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09 Nov 2017

Activating vertical villages

The Heart Foundation has long advocated walkable neighbourhoods with connected streets and open spaces to promote physical activity, but what opportunities are there in our high-density vertical villages?

One popular future view of high-density living is that people will give up their cars and become “active transport users” – walking, cycling and running for trams, trains and buses.

And Dr Jennifer Kent, a research fellow at the University of Sydney, agrees that there is certainly a relationship between high density built environments and physical activity. However she also notes that “… higher housing density alone will not make people more or less active.”

So what activity options are available for us of the vertical villages?

Of course there are our increasingly well-appointed (if not always used) building gyms along with such well-established notions as walking groups (though it would be useful if our community associations could compile this information in a central location!).

I have also heard conversations about the use of internal stairs for some friendly inter-building vertical racing – our own Eureka Climb.

Thoughts were that this could be an annual event starting at Docklands, moving the next year to Southbank and then to the CBD.

If the idea of stair racing is unappealing, Royal College of Art graduate Elena Larrib has designed Vycle, a pedal-powered, vertical transportation system that eliminates the need for stairs or lifts by allowing high-rise dwellers to cycle up their buildings. Her vertical transportation concept resembles the front half of a bike attached to a vertical rail, which is fitted to the side of buildings (or even scaffolding!). It is powered by a continuous cyclical movement and balanced with counterweights, meaning that it is only one’s own body weight that needs to be overcome.

Not convinced?

There are some other interesting things happening with bikes – such as Daan Roosegaarde’s smog free bike which generates clean air as you pedal. While still at the concept stage, the Dutch designer sees the bike being implemented through bike sharing programs such as Mobike in China (though such an approach might be a bit contentious in Melbourne at the current time).

Moving on from bikes, there are also options that can be undertaken in the privacy of our own apartments.

Too small you say?

The Holy Grail remains dual function and there are a few cool things I have come across.

Table tennis anyone?

German designer Tobias Fräenzel has created the Ping Pong Door – a two-in-one affair that stores a fold-out ping pong table in your doorway. The table tennis door is literally a door that hinges forward from its centre to become a ping pong table.

When not in use, it looks like a regular door, except it is bright green with a stripe down the middle. But when you swivel it down, it becomes a ping pong table (though not regulation size).

Continuing the theme of dual use, there are also multi-function tables which switch from being, for example, a pool table to a dining table. Or there are ones that double as a pool table and an air hockey rink that may also convert into a dining or boardroom table.

Local manufacturer, All Table Sports, makes a range of these in their factory in Moorabbin, and Enzo of All Table Sports says that if you have something in mind that they don’t already have, talk to him about making one specially tailored for your compact space.

This also could be an option for those vertical villages fortunate enough to have common areas for resident socialising.

Now let the games begin!

If you would like links to the research or organisations mentioned, please visit and like SkyPad Living on Facebook.

Janette Corcoran - Apartment Living Expert

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