Industrial Revolution

An evidence-based framework for capturing the tacit + future values of Melbourne’s ‘National Employment and Innovation Clusters’.


  • Dr Lee-Anne Khor
    Dr Maud Cassaignau
    Monash Art, Design and Architecture
  • Markus Jung
  • Assoc Professor Seamus O’Hanlon
    Monash Arts (History)
  • Assoc Professor Lionel Frost
    Monash Business (Economics)
  • Dr Simone Sharpe
  • Pearl Dempsey

Funded by

The sheer territorial extent of postwar urbanization calls for a regional approach if one is to comprehend their overall spatial pattern. The danger of analyzing suburban environments on the regional scale is that often they are treated as homogenous areas with some differentiation made only in terms of their use (e.g. residential versus employment zones). Analysis on the micro scale, however, reveals those environments as much more complex and diverse in terms of their compositions and physical characteristics.

Kiril Stanilov and Brenda Case Scheer, Suburban Form: An International Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2004)

Post-war industrial centres in Melbourne’s middle suburbs are at the epicentre of economic, social and planning changes, as advanced technologies and emerging industries are ushered into contemporary productivity networks. A number of now former industrial zones that once housed ‘old industries’ and were an integral ingredient of suburban living, growth and development, have recently been declared ‘National Employment and Innovation Clusters’, which will be subject to intense redevelopment over the next several decades.

However, surprisingly little historical or spatial design knowledge exists to guide those transformations. The uncertainty of transitioning to a post-industrial economy, combined with the lack of scrutiny about the physical and social qualities of the collective territories that make-up the proposed clusters, raises four questions:

  1. How can a better understanding of the morphology of Melbourne’s suburban settlements help shape future innovation clusters?
  2. What does a future innovation cluster look like?
  3. How can local attributes and places contribute to the identity and resilience of state-significant economic networks?
  4. What new values can be created from the physical and social qualities and site-specific conditions of post-war suburban landscapes?

Industrial Revolution is a collaborative research initiative that investigates such questions.

The multi-disciplinary team simultaneously looks backwards and forwards, to uncover the tacit and future values associated with the proposed clusters. By interrogating the history of suburban industrial centres in a site-specific way, the research will create an evidence-base that integrates the social, economic and spatial tapestries that currently contribute to the vitality of local places. Drawing on the outcomes of the qualitative, quantitative and spatial analysis, the research team will develop and test future scenarios for development that reciprocally responds to local needs and state-significant opportunities, site-specific attributes and collective network-advantages.

The mixed-methods and multi-scalar research approach has the capacity to uncover new strategic potentials within NEICs for local and state governments involved in cluster policy-formation, existing institutions and organisations seeking to leverage the operational and spatial potential of agglomeration, as well as local communities who both contribute to the rich urban identities developed in the clusters, and rely on the delivery high quality amenity and services in the region.

Outcomes of the research include:

  • Integrative evidence about suburban industrial centres
    which can be applied to place-specific challenges and help navigate the complexities of renewing large urban assemblages across multiple jurisdictions, including visual imagery, drawings and data for engaging with multiple stakeholders.
  • Development of quality benchmarks
    that can be used to interpret uncertain data about the future NEICs for specific sites, as well as across the collective territory, to support strategic planning and investment decisions.
  • A framework for capturing the integrative value of place
    that considers the collective suburban fabric as a holistic ‘system’, and leverages the existing physical qualities and social attributes of the suburban fabric at site, precinct and cluster scales.
  • Identification of new strategic potentials
    that augment existing economic and infrastructure policies and fosters high-quality urban outcomes.