This paper reflects upon a wide range of strategies focused on increasing sustainability of urban design beyond and within the scope of individual buildings. By examining the case study of the Australian city of Newcastle, the paper provides a context for a general debate about the urban design of a sustainable city centre, and discusses how urban design is affected (and can be expected to be even more affected in future) by the new paradigms of ecology.

In this context, the author presents the case study of ‘SolarCity’, which is based on a vision for the revitalisation of Newcastle's city centre. It is an in-progress research and demonstration project, involving Australian and German architects, engineers and industry partners. It deals with cross-cutting issues in architecture and urban design and addresses the question: How to best cohesively integrate all aspects of energy systems, transport systems, waste and water management, climatisation, etc., into contemporary urban design and the environmental performance of eco-buildings?

The ‘SolarCity’ project encapsulates a vision based on the belief that urban revitalisation can be achieved and facilitated through the use of sustainable urban design principles. Consequently, this paper addresses the fundamentals of urban sustainability, such as orientation to the sun, and general strategies for more compact communities. As we begin to fully understand the consequences of our dependency on fossil energy and the automobile, the cost of mobility, and ways to integrate sustainability systems into buildings, it becomes apparent that the common knowledge of aesthetics of urban composition is no longer sufficient.

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