brolga lakes eco-development

The University Of Queensland

Project Description

How can we mainstream sustainable development of our suburbs in the face of rapid urbanisation, population growth and respond effectively to the climate emergency?

Michael Myers was determined to break the mainstream suburban development processes and outcomes and embed placemaking in the design process in the suburbs. His project is a suburban development north of Brisbane called ‘Brolga Lakes’. Brolga Lakes is turning a disused mine site into an off grid sustainable suburban development that competes (on price) with nearby master planned suburban communities. Brolga Lakes is an exciting opportunity to respond to the site’s inherent ecological capital, proximity to the coastline and significant koala habitat in the area. Intriguingly, the brownfield site had created a series of artificial lakes which have attracted native birds from the nearby RAMSAR wetlands. The vision for Brolga Lakes is to become an off-grid suburban community utilising on-site solar energy, water harvesting, and waste management and excellence in social and environmental sustainability in suburban design.

In association with the University of Queensland, placemaker John Mongard and project champion Michael Myers, first year urban planning students were invited to participate in a placemaking studio to gain insights into placemaking as a tool for leveraging sustainable suburbs. Students created a series of design ideas to design for ecosystems first, work within the constraints of a mining legacy and toxic site, and foster ongoing restoration of local ecosystems to integrate wildlife and human habitat.

Learning Methodology

Over the course of a 12 week semester, first year planning students were exposed to the theory of what makes a sustainable suburb, critically engaged statutory planning and designed for a live project site.

Students worked collaboratively in small teams to come up with a vision and design for the site and implementation strategies to create a sustainable suburbs. Through theory, practical exercises, a field trip and reflections on a major case study (Brolga Lakes), the students developed an appreciation of the role of teams, stakeholders and negotiation in planning. Students throughout this learning experience gained an appreciation for the central place of sustainable design in the planning and development of Australian suburbs as great places.

If you would like to know more about the weekly studio activities, please see the detailed learning methodology in the posts below.

How does this studio match PlaceAgency Objectives?

This studio created an opportunity for students to work on a live project site. Students learned to design for place, working foremost from an ecological foundation to enable resolution of social and environmental objectives. They explored the challenges of good design within statutory planning regulations and how good design outcomes can be leveraged. Students were encouraged to adopt the role of placemakers rather than designers in their plans for ongoing development of the site.

Activities – Studio Outline

ActivityDescriptionKey dates for activitiesKey learning objectives
Week 2site visit30 july - 5 augspatial analysis
Week 3Debrief of site visit and sustainable suburb research6 Aug - 12 Augreflective skills

Location Description

Burpengary East QLD 4505


Studio Leaders
Laurel JohnsonLaurel Johnson
Project champion

Michael Myer

John Mongard

John Mongard

- Planning

Project Updates

Design challenge and place process

By the end of the subject, students were tasked with delivering a set of design ideas for the site, a vision and implementation strategy for the sustainable development of Brolga Lakes. As this was a live project development, students were…

Detailed Learning Methodology

This Brolga Lakes Eco-development studio is the first placemaking studio for the University of Queensland as part of the nationwide Place Agency Consortium for tertiary students. The purpose of this studio was to take students through aspects of a place-based…