Lauren Kajewski: Colour, creativity and engagement is key to resilient communities

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Lauren Kajewski presenting at Tomorrowland19

Where would you look to for inspiration to create sustainable, affordable and liveable communities? Landcom’s Lauren Kajewski has some ideas.


Lauren Kajewski, director of sustainability & learning at Landcom, is back from a recent study tour visiting some of the most interesting cities in Europe – Berlin, Vienna and Zurich. 

At Tomorrowland19 I, human Lauren shared her insights, including how some of the world’s leading sustainable, affordable and liveable communities and being created from the bottom up – and what makes them stand out.  

The verdict? “Colour, creativity and the power of community led developments.”

Lauren cited Holzmarkt in Berlin as an exemplar. Originally an abandoned lot on the river Spree, Holzmarkt has evolved from a bar shack in the mid 2000s, to the legendary Bar25 club and village, and is now reimagined as a self-sustaining microcosm.  

The land was to be developed as a major urban infill regeneration, but when talks between the developer and investors collapsed, the land was put out for tender. The original club owners formed a co-operative to lease back the land from a pension fund, with the project’s ambition to show that a city can grow up without losing its soul.  

“There was not a redundant square inch on this site.”

Now Holzmarkt is a vibrant self-sustaining mini community, with self-inflicted commercial restrains including a ban on sale for profit, the community proves that regeneration can happen without gentrification.  

When Lauren looked for what features made the project unique, outside of its innovative financial structure, she found it was ingenious uses of stratum, diverse amenities and co-share arrangements – “there was not a redundant square inch on this site.”

The most innovative use of space was a childcare centre coupled with a nightclub.

This building is used as a childcare centre by day and club by night

“We rarely see such innovative co-use of spaces and amenities. This project uses every level of stratum available to it, starting underground with nightclubs, activating the ground level with beer gardens, restaurants, social enterprises and water access, then layering on co-working spaces, health and wellbeing amenities, childcare and party venues – all on one compact site. The free use of natural materials, quirky design and art ties all of these elements together as a bubbling hive of activity.”

Throughout the tour, the theme of optimising vertical space was prevalent, as was putting the community – rather than individuals – first.  While penthouse levels in Sydney are usually reserved for the highest bidder, common amenities dominated across Berlin, Vienna and Zurich with communal gardens and kitchens, libraries, playrooms, and even guest apartments to lease out over the weekend.

Mid tiers across medium density complexes were for everyday living and home businesses that opened onto communal courtyards; while basements favoured bicycle and scooter parking alongside community workshops for tinkering, and co-op style larders for homemade goods sourced from the rooftop garden, distributed through a swap and share system.  

“Throughout all of the developments we visited, from high end to social housing, there was a strong focus on bringing nature into the city. Medium and high density projects were softened by productive landscapes or shared spaces planted with wildflowers  This brought a sense of beauty and calm to inner urban areas – and a heightened sense of ownership by the community.”

“Creating resilient, adaptive communities is an imperative. Many of the answers we seek are already out there – it’s just a matter of applying them in the Australian context.”

Back in Australia, Lauren says the potential to unlocking many of these opportunities is learning from delivery types that underpinned these success stories – like the Baugruppen, a cohousing model that sees like-minded community members come to share in the cost and also the positive outcomes.

“Everywhere is experiencing demographic change, whether it’s an ageing population or pressure on existing infrastructure – all in the context of a changing climate. 

“Creating resilient, adaptive communities is an imperative. Many of the answers we seek are already out there – it’s just a matter of applying them in the Australian context.

“At the end of my trip, the power of communities with a shared vision was the major takeaway for how we create sustainable, affordable and liveable communities. 

“That passion and power for positive change is an area we as an industry should focus on harnessing. When all of these pieces come together, we have truly resilient communities.”

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