Jess Miller on how to design a more liveable urban Sydney

Jess Miller.

To what extent have you noticed an increase in green urban spaces across Sydney encourage improved social connections amongst the community?

The City of Sydney is the only major city to have increased its urban green space in the past decade.

The improved social connection has come via a range of new parks and green spaces, especially throughout the southern part of the City where trees provide a major benefit to the streetscape, but also in smaller ways through pocket parks and upgrades of nature strips, and laneways.


How do these green urban spaces improve mental health in the community?

The type of green space often determines the type of health benefit. For example, social spaces like the Sydney City Farm overcome isolation and loneliness by providing people with an excuse to talk to one another.

‘Worm-tickling’ and getting your hands in the soil, is also thought to have anti-depressant benefits through exposure to soil microbes, while beautiful tree-lined streets make walking and cycling desirable and possible (it’s not too hot).


Do you think there is more community education and awareness needed around this idea of ‘naturally urban’?

There’s a massive opportunity to involve the community in helping determine what a new ‘wild’ or ‘natural’ urban aesthetic might be.

Our First Nations community and Connection to Country frameworks offer a really clear way into understanding relationships between different aspects of nature as well as our relationship to it.


How can the idea of ‘naturally urban’ contribute to a more liveable and sustainable Sydney for future generations?

Urban systems to a large extent have been designed in a way that puts humans at the centre, to our own detriment. Urban heat islands (and continents) are a really clear example of how building out every square metre of a place makes it uninhabitable.

The antidote is to reintroduce living infrastructure – trees and plants, but also simple things like permeable pavements and in-between spaces that allow for water to be re-absorbed into the bores. There are layers to it, but to get the biodiversity back – the birds and bugs and critters – you need to replenish the habitat.


Is there a particular space or area in Sydney that you feel exemplifies this idea of ‘naturally urban’? What are some of its defining characteristics?

Sydney Parks is an excellent example. It was formerly the repository for the City’s urban waste, but has been rehabilitated to become a place where there is nature, recreation, dog-walking, a water treatment system and even a skate park.

It is very well-loved and represents the symbiotic relationships between people and nature that make places better.


For more information, visit the Vivid Sydney website.

One Central Park, Chippendale, Sydney. Image by Paul Lovelace.