“From Perth’s Max Light Rail to Sydney and Melbourne’s Metro projects, Australian cities are experiencing a rail infrastructure boom that is recasting the fabric of our cities. New developments over and around rail infrastructure have the capacity to renew our cities and create vibrant new urban places. To maximise the opportunities this infrastructure investment offers our cities, we need to learn from global as well as local exemplars.
The Hong Kong MTR metro system is highly integrated with many stations directly connected to thriving mixed-use developments containing shopping centres, residential apartments, offices and hotels. These developments provide active use and connectivity throughout the city whilst generating income for the metro authority. This form of income allows the MTR to continue their metro expansion and upgrades to the benefit of the entire community.
“The Rockefeller Centre in New York is widely regarded as an exemplary urban development with much loved public spaces. It utilises pedestrian scaled podiums and setback towers; creating new public spaces, and incorporating mid-block connections, public art, cultural institutions, roof gardens, and restaurants in the sky. This 1930’s landmark is probably the most loved modern urban development in the world. As Rem Koolhaus exclaimed in his book “Delirious New York”:
“How perfect can perfection be!”
“Bates Smart has built on this legacy with a series of over rail developments informed by urban principles of good city making. Successful urban environments are achieved through identifying a cities DNA to design human-scale architecture, incorporate pedestrian networks and laneways and provide engaging public space.
“These principles are evident in the success of Melbourne’s Federation Square, an immense urban renewal project over railyards and attracting an estimated 8.4 million annual visitors. Low-rise buildings housing restaurants and galleries define the street edge while a series of crevasses between create ‘laneways’ to a new public square. The square incorporates a super-sized digital screen that has proved to be extremely popular for major public events.
“Meanwhile on the western edge of the city Fairfax’s new headquarters, Media House, is built over the Spencer Street railyards. This large 17,000sqm commercial office building aligns with Collins Street and boldly asserts the edge of the city to the adjacent Southern Cross Station.
“Media House is setback from the street to create a generous landscaped plaza . A large digital screen addresses the park and is frequently used for public events while a civic scaled ‘loggia’ reasserts human scale and terminates the building.
Philip Vivian is an active participant in the debate around the future development of our cities and recently presented Bates Smart’s vision for Sydney 2050 at the CTBUH forum in New York.