Rod Simpson, Urban Designer and Environment Commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission

The idea of the metropolitan Sydney being comprised of ‘three cities’ in the future is a way of encapsulating and harnessing the potential of the Western Sydney Airport to improve equitable access to employment, education and cultural. 

This economic and investment strategy has been overlain by a characterization of the first city as the ‘harbour’ city, the second centred on Parramatta the ‘river’ city and the third as the western future ‘parkland’ city as suggested by the AILA. 

These characterisations suggest particular relationships to the past and future landscape, and roughly correspond historically to the unplanned city driven by infrastructure and urban projects, the second as the modernist technocratic ‘knowable city’ and the third as the resilient city that recognises complexity and emergence as the key opportunity and challenge for its planning. 

The conceptualisation of the ‘third city’ can be seen as a utopian exercise that is, and always has been at the core of landscape, planning and urban design: how can the city be made better? The articulation of values and desirable characteristics of the future resilient city can provide the basis for analysis and critiques of the first and second cities, and at the same time identify desirable or useful characteristics of the first and second cities that might be adopted in the third city. 

In this way, the ‘third’ city is both prospective and reflective, and provides the basis for remaking the existing city as much as designing the new and future city.

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