lively discussion around mega projects ensued after which students departed their separate ways to explore Sri Lanka over some free time before the final phase of the study tour commences on Wednesday -- studio work on Weligama sites!

Monday 3 February 2014

Fieldwork continued - Weligama beach

This project aims to provide a urban design plan and restrictions for a particular focus area in the small town of Weligama. Our focus area for this project is the east end of  Weligama beach. This area is of particular importance as an international hotel is midway through a high rise development project on the beach front. This type of development is extremely out of place, and overshadows the serene and natural environment which surrounds it. It resides next to a popular strip of the beach which has multiple businesses for surfboard hire and lessons. 
Weligama beach site (East)

Next to the surfing area lies one of multiple local fish markets and fish netting repair stations. The various uses of the study area makes the planning for future use quite difficult, and the needs of locals and also visitors to the area needs to be taken into consideration. 

Local fishing industry
Our aim at the end of this project is to provide guidelines for future development which help to develop this area of the beach, and to encourage travel to the area to boost local economies, without encroaching substantially on and or relocating the markets. 

Roey Johnstone, Second Year
Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning 

Roey undertaking fieldwork at Weligama beach

Fieldwork in Weligama

Our project is to develop a tourism plan to better the Weligama area for an increasing number of tourists. Its expected increase is to be between 30,000 to 40,000 which has been calculated from previous developments of exits ramps from expressways.

We have been divided into five groups, two focusing on two different areas of the beach, the town centre and the train station. All groups have one or two Sri Lankan students to make communication a little easier. And one other group of Community Development students are looking at the Turkish village, a tsunami recovery project.

Chathura De Silva (UoM) providing site overview 

Our project focuses on the train station which is a node from the town centre and bus station. It is a two minute walk however access by foot and by car is crowded and somewhat dangerous. There is a lack of suitable footpaths and the roads are in need of an upgrade. The junctions surrounding the train stations are busy and dangerous. The traffic is increased when the boom gates are down.
Ideas so far have been to create footpaths, widen roads and re navigation of the junction. Drainage and parking are also issues that we are considering within our project.

Train station precinct group getting acquainted with site

Jacinta Morrissey and Verity Bright
Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning - Third Year

Thursday 30 January 2014

Project briefing at University of Moratuwa

Students began their first day at the University of Moratuwa with a welcome from Faculty staff, a briefing on the studio site from Sri Lankan students and staff and a lecture on environmental sensitivity and   development assessment techniques by Department of Town and Country Planning member Chethika Abenayake.

University of Moratuwa Campus

Site briefing from Uni of Moratuwa students 

Lecture by Chethika Abenayake on site assessment techniques
After lunch and the last minute sorting out of SIM cards, money and other necessities, we departed for the project site of a Weligama (approx a 4 hour bus trip) via the new Southern Expressway. With a full day of site assessments ahead, an early night was called for! We will visit the key sites around Weligama and assign project teams for studio work - more to follow on these exciting projects soon!
La Trobe and Moratuwa students on the way to Weligama

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Colombo urban reconnaissance tour

Colombo is a metropolis of extremes as we witnessed yesterday on our exciting bus tour. Our guide, KD, is a very funny and charismatic former lecturer from the University of Moratuwa. KD's sense of humour kept us engaged and responsive. As an example, he mentioned that if I had tipped the snake charmer we came across anymore money that he would have expected me to marry him! His knowledge of local history and urban futures gave us a deeper understanding of urban development issues. These issues mainly came down to limited available land and funding, increased pressure on infrastructure as a result of urban migration, environmental issues, and also heritage preservation.

KD Fernando from the University of Moratuwa leading the urban reconnaissance tour of Colombo
The historical elements of Colombo are not dissimilar to that of Bendigo or Melbourne as they have each experienced early British influence as suggested by the prevalence the old Victorian-styled buildings. There has been notable effort placed into restoring a good portion of these buildings, however, there many that have been let go. Important institutions such as the government and various business sectors are held in strong regard as demonstrated by the grandeur of their accompanying uni
buildings. In Colombo, contemporary architecture is about making a statement, and this is achieved
by sheer size or dramatic design. The new buildings such  as the 'lotus-shaped' National Theatre are a way of branding the 'new' Colombo to the world around them; ushering themselves into the global market.

Colonial architecture on Galle Road

Regarding infrastructure pressures, the roads are constantly buzzing with activity. I am very thankful
for our competent bus driver as it feels at times we are almost a breath away from oncoming traffic. Despite the constant beeping and congestion I would consider the road network surprisingly
functional for motorised transport, however, less so for tourists attempting to cross the street. All in all, Colombo is a city with a big vision for the future, addressing the above planning concerns will position them well in the ever-evolving Asian centred market.

- Kristina Murray, Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning
Fourth Year

Monday 27 January 2014

Welcome to Singapore!

Welcome to Singapore!                                                                 

Friday - After arriving in Singapore off a 7 hour flight, we were excited to have a look around the vibrant neighbourhood we were staying in.

Even though we arrived at night, it was immediately apparent we were in a very interesting place. The tree lined freeway from the airport, abundance of parks and gardens along with buildings with green walls showed that this technologically advanced city has strong ties with nature and is striving to be a leader in the green city and lifestyle movement. 

One of the first things you want to do when entering a new culture is try the food so that is what we did. The menus can often be misleading; as some students ordered vegetables and noodles in oyster sauce – they received steamed bok choy.

Saturday - Some were organized to get up early enough to find somewhere for breakfast while the majority just ate whatever they could find, even if it was a curry that turned out to be too hot to handle. (Shops don’t open until around 11am so breakfast was difficult to find)

The architecture was incredibly interesting as the mix of older housing with contemporary housing didn’t clash but seemed to compliment each other.

Our first stop was the Singapore Urban Development Authority. This was a great introduction to an even greater city as it allowed us to get our bearings in this fast paced Asian metropolis. Interestingly 85% of Singaporeans reside in high density residences which explains why the urban area is small in comparison to cities like Melbourne.

The higher densities have allowed for an extremely efficient public transport system. If you miss a train you only have to wait about 3 minutes for the next one, refreshing for anyone from Melbourne!

Interactive screens, games and miniature cityscapes allowed us to learn much of the cities urban form and how Singaporeans live and interact with their environment at the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Saturday night provided some fun for some students who went to the Chinese New Year celebrations. Markets lined the streets with thousands of people out enjoying the festivities. 

Stay tuned for the next blog from our adventures as there may or not be footage of a lecturer falling off his bike. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out who it is ;)

- Leon Tremain, Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning
Fourth Year 

Monday 20 January 2014

Anticipating the unknown - a student's perspective

Highlighting a series of expectations for this international study tour is difficult. Especially considering that I will be exposed to foreign cultural, political and environmental elements that help shape Sri Lanka. I have rarely experienced the conditions in a developing nation firsthand and this presents a challenge --  how can I identify the solutions or appropriate responses to planning practice matters in Sri Lanka, if I lack an understanding of how these elements function in a developing nation in the first place?

An open mind should help uncover the appropriate stance and response to the planning practice issues at stake, whilst broadening my horizon in the process. Setting aside any preconceived judgements and opinions that are the cultural roots of my cognitive development in Australia may provide a greater chance to facilitate this learning process.

Finally, I find it much easier to state what I am looking forward to - the food, the culture, the scenery, the practical planning experience and it wouldn’t hurt to get amongst the nightlife and leisure activities. Overall, I am anticipating an adventure and an exciting opportunity to try new things, especially those that place me outside my comfort zone.

Isaac Sharp
Third Year - Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning

Upcoming Singapore and Sri Lanka Study Tour Jan – Feb 2014

On 24 January, an excited group of 25 planning and community development students (undergraduate and post graduate) will depart for an intensive 2-week study tour to Sri Lanka. The study tour will include a brief stopover in Singapore to study urban development in the city-state.

Whilst the study tour to Sri Lanka will be a first for all students involved, it builds on a number of previous tours to various parts of the country (Trincomalee, Hambantota and Uwa). The visit also builds on our longstanding partnership with the University of Moratuwa, Colombo which emanated from the Planning Institute of Australia’s post-tsunami reconstruction project involving lecturer and course founder Trevor Budge and has led to a number of joint student projects and the creation of a dual degree in planning.

The 2014 tour will involve a collaborative project with planning students from the University of Moratuwa and a planning and development studio undertaken at Weligama on the southern coast,  affected by the 2004 Tsunami.   

Next up – how students are anticipating the trip.
Weligama, Sri Lanka - project site
Source: Wikipedia

Welcome to the International Planning Studio Blog

The purpose of this blog is to document, reflect and share students’ experiences and observations of international study tours as part of the subject International Planning Studio.

The Community Planning and Development Program runs regular international study tours, with over 150 students having taken part in trips to North America, Asia and Europe since the subject's inception.  The studio uses international field studies to develop an understanding of global planning issues, urban and community development and cross-cultural planning practice, within developed and developing world cities.

As part of the studio, students complete fieldwork and project activities involving collaborative study and practice with an international planning agency or university.

This blog will provide an insight into each international planning studio as it unfolds and will explore issues such as international planning and development, cross-cultural planning practice, specific site visits, lifestyle, travel, and urban life.

Next up - details on Sri Lanka Study Tour 2014.

Students experiencing local transport during 2012 Sri Lanka Study Tour