Against a strong field, the second stage of the International Urban Design Competition for East Darling Harbour was won by the Sydney team of Hill Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects, Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture and Paul Berkemeier Architects. The winning plan draws on an understanding of the site’s place in Sydney - its physicality, history, scale, program and potential - to propose an authentic new piece of the city.
This coordinated urban project sustainably fuses environmental, social and economic considerations. It is able to be flexibly staged and delivered, in response to changing public expectations, civic requirements, social needs and market pressures. The project is founded on the primacy of the public domain in forming the city. Structured by a new network of streets, the plan demonstrates that urban projects must have a far-sighted understanding of public space’s multiple roles. The backbone is a great new street that decisively defines the western edge of the city, defining a vibrant new city quarter; and ensuring that the extensive parklands at the water’s edge will remain as inalienable public land.
The durable and flexible public domain will underpin the vibrant new urban quarter. The pattern of streets and blocks integrates seamlessly with Walsh Bay, Millers Point, King Street Wharf and the western grid of the city centre to form a new unity. Streets and upper level pedestrian connections knit the site into the city’s circulation network.
Foreshore dedicated to the public
The entire foreshore is dedicated as public reserve in perpetuity. The length, grandeur and unifying layout of park and waterfront promenade frame Sydney’s western shore - a serene counterbalance to the ever-mounting scale of the city’s towers. The design also provides the 1.4 km missing link to the 14 kilometre foreshore promenade that reaches around the city centre from Annandale to Woolloomooloo.
The design of the parklands combines many spaces, landscape conditions, artefacts, activities and artworks to make a vibrant new foreshore. In form and program, the design of each piece of parkland is generated by the relationship with the city and the harbour, and the physical realities of the site. At the southern end, the park is urban in character, designed for intensive use and closely related to the new city quarter. The mid section has an expansive scale and invites active recreational uses intended for use primarily by the new and existing residential communities. The northern end restates the great Sydney tradition of the headland park, uncovering and reinterpreting the bold topography of Millers Point - making a rich environment that draws on a lost landscape, and making a place for Sydneysiders to gather and celebrate great events. The parklands are open to a vibrant new program of civic uses, while the retained caisson seawall allows for ongoing shipping use.
This guiding framework makes place for hundreds of architectural, landscape and art projects by many hands to create genuine innovation and diversity over time. The project once more demonstrates the value of design competitions, and the central role of the urban project in renewing the city.
Also in UDFQ 74: June 2006:
- Promoting transit-oriented development
- Urban Design Toolkit
- Six visions for King George Square
- Broadmeadows Central – Proposition 3047
- Conceptual Tools - Understanding Urban Regions
- Designing the Small Lot Suburb
- NZ Government raises the bar
- Organising Australian Urban Designers
- Developer’s dollars vs good urban design