News from previous years

Book review: “Rural people and communities in the 21st century: Resilience and transformation”

10 December 2021

TUDLab’s Rana Dadpour latest publication, a review of “Rural people and communities in the 21st century: Resilience and transformation” Brown, D.L. and Schafft, K. A. 2019, is now available online in the SAGE journal of Progress in Development Studies.

Rana writes: “Brown and Schafft’s approach to resilience in this second edition of Rural people and communities in the 21st century: Resilience and transformation deploys an evolutionary approach which is characterized by an emphasis on transformation and adaptive capacity rather than an equilibrium approach which mainly focuses on a return to original state after a system undergoes disturbance.”

Read the review

State of the Arts in Cairns (SoARTS) Report

9 December 2021

SoARTS report

TUDLab's Lisa Law and Russell Milledge recently submitted the next instalment of the State of the Arts in Cairns (SoARTS) Report 2020 to the Cairns Council's Ordinary Meeting.

Watch the video (from 1:41:41 in the recording).

2021 Australia’s Climate Champion Award

19 November 2021

TUDLab’s Sophie Barrett and the Cairns Regional Council’s sustainability team who won the national Climate Champion Award at the Cities Power Partnership!

Cairns Regional Council is the only Queensland council to receive an award this year!

Cairns Regional Council

“The award recognises the work of climate heroes in local governments across the country, in the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, community engagement, ambition, collaboration and innovation.”

Read more about the Climate Champion Award.(link discontinued)

2021 Minister’s Planning Award

16 November 2021

TUDLab is very happy to share news that the very talented Sarah Gibson, an Honours student in JCU: James Cook University, Australia Planning, just took out the 2021 Minister’s Planning Award for “Best thesis or research project award” (Queensland Government State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning).

Sarah Gibson

Her thesis explored the ‘missing middle’ of housing supply in Cairns:

From the Award committee: “Housing supply, diversity and affordability is one of the most significant contemporary issues effecting people across the state. Sarah’s exploration into key opportunities and limitations for medium density housing to address key urban development challenges in Cairns, provides a practical contribution to how diverse forms of medium density housing could support effective infill to help regional centres like Cairns achieve housing affordability, housing diversity and sustainable urban growth. Sarah’s holistic consideration of planning for this housing typology in a regional context represents a significant advancement of regional or town planning techniques.”

Find out more about the winners.

Book Review: ‘Food, Senses and the City’

8 November 2021

TUDLab’s PhD candidate Rachael Walshe has published her first paper, a milestone in any academic career. Join us as Rachael explores the book ‘Food, Senses and the City’ a new book highlighting the sensual importance of food to every culture.

Read the review of Food, Senses and the City.

TUDLab cooperation with Smithfield State High School

29 October 2021

TUDLab's Lisa Law delivered a guest lecture to Smithfield State High School students in October 2021 about the role of the master plan in creating sustainable, liveable places in the tropics. Year 10 Sustainability students had the amazing opportunity to work on and understand tropical urbanisation in our city. Lots of great minds asking great questions, so hopefully some future urban planning students for JCU: James Cook University, Australia!

Lisa Law presenting at Smithfield State High School

TUDLab and Advance Cairns Catch Up

27 October 2021

TUDLab caught up with Dr Paul Sparshott, CEO of Advance Cairns in October 2021 to discuss shared interests regarding the growth management planning happening in Cairns over the next few years. Cairns is a long linear city with fantastic opportunities for transit-oriented development with jobs and public transport built into urban growth to avoid the problems of long commutes in bigger cities. Working across silos is an important agenda for future-proofing Cairns. Good to see Advance Cairns advancing this conversation in the city!

TUDLab and Advance Cairns catchup

Youth, industry and community Climate Summits

19 September 2021

Cairns Regional Council and TUDLab member Sophie Barrett, with the facilitation assistance of TUDLab’s Urbi Winsome Terry, held a Youth Climate Summit attended by 16 high schools in Cairns and the Tablelands.

Attendees at the Climate Summit 2021

At the industry and community Climate Summit, experts in city planning and sustainability, including TUDLab’s Lisa Law, Rachael Walshe, Roger Mainwood LFRAIA, and Colin Macgregor, provided input into the development of the Cairns Climate Change Strategy 2030.

Youth, industry and community Climate Summits provide input into Climate Change Strategy for a sustainable tropical city.

Read more:

Watch the Youth Climate Summit video.

New Book Chapter: 'Leading from the North'

10 September 2021

TUDLab’s Lisa Law co-authored a chapter in the newly published book Leading from the North. This free book aims to improve public dialogue around the future of Northern Australia to underpin robust and flexible planning and policy frameworks.

Leading from the North book cover

A number of areas are addressed including social infrastructure, governance systems, economic, business and regional development, climate and its implications, the roles and trends in demography and migration in the region.

Read more:

Tropical lifestyles, tropical stories

2 September 2021

The Social Sciences are key to understand and appreciate humanity, society and the institutions which govern our daily lives. Tropical Urbanism and Design Lab (TUDLab) celebrates the 4th National Social Sciences Week (September 6-12, 2021) by reflecting on the insights of TUDLab's Nick Osbaldiston, Associate Professor in Sociology at James Cook University, Australia, into sociologists’ valuable research and what it can tell us about different lifestyles.

Read the article: Tropical lifestyles, tropical stories

Hope and expectation: why Aussies are going regional

27 August 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone into their homes, many people in large urban areas began to consider the possibilities of where else they could call “home”. PhD Candidate and Researcher at JCU’s Tropical Urbanism and Design Lab, Rana Dadpour, a recent migrant to regional Australia herself, took notice of the sudden influx of ex-urban residents in Cairns and decided to discover what led these newcomers to choose regional living.

Read the full story in This Is Uni.

A living lab for the Tropics

25 August 2021

A far-reaching article on TUDLab’s work including an interview with the TUDLab’s founder, Associate professor Lisa Law has been published on JCU media.

Through collaboration with regional councils, industry partners, community members and JCU: James Cook University, Australia students TUDLab has developed world-class master plans for regional towns that create a legacy of sustainability and liveability throughout Northern Queensland.

As Associate Professor Lisa Law mentions in an interview with JCU’s Hannah Gray, “Creating communities and landscapes that are vibrant, sustainable, and fit for their populations is a task that requires many perspectives and abilities.”

Read the article: Collaborating for brighter communities

TUDLab's tropical town masterplans awarded the Minister's Award for Urban Design 2021

24  August 2021

The MASTER PLAN Award was given to the Project entitled “Tropical Design Studio: Strategic Concept Masterplans in Northern Queensland Country Town”, for a location encompassing the Tablelands Regional Council, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council as well as the Hinchinbrook Shire Council. The winning team constitutes the Tropical Urbanism and Design Lab (TUDLab) at James Cook University (JCU) in cooperation with TPG Architects, CA Architects as well as LA3 Landscape Architecture. The jury wrote …..“this visionary master planning process provides a comprehensive strategic framework for each of the country towns involved, encouraging ’bigger picture’ thinking to resolve and improve issues unique to each town. The jury notes the quality of every town matters - with a limited opportunity to build economic resilience in communities if they are to be places where people want to live, work or visit. The methodology employed has assisted to build community capacity and resilience as part of the urban design process.”

minister's award for urban design cover. group photo.

Brilliant collaboration with Lisa Law, Roger Mainwood, Gisela Jung, Andrew Prowse, CA Architects, TPG Architects, LA3, Cassowary Coast Regional Council, and Tablelands Regional Council!

TUDLab’s Lisa Law joins the Australian Geographer journal

10 August 2021

TUDLab's Lisa Law has been appointed to the Editorial Board of Australian Geographer, the Journal of the Geographical Society of New South Wales in July.

Australian Geographer cover

“Australian Geographer reflects and celebrates Geography’s diversity of philosophical and methodological approaches, encompassing the physical and social sciences and humanities. With efficient and rigorous peer-review, and typically rapid path to publication, articles in Australian Geographer report on timely empirical research, advance new concepts, intervene in current debates, and/or encourage readers to rethink social, environmental, economic and political issues through analysis of new evidence.

The journal emphasizes accessible, high-quality writing that communicates clearly to a wide-ranging readership across academic, educational, policy and general interest communities. Australian Geographer publishes full research articles, book reviews and forums, special issues, research notes and our distinctive “Thinking Space” commentaries in which geographers provide informed opinion on current public debates.”

Read more and check out latest publications:

Book launch - Predatory Urbanism

On July, 2 2021 a book launch event was chaired by TUDLab's Simona Azzali. The book title is Predatory Urbanism - The Metabolism of Megaprojects in Asia - by Agatino Rizzo and Anindita Mandal and published by Edward Elgar as part of their Cities Series.

The book launch discussed pressing challenges facing the contemporary cities in the Global South and also aimed to address the complex interrelationships between city making and all the resources needed for its design, implementation and production.

Predatory Urbanism cover.

The session, chaired by Simona Azzali, was an open debate in which the speakers reflected on the various issues treated in the book, with discussions led by the two authors of the volume, Agatino Rizzo and Anindita Mandal, and leading experts on urbanization and city making in the Global South: Alessandro Melis, Natalie Koch and Vadim Rossman. 

The session was part of the collateral events of the 2021 architecture Venice Biennale and was streamed on the Facebook Page Resilient Communities_Venezia.

St Monica's High School geography project

TUDLab has been working with Geography students from St Monica’s High School to map and mitigate the urban heat island in tropical Cairns. During the first week of July 2021, A/Prof Lisa Law gave a guest lecture and walking tour where students measured the city’s microclimates with handheld weather meters. For the next few weeks students will write a report suggesting mitigation strategies. To see more visit the TUDLub LinkedIn.

stundents in cairns city.

students on Cairns Esplande.

students looking at a map

Coastal Manager tour of Cairns Beaches

TUDLab’s Sophie Barrett (Sustainability Advisor, Cairns Regional Council), led Coastal Managers on a tour of Cairns Beaches as part of the national Coast to Coast Conference during the last week of July. The 15thCoast to Coast biennial conference organised by the Australian Coastal Society (ACS Ltd) in Cairns, 26-29 July.

This field trip focused on contemporary examples of coastal management that have been implemented in Cairns including rock walls, sand nourishment, groynes, and erosion on the Cairns Northern Beaches (Machans Beach, Holloways, and Yorkeys Knob). TUDLab ( Tropical Urban Design Lab) at James Cook University had a chance to talk about and discuss the challenges and opportunities these present, and also the role that nature-based solutions or hybrid solutions can offer. Moreover, how these options interact with foreshores and enhance amenity, including the potential for integrating nature-based options into traditionally hard engineered options were discussed.

Iain Brown & Sophie Barrett from Cairns Regional Council, David Rissik from BMT, Shannon Haines from Ethos Urban (EU), and Dr Lisa Law the founder of TUDLab hosted the tour and looked at the outcomes of the Cairns Coastal Hazard Adaptation Strategy and Councils long-term planning from now until 2100 to address sea-level rise, erosion, and storm tide inundation and the changes expected over time and how these will be considered at these localities.

coastal managers on a beach.

coastal managers near rock wall.

Numbers and Narratives

State of the Arts in Cairns (SoARTS) 2019 Report

TUDLab’s Lisa Law and Russell Milledge launched the inaugural 2019 State of the Arts in Cairns (SoARTS) Report at a stakeholder forum at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre in Cairns on 16 March 2021. The Report is the first baseline report which provides independent monitoring of the Cairns Regional Council’s Cultural Strategy over a five year period. The event was opened by Traditional Owner Henrietta Marrie and included a speech by Stephen Foster, Manager of Cultural Services, Cairns Regional Council.  Professor Sandra Gattenhof, QUT, delivered a keynote that explored how to measure the impacts of culture and arts. The launch was followed by a workshop exploring themes related to the next report, to be delivered later this year.

Read more about SoARTS

SoArts poster

Person giving lecuture

Call for Papers

Healthy Cities: Effective Urban Planning Approaches to a Changing World 
(Urban Planning special issue, Volume 7, Issue 4)

Submission of Abstracts: 1-15 December 2021
Submission of Full Papers: 15-30 April 2022
Publication of the Issue: October/December 2022

Editors: Elmira Jamei (Victoria University, Australia), Simona Azzali (James Cook University Singapore), Hendrik Tieben (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong) and K Thirumaran (James Cook University Singapore)

The WHO Healthy Cities initiative was conceived with the goal of placing health as the top priority on the cities’ agenda, through promoting healthy urban planning, sustainable development and innovative multisector change. In fact, Healthy Cities is a strategic vehicle for health development and well-being in urban settings which puts people and communities at the heart of the urban planning process. Given the rapid change in today’s world (population growth, natural hazards, climate change, and outbreak of new diseases), Healthy Cities has gained new attention and significant prominence in the context of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (particularly SDGs 3-11).

This thematic issue welcomes original research articles and case studies that promote Healthy Cities initiative through urban planning and aims to form a debate on how health is impacted by different sectors, projects, and policies.

Themes of the issue include but are not limited to:

  • Healthy urban planning for an ageing population;
  • Climate change impacts on health;
  • Urban planning responses to COVID-19;
  • Protecting communities from natural hazards;
  • Disaster Management and resilience through healthy urban planning;
  • Walkability and public health;
  • Capacity building and policy transfer for healthy cities;
  • Planning for well-being and mental health;
  • Blue-Green-Grey Infrastructure and Healthy Cities;
  • Healthy Cities and Sustainable Economy and Tourism;
  • People-Centred Cities.

For more information and submission details, please visit the Urban Planning special issue

Holy Cross Students visit to James Cook University

On 23 March 2021, TUDLab hosted Year 5 and 6 girls from Holy Cross Primary School at the Cairns/Nguma-bada campus.  The girls are designing a park in the surrounding Smithfield Village neighbourhood, and they came to learn more about studying planning and urban design at JCU.  They toured the Ideas Lab and Library, and did some model building in the TUDLab. To see a video of their visit see here:

Holy Cross School visit

Book launch: Tropical Constrained Environments and Sustainable Adaptations

TUDLab’s Simona Azzali have teamed up with JCUS’ K Thirumaran and co-edited a volume for Springer that investigates resource-constrained environments in the tropics and subtropics.

The Tropics are home to nearly half the world’s population, have rapid population growth forecast, and significant economic and social inequality challenges. Significant urbanisation is underway in Southeast Asia. Issues like poverty, inequality, unsustainable energy consumption and declining infrastructure will shape government and business decisions for years to come. It is critical to find creative and sustainable but also very concrete solutions to address most pressing urban issues and build tropical resilience and developing research and design capability in areas related to urbanisation and sustainable adaptations in the tropics, by engaging with industry and bridging academic knowledge and real-world issues to create better tropical environments.

While there is plenty more to explore in the study of tropical constrained environments, Tropical Constrained Environments and Sustainable Adaptations is a strong start.

Read the press release.

Planning for COVID-driven regional growth

4 February 2021

image of castle hill and city

TUDLab’s Lisa Law says planning for pandemic-fuelled population growth in regional cities and towns needs to take into account the needs of newcomers and the wishes of people who already live in those locations.

Read the full article.

2020 Awards for Planning Excellence

The TUDLab took out the Commendation for Cutting Edge Research and Teaching at the 2020 Awards for Planning Excellence in Brisbane on 6 November this year.

Awards for Planning Excellence banner.

The Commendation was for the “Tropical Design Studio: Strategic concept masterplans for northern Queensland country towns” and was awarded to the TUDLab with CA Architects, LA3 Landscape Architecture and TPG Architects. The team are absolutely delighted to be recognised for the work they have been doing for the past five years. They have developed an important process that allows them to work inter-disciplinarily and across the usual silos, while at the same time giving JCU Planning students a grounding in urban design, the challenging but important work of community consultation and how to come up with solutions that result in regionally responsive outcomes for everyone.

This Commendation is an acknowledgement of the importance of creating a more responsive approach to planning and design for the Tropics.

TUDLab team accepting the commendation.

The TUDLab team accepting the commendation. Photo courtesy of Planning Institute of Australia QLD.

JCU Symposium 5 November 2020

TUDLab is hosting an event at the JCU Ideas Lab Thursday 5 November. The event will consider the impact of COVID-19 on public spaces in Cairns, a tourist city that has been significantly disrupted by the pandemic.

The event will discuss the impact of the pandemic from the vantage point of tourism, the economy, regional development and the role of arts and culture in recovery. TUDLab be presenting a COVID response document to Cairns Regional Council suggesting how to revive public spaces in a disrupted tourist city.  It is a collaborative effort across our TUDLab team and JCU Planning students.

JCU symposium banner.

Article - Town Planning Review

TUDLab’s Lisa Law and Simona Azzali have teamed up with Sheila Conejos and published an article in Town Planning Review about the temporary uses of public spaces during COVID-19 and the potential of these measures to become a force for lasting change.

COVID-19 is altering our use of, and behaviour in, public space – from physical and social distancing to staying at home or even leaving the city altogether. They are concerned with how long people will tolerate new techniques of surveillance and control, but also show how local governments are opening up streets to give more public spaces back to pedestrians. These developments can produce lasting strategies for liveable, economically viable and resilient public space.

Read the full article: Temporary urbanism and public space in a time of COVID-19

Special issue - eTropic, September 2020

Sustainable Tropical Urbanism: Tropical cities in a warming world

Simona Azzali, Lisa Law (guest editors)

Tropical urbanisation grew from 31% in 1980 to 45% in 2010. In Southeast Asia alone, urban dwellers increased from 110 million to 360 million over the same period and almost 50% of people now live in urban environments. All parts of the tropical world demonstrate urban intensities in specific ways – from South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Tropical Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands, the Pacific, the Tropical North of Australia and Deep South of the USA.

While the future of tropical cities is diverse, malleable, and creative – reflecting an increasingly connected and global world – under-regulated urban growth can result in inefficient, inequitable and unsustainable urban environments. As we expect big changes in cities, we also need big changes in city planning, design, and urban lifestyles, along with changes that can address climatic, environmental, and socio-economic challenges. This issue includes a wide range of contributions from academic researchers, practising planners and architects, students in urban planning and design interested in understanding tropical cities.

15 February

Territorians' gardening habits could be to blame for nation-topping water use

10 May

Building tropical cities of the future

9 July

Off the press: The tropical backyard: performing environmental difference

27 September

1st Sustainable Tropical Urbanism Symposium: Tropical cities in a warming world

Organising Committee: Simona Azzali, Lisa Law, Penjii Wang, Jacob Wood

On September 27 2019, JCU Singapore hosted the 1st Sustainable Tropical Urbanism Symposium: Tropical cities in a warming world. It was an insightful event that brought together more than 70 academics, researchers, practitioners, and students from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Australia, and the US. Delegates discussed contemporary pressing issues as methods for tropical urban research, how tropical cities respond to the climate in an era of climate change, creation and curation of tropical space and place, and new regulations and policies for the tropical city. After inspiring keynote talks and parallel sessions, the event ended with a workshop on design communication, a walking tour in the vibrant Geylang neighbourhood and a visit to first Singapore’s urban farm, Citizen Farm in Penjara.

18 April

Cairns Gallery Precinct update and architectural workshop

30 May

JCU researchers in final planning phase for Ravenshoe Town

13 September

Beyond the palm tree: rethinking tropical urbanism

28 November

“Resort tourism meets rainforest feral”? It’s time to rethink the tropical city

26 October

Building, landscaping and infrastructure: How should Townsville and NQ design?


Design Thinking Drawing, Cairns: Tropical Urbanism