AECOM is looking to the community to direct the next steps of Sydney's urban future.

The company has teamed up with this year’s Sydney Design Festival to launch Sydney  Connected, an interactive, online initiative that is designed to generate a city-wide conversation around a range of issues influencing Sydney’s future development and success.

Via an online survey, which opened August 6, Sydneysiders, visitors and those with links to the Harbour city are invited to share their opinions on issues ranging from business growth and new industry development to social diversity, transport links and the emergence of city precincts.

The survey insights will then be shared at an AECOM-hosted industry event on August 28 which will be attended by some of the city’s key decision-makers.

AECOM managing director – Design, Planning & Economics, James Rosenwax said the initiative reflected the firm’s commitment to engaging with industry and communities to identify what cities need to flourish amid rapid demographic, technological and socio-economic change.

“We are increasingly seeing communities play a role in guiding decision-makers as they shape the cities they want to live in,” he said. “As Australia becomes more urbanised, the nexus between community and industry is becoming more important in defining the shape and composition of our cities, and for how people live, work and relax.”

He said striking the proper balance between industry and community needs is crucial, particularly given that Sydney’s population is expected to boom to six million in the coming decades.

“AECOM embraces this complexity and Sydney Connected provides a fantastic opportunity for the community to generate ideas and momentum to ensure tomorrow’s Sydney maintains its status as a connected and competitive city,” he said.

Rosenwax said the design of many urban projects used to be a conversation reserved for government and industry professionals, but there is now a rapidly growing trend of consulting the people who will actually live, work and play in these environments.

The public can even offer opinions on aesthetics, with a host of design projects exhibited prior to being given the go-ahead, as was the case with Melbourne’s iconic Flinders Street Station competition. Here the government released the final contenders for the stations’ design before announcing the winner.


“Communities are key stakeholders when we begin to consider the trend towards infill urban redevelopment in our capital cities,” Rosenwax said. “These precincts are getting larger and more diverse, and AECOM has found engagement with the community provides not only an important perspective in influencing the shape of development, but also encourages buy-in; community inclusion in the process leads to richer and more successful urban outcomes.”

“We are getting greater access to community and other stakeholders through rapidly-changing communications platforms.  Augmented reality, 3D visualisations and social media provide outstanding real-time means of soliciting feedback and input into the design process.”

In addition to the Sydney Connected online survey, iPad installations will be available to complete the survey in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, while a one-day pop-up consultation on Saturday August 23 at the Rozelle Markets and EQ Village Markets will further boost participation.

For Sydney Connected, AECOM leaned on its people-powered Melbourne NEXT event earlier this year.

With similar objectives, Melbourne NEXT formed an industry response to the Melbourne Now study which received over 8,000 Melbourne community responses on how the city might address challenges relating to population growth, water and energy security, transport planning, healthy living and urban sprawl.

For an example of the time of findings AECOM might expect from the Sydney survey, here is what the firm uncovered from the community from Melbourne NEXT:

  • A focus on  transport that better connects (38 per cent), including public transport and active modes of travel such as walking and cycling;
  • Incentives to reduce carbon emissions and cautious use of constrained energy and water resources;
  • To build a competitive, knowledge economy with a great education system (33 per cent).

This sort of community collaboration strategy is likely to grow across Australian cities. It allows the government, developers and design professionals to capitalise on community input and increase the dialogue for their projects. As urban cities rapidly evolve to serve the people in them, it makes sense to consult the very people living in them.