Studio N: Managing Cities at Night

Cities do not stop as the lights go down. If urban areas are now recognised as crucibles of sustainable and equitable development at a planetary scale, little attention is paid to the night, when half of urban activities take place. New 'after-hours' thinking is needed. Evidence is clear to this direction: the night-time economy is a key driver of Australia's growth. It employs 900k people across Australia and generates $128 billion. Around 1-in-9 employees work night shifts, often with low pay and precarious health conditions. Over 2% of Australian households live in ‘food deserts’ where affordability plummets at night-time. Several cities have recognised this, with the recent introduction of night time strategies, pilot programs, night time strategies and commissions, even ‘night mayors’ – not least in London, Amsterdam and Sydney.

This intensive studio is delivered by the Melbourne Centre for Cities. It focuses on ‘night time’ governance, planning and policy for built environment practitioners and offers a venue to further refine interdisciplinary and policy-relevant understanding of urban planning, urban design and architecture at night time for scholarly and professional careers. It presents students with a chance to both test interdisciplinary urban analysis as well as practical (industry and policy) engagement with stakeholders and studio clients.

The studio takes a design approach to produce tangible practice-worthy tools. Students work with instructors and experts (from academia and practice) to identify key night-time challenges for two cities, testing the input provided by diverse mode of thinking about the urban against ‘after-hours’ and ‘24 hour' views of the city.

In 2021, the studio focussed on developing night time precincts in the cities of Melbourne (VIC) and Canberra (ACT). The challenge for studio participants was to learn from national and international cases to then design Melbourne and Canberra’s night time precincts. Students had the opportunity not only to learn about night time governance but connect with experts and stakeholders currently working to shape how Melbourne and Canberra work in practice, sharpening comparison and policy engagement skills.

The studio is suitable for Urban Planning, Urban Design and other MSD disciplines students with strong conceptual three-dimensional thinking, and a high level of communication skills.

Studio outcomes

The studio is centred on eight main learning outcomes, namely:

  • Demonstrate of critical thinking in identifying and engaging with issues related to the night time in cities.
  • Demonstrate systematic/creative thinking and problem solving by analysing how night time issues affect planning, design and construction processes in a particular location.
  • Develop skills in comparative analysis through the joint consideration of distinct contexts.
  • Effectively communicate and convey a sense of design work through strategic use of multiple media tools.
  • Interdisciplinary teamwork and knowledge transfer with built environment practitioners
  • Assess different modes and methods of urban research and their relationship with urban policy practice.
  • Unpack a complex urban (policy) problem from a variety of evidence-based viewpoints.
  • Appreciate the interplay and differences between humanities, natural, engineering, and social science thinking about complex urban problems.

Examples of student work

Harmonious Night Time Economy - Braddon Precinct (ACT)

Night Time Precinct Review - Docklands (VIC)

A Healthier Night Time Economy - Fawkner Park Precinct (VIC)

Find out more

Contact Us Course Handbook

Research at Melbourne Centre for Cities

Studio N: Managing Cities at Night is underpinned by world-leading research from the Melbourne Centre for Cities. View our project page or listen to our Cities After Dark podcast series: