Four Ways we are Driving Better Places for People

People give life to places. Our places need to balance a diverse range of human needs: to socialise and participate in community life, to gain meaningful employment and education or access reliable healthcare, or to take a quiet moment of reflection. 

Achieving this means challenging ourselves to look at new ways to collaborate, inform, and create spaces that meet the social, cultural, educational and wellbeing needs of our past, present and future communities.


Here are four ways WSP is driving better places for people:

  1. Adopting a human-centred lens. This allows us to recognise the unique experiences and behaviours of a diverse cross-section of the community and work to maximise access to opportunities. This approach seeks to meaningfully include communities and end-users as part of an iterative process.

    Where has it been successful?

    • Sydney Metro West, NSW – As the third stage of Australia’s largest public transport project, Sydney Metro West will connect Sydney’s Central River and Harbour Cities. WSP was engaged to provide scoping and definition design to support the final business case development. As part of this role, we undertook an eight-month research program to gain insights from communities in Western Sydney, observing how they live, their travel behaviour and what place means to them. We combined this behavioural research with technologies like virtual reality and data analytics to better understand the human experience of transport. This enabled us to make planning and design decisions that met the needs of current and future communities to maximise access to employment, health, education and social opportunities.

    • Bruce Highway Interchange Upgrade, QLD – The project is part of a plan to improve safety, flood resilience and congestion along the length and breadth of the highway between Brisbane and Cairns. WSP was engaged to provide detailed design for infrastructure and work to the Maroochydoore and Mons Road Interchanges. As part of our approach, we sought to dig deeper into user experience. We combined virtual reality technology, behavioural science techniques and digital engineering data to simulate driver experience and understand ‘why’ driver behaviours occurred and provide practical adjustments to design. This allowed the project team to save costs and improve safety outcomes for public road users.

    The current climate where human behaviours are vastly changing means that we will need to factor in a human centred approach to future design and planning, particularly in transitioning people back to public places.

  2. Keeping sustainability front of mind. As populations continue to grow, space becomes more scarce and we need to find ways to get more out of our existing precincts and places. Keeping sustainability front of mind in the planning and design process will help support places that are liveable and attractive for people to live and dwell in for the long-term. Whether in the precincts we plan or the individual buildings we design, this means creating spaces that support optimised environmental, physical and mental health and wellbeing.

    Where has it been successful?

    • Queens Wharf, QLD – Brisbane’s newest entertainment and lifestyle precinct, the Queens Wharf project aims to improve access to environmental, social and economic opportunities for local community and visitors. Our approach incorporated options for active transport such as upgraded bikeways, an Indigenous Australian trail, as well as sub-tropical design in surrounding buildings with a focus on reflecting the natural features of the local spaces such as lighting and water.

    • Lot Fourteen, SA - Located on the site of the Former Royal Adelaide Hospital, Lott Fourteen is considered one of Australia’s first innovation neighbourhoods and is home to the Space Innovation Precinct – including the Australian Space Agency, Mission Control Facility and Space Discovery Centre. Our approach included designing the space for people to explore, integrating safety through appropriate lighting and security design, adopting measures to reduce acoustic impact of local road and rail, enhancing outdoor amenity and aiming for a carbon neutral precinct. Lott Fourteen was recognised by the International WELL Building Institute as the first development in Australia to pre-certify for a WELL Communities rating and is on on track to achieve a Platinum Standard in this category, a first in the Southern Hemisphere. This is in recognition of the precinct’s initiatives to offer tenants, employees and visitors an environment that promotes wellbeing.

  3. Embedding indigenous cultural identity into our places. Bringing Indigenous perspectives to how we plan and design our spaces and infrastructure recognises Indigenous peoples’ claim as the first custodians of our country. By finding ways to engage with local Indigenous communities and embed their diverse histories and voices into planning and design, we create richer spaces with a unique cultural identity. We also provide a powerful medium for our Indigenous communities to self-identify with the places in which they dwell and attractive spaces for our future communities to thrive.

    Where has it been successful?

    • Southern Program Alliance, VIC – WSP is part of the Southern Program Alliance, who are removing seven level crossings on the Frankston Line in Melbourne, helping to improve connectivity and safety for the local communities. We co-designed many of the spaces in an interactive process with Traditional Owners, who had direct input into decision making. At one of the key sites, Carrum station, we incorporated a diamond pattern and a representation of the eagle ‘Bunjuil’on an urban marker next to Karrum Karrum Bridge. The diamond pattern identifies the Boonwurrung/Bunurong people while Bunjil represents spiritual creator of Port Phillip Bay. Additionally, a yarning circle – an amphitheatre where the community can sit and talk – has been designed and built, leaving a legacy for locals and visitors. Click here to read more about the project.

    • Reid Highway Duplication, WA – This project involved duplication of the road between Altone Road and West Swan Road to improve congestion and safety along a critical freight and arterial road link in Perth, WA. WSP was engaged to undertake tender design and detailed design. Our approach started with the engagement of local Aboriginal Elders and traditional landowner custodians, before presenting and discussing ideas with an Aboriginal Reference Group convened by our client. The result was a design that welcomes visitors to ‘country’. One aspect, the new road bridge incorporated the story of water and food gathering, included shield designs and red, cream and black limestone at each noise wall, as well as embossing a theme of water into the bridge abutments across the highway.

  4. Embracing a culture of co-design between all stakeholders. Planning great places for people to thrive will mean all tiers of government working collaboratively with private organisations to create a vision that sees each city and town as one cohesive, connected and complimentary community. This is made possible by embracing the right culture – one of co-design. This helps to keep us all accountable to deliver better outcomes and brings a diverse opinion from technical specialists in their respective area of expertise and combines this with a local understanding of the key issues and bigger picture.

    Where has it been successful?

    • Westmead Innovation Precinct, NSW – We were engaged to help develop a masterplan for Westmead to become a world-class innovation that is culturally diverse, attractive, productive, accessible, liveable, entrepreneurial, vibrant and unique. We took a highly collaborative approach, involving more than 50 stakeholder workshops, including a 2-day design charrette to harness deep insights into Westmead as a place. This was distilled into 12 masterplan principles which will guide the evolution of the region over time, ensuring that as public and private investment occurs, it does so in a way which remains true to stakeholder visions and creates positive place outcomes for the community.

    • Place-based future transport strategy, Penrith and Liverpool, NSW – WSP was engaged by Transport for NSW to guide the local governments of Liverpool and Greater Penrith to deliver an actionable strategy of transport initiatives aligned with the Greater Sydney Commission’s 2018 Place Plans. We adopted a co-design approach to engage with local stakeholders and understand their vision of place th rough a series of four thematic workshops on Movement and Place, Public and Active Transport, Traffic, Parking and Access and Strategy and Implementation. This process developed a list of transport policy, service and infrastructure improvements which formed a cohesive package which could be taken forward to a Strategic Business case to support the delivery of the agreed vision of place.

Find out more about how we are creating better places for people here.