21.3 The City of Short Distances - a new model for sustainable urban development

Chris Ryan , The Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Responding to climate change requires much more than the redesign of existing goods and services. We need new systems of ‘low-carbon’ production and consumption with new infrastructure and new patterns of living that are resilient, robust under climate induced challenges. What does this mean for the processes of urban design and (re)development?

A project initiated in Melbourne in 2007, a collaboration between four universities and hundreds of professionals, has set out to revision the fundamental structures of the city based around a paradigm switch to distributed systems and the re-localisation of production and consumption. Melbourne in twenty-five years time is conceived as a ‘city of short distances’, describing relationships of mobility as well as the production and consumption of life-critical resources – energy, water and food.  This vision has been used to engage with processes of local transition and transformation for existing communities as well as for the design of new 'eco-city' developments.  All these projects aim to change expectations about the ‘trajectories of development’.  In this process the terms 'distributed systems' and ‘short distances’ rather than decentralisation because the ‘re-localisation’ of production and consumption takes place within networks of interdependence at larger scales – regional, national, global. The concept, process and outcomes of these projects will be described and compared to other established programs which aim to transition communities and cities to a sustainable form.