Tuesday, 17 January 2017

How to Fix Melbourne's Docklands - Roofing the Spencer Street Rail Yards


It's so obvious.

What's really missing from Docklands is proper integration with the CBD. Colins Street extends, yes but over a fairly unceremonious and daunting hump, though that will be vastly improved when the south side is fully developed.

It's the Bourke Street steps, even less inviting over which most lunchtime workers trudge, and it really all does feel a bit like the exterior of a football ground rather than a vital connection for people flow.

The DFO building is also an ungodly blight on that end of town and a physical and mental barrier to what's beyond.

At the recent Council elections, The Heritage Agenda proposed that Council take a coordinating role with the State Government/Major Projects to see that a project to roof SPENCER STREET RAIL YARDS between Bourke and Lonsdale Streets is put ahead of plans to roof more of the Jolimont Yards and create a "Federation Square East".



A Spencer Street project would be far more important and worthy of public funding because it actually serves a major urban policy outcome - better integrating Docklands with the existing CBD fabric.

Docklands is also crying out for some sort of major cultural institution or other tourist drawcard to make it more of a destination.

A Tramway Museum? A new NGV?

The Heritage Agenda have already suggested a CBD location for a Melbourne Tramways Museum, and this would be be an ideal showcase location. Similarly, the existing plans for a dedicated NGV Modern or NGV Indigenous gallery at Federation Square East could easily be transplanted here.

Otherwise there have recently been calls for the establishment of a Museum of Australian Architecture that this site would fill perfectly.

As readers can see from the schematic below, the central location of the proposed cultural institution would suggest it be a major architectural work in its own right.

StadiumSchematic.jpg 

The project could be part-self-funded through potential selling off of the significant private development sites it would unlock.


"The Docklands Steps" - A New Melbourne Institution?

We envisage the creation of a "Steps" area, essentially replacing the abominable DFO building, which let's be honest looked temporary from the moment it was opened. The Steps would run for one and a half city blocks from Bourke to Lt. Lonsdale, which would be gently sloping walkways and landscaping, possibly with sections of moving walkways for the mobility impaired.

This would overcome the urban intimidation that currently greets anyone moving from the CBD to Docklands and draw people into the plaza area.

The AFL has recently purchased Etihad Stadium, and discussions are well underway towards creating a significantly more activated concourse area, which would draw pedestrians through to the waterfront and overcome somewhat the monolithic blocking effect that was created when Jeff Kennett decided a stadium was what the new suburb needed built right on its most prime waterfront.

The opportunity therefore exists to address the much larger pedestrian movements all the way from the established CBD right through to Docklands waterfront, and indeed with the creation of a specific tourist drawcard, to significantly enhance the Docklands experience for tourists who might in future visit the museum, stadium, waterfront and Harbour Town in the one day's movement.

A visitor standing outside the proposed cultural building facing East would have quite the vista, and apologies my artists efforts were somewhat thwarted here, as I needed a photo taken hovering ten meters above the middle of the rail yards. Our visitor would take in firstly the CBD skyline-wall as presented from Spencer Street, which with the addition of Upper West Side, Beyonce, and the new Intercontinental Hotel will be increasingly gobsmacking. And to your right, the undulating roofline of Southern Cross Station -  one of its most impressive aspects.

And to the pedestrian approaching from the Steps, the feature-piece architecture of the new cultural building will largely obscure the industrial oppressiveness of the stadium.

There is no question in this author's mind that roofing the Spencer Street Rail Yards is the priority major project to address some of this city's most glaring urban issues.