Designing the future of an existing neighbourhood involves speculation, compassion and empathy for the people that will one day call this place home.

By 2025, 15,000 residents and 5,000 workers are expected to live and work in Victoria Harbour, the Western part of Melbourne's CBD where Collins and Bourke Street meet near the water. What should this inner-city neighbourhood look and feel like?

To address this question, future ensemble partnered with property group Lendlease to run a RMIT University School of Design studio with 18 Master of Design Innovation and Technology students.

Workshop, 2018 Lendlease + RMIT | what we made | future ensemble

Inspired by Jan Gehl’s award–winning documentary The Human Scale, the recent STUDIOKCA public art project Skyscraper and the Barcelona superblock model, the studio—dubbed Street Level—first explored the cultural dynamics that give an urban district its distinct identity.

Following up on this initial research, the studio then used a speculative design approach to project into the future and look at strategies for temporary or permanent activations of a street section.

The result is a series of interpretations and design concepts that help to illuminate social, environmental and aesthetic problems. Ultimately these studies could inform the design of an entire city block and streetscape at the western end of Collins Street.

Speculative design is not interested in creating new products, services or spaces for an uncertain future. Rather, it is interested in cultivating new ideas and ways of thinking. Perhaps in this case, it will usher in a new, more inclusive and sustainable urban neighbourhood.

Tombolo, 2018 Lendlease + RMIT | what we made | future ensemble
Shared space project Tombolo by Ina Lim, Jennifer Huang and Vida Hu.
Wetland Boulevard, 2018 Lendlease + RMIT | what we made | future ensemble
Rewilding project Wetland Boulevard by Ka Yan Lau and Minglu Zhang.