Gold Coast Image Project Profile

by John Mongard Landscape Architects

The City In The Eyes Of Its' Residents

How do communities view their cities? How can they influence and inform the planning of the city?

Kevin Lynch in his classic study 'The image of the city', proposed that agencies should attempt to bring residents and their values into the decision making process of city planning. Despite much analytical application of 'City Image' principles since the 1960's, there have been few regional studies done in Australia which research and investigate city image in an applied manner. Little policy has actually gone beyond merely accepting Lynch's tenets of 'edge, nodes, districts'.

'Landscape character: Guiding the Image of the City' is the first study of its kind in Australia. It attempts to straddle the strategic plan of Gold Coast City with the neighbourhood/site planning scales, so that planners, developers and residents can understand how to work within an agreed 'city image' vision.

The study is the first of its kind to develop strategy maps which become core elements to the experiential planning of the Gold Coast. These maps will have the force of planning law, and will allow a Council to finally argue about development which is disruptive to a city's regional image and amenity.

The study is also the first of its kind to implement neighbourhood scale 'visual diaries', which have been developed working closely with over ten different communities. The images and words in each diary reflect each communities particular values and nuances. They are written in a non-technical, communicative language which matches the language of residents. Those communities will participate in developing visual diaries for their own suburbs as time goes on, thus forming a complete picture of the city in the eyes of its own residents.

How The City's Image Was Captured

The brief from the Gold Coast City Council requested a city wide strategy that could also be implemented at the local area plan level. Given the parochial nature of what leaders in most cities think is good or bad for a city's image, it was important to develop a very straightforward method for not only allowing local people to pro-actively participate in image valuing, but also to allow them to view and reflect on the values at the same time.

The methodology came to be known as 'visual diary mapping' and comprised of three main elements:

  • Photo image valuing
  • Residents' cognitive mapping
  • Synthesis by John Mongard Landscape Architects

The consultation process was further defined by a strict budget, which meant that the management of all the community groups had to be expertly handled. The process is shown on the attached chart.

Using current ideas about communicative marketing and community development, the image study became focused around a series of 2/3 page diaries, so that a developer or resident need only read a compact document. The visual diaries are thus designed to be stand alone brochures.

What Is The Link Between Environmental Quality And City Image?

In the planning and environment courts, it has always been difficult to argue about landscape values, visual amenity and city image. This is because of the paucity of applied precedents within existing planning mechanisms and a lack of understanding about meanings and definitions related to a city's image. If the planners didn't know how to define amenity, then how was a local resident supposed to be able to understand it?

These premises underpin the study undertaken for Gold Coast City. The study through its communicative process has explained, shared and educated city residents in the role and value of the image of their city. The study output is a series of diaries wrapped within a strategic framework, however its major achievement is transparent - it is about the power of knowledge sharing through a participatory process. Each community who have participated will be mailed a copy of the visual diary which they participated in and brochure copies can be handed to any developer or consultant who needs a quick briefing on local city image values.

The study has just been completed and printed in August 2000. As part of the final stages of implementing the study, training and education seminars will be given to Council officers so that they understand how to apply the image principles in their daily work. Further community seminars may be held to spread further knowledge about the city's plan to improve its image and landscape character. This will complete the iterative educational cycle which has been part of the project.

Why The Image Of A City Is Important

Great cities are memorable. These memories are the bedrock of tourism for places such as Venice, New York and Paris, which all have world renowned city images. Venice is remembered as a city of water, Paris as a romantic place of boulevards and cafés, and New York as a dazzling place of skyscrapers. How is the Gold Coast City remembered by people? Does the image of the city match the expectations of its visitors? Do the residents of the Gold Coast celebrate their city's image?

The great cities of the world have a unique image which is built on a strong combination of great architecture and spectacular landscapes. The landscape of the city is thus critical for the development of a strong city image. This study focuses on the landscape character of the Gold Coast: how it is and how it could be in the future.

The City of Gold Coast has a unique character which defies conventional visual assessments based on history and pristine scenery. This character is also much more fluid than in most cities, with ongoing rapid growth and urban transformation. Despite all the man-made changes, the city has a background of interesting and varied geographies and landscapes, which provide cues for future places through their originating sense of place. These landscapes also provide cues for lifestyle and social goals which can be promoted by the city.

The cultural and ecological landscapes of the city are thus a linking fabric. The character of these landscapes is critical for the image of the Gold Coast, particularly if it is to continue to promote itself as an international tourism destination.

In tourism, image is everything. In real estate, location is everything. This study has a challenging mandate to assist developers, Council and the community to direct and foster an appropriate landscape in all parts of the city. The landscape of many areas of the City of Gold Coast is dominated by people, activity and man-made places, rather than by trees and vegetation. This condition requires innovative approaches to define an ongoing character. Developers need clear cues to assist in determining a desirable landscape in their area and on their site.

The Landscape Character: Guiding the Image of the City study aims to assist in promoting enhancing the elements that contribute to the creation of a great landscape in the City of Gold Coast: a series of experiences which make each part of the city a vivid and memorable place. The green behind the gold is a significant rallying cry for the creation of a world class city in the Gold Coast: How can this vision be implemented on a day to day basis? This policy identifies the 'big picture' of the city as a whole, and then invites planners and developers to look at the unique character of each part of the city. The policy asks all those involved in the growth of the city to promote this landscape character through appropriate buildings, streetscapes and landscapes.

Landscape character is a slippery thing: It has tended to be poorly defined in planning documents, leading to problems in court. This policy aims to analyse and describe character issues in the City of Gold Coast in everyday language so that the image of the City of Coast City can be guided clearly. This policy also integrates many other reports containing directions on the city'slandscape, and these are outlined in the list of references.

The landscape character of the City of Gold Coast is described in this study in a series of visual diaries. These visual diaries have been developed out of extensive consultations with people from Gold Coast City. By applying these visual diaries to new development in the city, developers can assist the Council in building a memorable city which will attract world-wide tourism and encourage city pride from residents.

What Is The Image Of A City?

City image is the image of the city which people carry around in their minds. People remember their most vivid experiences: memories of the places which they visit and live in. When cities have a poor image, people can become disoriented and disinterested in their surroundings: visitors take back with them negative impressions and few photographs, and residents feel little pride in the place they live in.

Some of the city memories that people carry with them are urban, some are rural or environmental, and some in between. The character of the landscape is a major contributor to peoples' impressions about a place.

Postcards and tourist brochures are highly revealing about a city's memorable features. They show the images of the city which its people feel will attract visitors and tourists. In the study, we have shown a typical selection of the types of images which are currently being used to market the image and landscape character of Gold Coast City.

What is clearly evident in the current marketing of Gold Coast City is that it strongly focuses on the 'green and the gold' of the city - the excitement of the beachside high-rise resorts, in contrast with the serene and green subtropical scenes of the hinterlands. What is missing however is the large areas of 'brown' in the city's landscape: its suburban core. The study aims to help the 'brown' areas to become more identifiable, and to define by districts the unique 'green' and 'gold' landscapes that need to be protected and enhanced.

For Further Information Contact:
John Mongard Landscape Architects
Ph: (07) 3844 1932
Fax: (07) 3844 3250