The original site was once part of the first railway that opened in Australia in 1855. The use of the line declined and shut down in 1984. It has since been an isolated, disconnected and forgotten part of the city. In 2015 it was revitalised and the disused rail corridor was reimagined as a leafy, energised ‘public campus’ in the heart of one of the most densely populated, urbanised and formerly disconnected parts of the Sydney CBD.
The project involved an extensive government planning solution, bringing together both local and state government organisations as well as private institutions and stakeholders. The Goods Line is a model of participatory design and governance by the agencies and authorities which have been invested in its development. As such a site specific governance model was developed for The Goods Line to ensure that the commitment to ongoing activation is an embedded and enduring part of the project and provide a best-practice example of multi-agency management.
A steering committee chaired by the landowner/government body including representation from other key landowners along its length and ASPECT Studios was established prior to the design process commencing. Key decisions regarding funding, ongoing curation of programming and design resolution were presented to the steering committee in an ongoing process which ensured co-ownership of ideas and efficiency of process.
Recognising the critical need to have broad community ownership and understanding of the project, the design team undertook a comprehensive approach to engaging the community. Several methods were applied to capture critical feedback from a broad cross section of community key stakeholders. The project invited the public to provide their feedback on the schematic design approach. A report based on the findings was developed and delivered, outlining key learnings and requirements and informing design outcomes.
The outcome being a unique elevated city park which forms a strategic link from Sydney’s Central Station through to Chinatown and the Darling Harbour entertainment and leisure precinct. More than 80,000 tertiary students, locals and visitors are linked to the many major attractions of Darling Harbour with 26 million visiting annually. There is a strong overarching narrative in the design revealing the transformation from a rich industrial history to one of social interaction, creative industries and the promotion of innovation creating a people-focused address to various cultural, educational and media institutions which line its length.
The ‘social infrastructure’ such as bleachers, seats, an amphitheatre, Wi-Fi facilities, a playspace, ping pong tables and raised lawns support the burgeoning public life of this part of the city. Bespoke seating and furniture hark back to the site’s industrial heritage while the blurred boundaries along its length are designed to facilitate pop-up events and festivals. Pedestrian and cycle connections are formed, unlocking access to existing streets and neighbourhoods that surround the park, knitting Sydney back into its surrounding city fabric.
Sustainable approaches including innovative use of materials and reinterpretation of the site’s history, work to protect, enhance and regenerate the area and give a strong sense of place. By retaining the rail bridge, rail infrastructure and re-purposing others, the project has demonstrated innovative approaches to designing with respect to the past. The design utilises the robust materials associated with its rail infrastructure past: gravel, concrete, steel and timber. Original brick was salvaged and the site is fused with contemporary and sustainable elements reinforcing the legacy of the site. Waste is minimised by fabricating the majority of material (precast concrete) off site and using advanced digital fabrication, drawings and coordination. Cut and fill was minimised by layering a new ground plane and as a result preserved the heritage rail tracks and avoided damage to the underground power cables.
Water Sensitive Urban Design initiatives enable The Goods Line to achieve the objective of 80% potable water consumption reduction. Inlet pits have been concealed within garden beds, enabling storm water to naturally irrigate the drought tolerant, low water use and (majority) native/indigenous species. Where additional run off drainage is required, grated steel drains are integrated within the language of the precast concrete plank ground plane.
The site specific palette of plants which are set in gravel along the remnant rails are hardy, yet bring colour and texture to the site. The retention of existing trees was critical – The Goods Line was painstakingly planned and executed with ‘Study Pods’ that cantilever over the adjacent street, positioned between the canopies of existing fig trees, offering working and social spaces.
The Goods Line is an example of the potential for design to transform isolated city spaces into creative and connected public destinations. It creates a people-focused address to various cultural, educational and media institutions which line its length.
Entrant office name: ASPECT Studios
Role of the entrant in the project: Project Design Lead and Landscape Architect
Other design firms involved:
CHROFI (Design Partner and Architect)
Property NSW (Client)
Project location: Ultimo, Sydney, 2007, NSW, Australia
Design year: 2012
Year Built: 2015