All About the Award-Winning Smart Cities Project


Street Furniture Australia recently received a 2018 Australian Smart Cities Award for white paper #BackyardExperiment.

The project was a collaboration between Street Furniture Australia and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, with support from the ACT Government. The park was designed by Context.

The judges describe the project as a “partnership driven and replicable approach to smart cities,” that quantifies the impact of street activation.

Below is a project summary:

The Numbers …

Garema Place is a grey and underused area surrounded by cafe and shops in the heart of Canberra CBD. #BackyardExperiment brought colour, movable furniture, lighting and lawn to the plaza for eight days.

Park design by Context Landscape Architects
Park designed by Context Landscape Architects.

Street Furniture Australia set up three time-lapse cameras to capture data before and during activation. Weekdays and weekend days were compared.

Experiment CalendarData captured before and during activation.

Before activation, time-lapse footage confirmed Garema Place was a thoroughfare. A massive 97% of visitors passed through Garema Place on a typical weekday. Of the dwellers who spent time in the area, 98% were adults. From observation, most of these were from the street and homeless community.

The activation brought results. Time-lapse cameras recorded a 190% rise in foot traffic, and 247% more dwellers in the space. Demographic diversity also increased. Where before the experiment 98% of dwellers were adults, during the activation 264% more social groups (families, friends, couples), and an incredible 631% more children were seen enjoying the space.

Research Findings #BackyardExperiment
Data comparison before and during the experiment.

The increase in foot traffic, dwellers and demographic diversity completely changed the nature of the space. Garema Place became a destination.

The Hashtag …

The hashtag #BackyardExperiment was used by visitors to share their experiences on social media. Local businesses also posted to invite customers to come to the space.

Social media listening formed part of the qualitative assessment of how the project was received. We saw word-of-mouth travel among Canberrans as the community engaged with the space in person and online.

There were frequent requests for the activation to stay longer than the eight days, and for more projects of its kind around the city.

Social Media TestimonialsSocial media listening played an important role in gauging community response.

Community Effort …

The project would not have been possible without the generous contributions from more than 15 collaborators.

Project Leads: Street Furniture Australia and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects
Research, White Paper and Film: Street Furniture Australia
Park Design: Context
Lighting Design: ACT Lighting Society
Lighting Supply: WE-EF LIGHTING and Integral Lighting
Furniture Supply: Street Furniture Australia
Lawn Supply: Lawn Solutions Australia, Horticulture Innovation Australia
Installation: Back2Front Landscapes, Complete Turf and Landscaping, Affinity Electricals
Community: #BackyardExperiment Knitters Group, ACT Libraries, Painting Volunteers


Small Project, Big Impact …

The story of #BackyardExperiment and the impact of relatively simple interventions on a thoroughfare and its community reached an international audience.

It featured on various media channels including ArchDailyCityLab by The Atlantic, ABC Radio Canberra, Architecture&DesignThe Canberra Times, Foreground, Outdoor Design Source and The Real Estate Conversation.

The White Paper has been downloaded from StreetChat more than 5,000 times, and the 10-minute documentary has been viewed online more than 17,800 times.

Backyard Experiment White Paper and VideoDownload the free #BackyardExperiment White Paper (49 pages, 8MB).

Communities from Australia, the US, Denmark, South Africa, Poland, Italy and Canada published social posts and articles in English, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, French, Mandarin and Portuguese.

Global Conversation#BackyardExperiment was tweeted in numerous languages.

On the ground in Garema Place, interviewees told us the experiment had made a difference to locals for the eight days.

George, from the street community, said it brought him joy to be able to mix with different kinds of people.

“It’s been uplifting for the community, everyone now is joining together,” he told us.

“I come here every day. We need more of this, it is a good environment. It’s quite relaxing, you can talk to people, everyone mingles. I have enjoyed it, I think this is great.”

Caitlin Bladin, manager of City Activation team for Canberra’s City Renewal Authority, said, “During #BackyardExperiment I went to Garema Place nearly every day, to talk to people. It was amazing. The place and people in it were transformed.

“One man said he had come back time and time again because it improved his mood. Another woman said we had put a giant smiley face on the city.”

What’s Next?

The findings of #BackyardExperiment have fed into Street Furniture Australia’s research and development program, with Australia’s first smart bench, PowerMe, released this year.

PowerMe is one of many innovations in the pipeline. Smart benches allow dwellers to make use of public places for longer – contacting loved ones, working and relaxing outdoors while staying connected to their networks, apps and city services.

WSU Aria 2S Bianca and Kids-no cable-scR&D is crucial to new product development.

Version 2.0 of #BackyardExperiment is scheduled to launch in February 2019. The ACT government is preparing #WodenExperiment, which will activate Woden Town Square for a six-month period. This unique project will integrate tactical urbanism, user-centred design methodologies and smart technology in one project.

Birds Eye-700
#WodenExperiment will commence February 2019.

Street Furniture Australia is also excited to partner with the University of New South Wales and Georges River Council to uncover the next level of smart city insights. The Smart Social Spaces project will deeply understand how street furniture data and sensors can be used to impact social health and how assets can managed in the digital environment.

HLH Pole InstalledSmart Social Spaces will uncover further smart city insights.

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