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E-Gate_YiJun Lu University of Melbourne

A land-based urban speculation for e-Gate that explores the balance between formal and informal urban grain using an iterative process of varying a simple orthogonal block form to create high densities without high-rise options. The project explores the value of genuinely accessible open space typologies and streetscapes supported by a highly developed network of public transport infrastructure.

New Melbourne

WORDS BY Lindsay Holland

Urban speculations focusing on the future of Melbourne’s inner west – e-Gate, the existing docks, Fishermans Bend and the areas immediately to the west of the Yarra,  could be regarded as something of a litmus test of the capacity for Melbourne’s political, economic and planning culture to imagine real urban innovation appropriate to the twenty-first century.

To date, proposals for future urban growth in these areas appear at best reactive, if not expedient.

Ideas seem limited to responses to, and extrapolation of, existing trends and pressures often originating from narrowly focussed vested interest stakeholders singularly pre-occupied with one-dimensional concerns and biased towards transport logistics and speculative development.

Urban design is perceived as incremental, interstitial and pragmatic, if not simply remedial, and reactionary.

It is an urbanism that is object-fixated and seldom explores any concerns for truly urban, much less, sustainable systems.

Proposals are devoid of any ‘visionary’ intentions or aspirations and make little or no claim to place a future Melbourne in anything like a global context demonstrably informed by the wealth of contemporary thinking on future urban possibilities.

John Millar 1860

An early visionary project for reconfiguring shipping access to Melbourne city areas through the creation of a new dominant canal system and water based urban expansion into Port Melbourne and Fishermans Bend. The project comes complete with a new island network in the form of a miniature British Isles.

WEB DOCK Yue Chen (University of Melbourne)

Focussing only on Webb Dock, the project examines the concept of the urban grid as a three-dimensional grid where the vertical development reflects the interaction and intensity of varying urban conditions – high density to landscape. At ground level the proposal suggests blocks as ‘forest-edged containers’ embracing collective personal vehicular storage and the creation of an artificial raised ground for public access and circulation

FISHERMANS BEND + DOCKS_ Damien Kientz University of Melbourne

Adopting where possible, and appropriate, existing land ownership and street layouts for the whole of Fishermans Bend and docks areas, this project explores a complete array of urban ideas both as process and as form, to offer a complete interpretation of sustainable future urbanism, both land- and water- based across the whole of the site. Iconic sites are identified and developed to enhance both formal and informal relationships across the whole area.

THRE CITIES_ Kecen Guo, Simiao Rong (RMIT University)

Working actively between large and small scale explorations of many issues informing both urban process and urban form, a highly adaptive urban module is generated and modified three-dimensionally to suit the optimum urban condition that is site-specific. Digital software, used analytically allows the rapid evolution and resolution of an urban and landscape expression both rich

THRE CITIES_ Kecen Guo, Simiao Rong (RMIT University)

Working actively between large and small scale explorations of many issues informing both urban process and urban form, a highly adaptive urban module is generated and modified three-dimensionally to suit the optimum urban condition that is site-specific. Digital software, used analytically allows the rapid evolution and resolution of an urban and landscape expression both rich and diverse.

THRE CITIES_ Kecen Guo, Simiao Rong (RMIT University)

Working actively between large and small scale explorations of many issues informing both urban process and urban form, a highly adaptive urban module is generated and modified three-dimensionally to suit the optimum urban condition that is site-specific. Digital software, used analytically allows the rapid evolution and resolution of an urban and landscape expression both rich and diverse.

THREE CITIES_Yousheng Chen, Xiangyu Guo & Serena Nguyen (RMIT University)

The project explores the specificity of the existing docks areas, especially original and current landscape and waterscape potential. Two potential new cities emerge – one land-based the other water-based – connected by state-of-the-art transport systems to each other, to the existing CBD to the east, and to Melbourne airport and interstate destinations to the north.

THREE CITIES_Yousheng Chen, Xiangyu Guo & Serena Nguyen (RMIT University)

The project explores the specificity of the existing docks areas, especially original and current landscape and waterscape potential. Two potential new cities emerge – one land-based the other water-based – connected by state-of-the-art transport systems to each other, to the existing CBD to the east, and to Melbourne airport and interstate destinations to the north.

THREE CITIES_Yousheng Chen, Xiangyu Guo & Serena Nguyen (RMIT University)

The project explores the specificity of the existing docks areas, especially original and current landscape and waterscape potential. Two potential new cities emerge – one land-based the other water-based – connected by state-of-the-art transport systems to each other, to the existing CBD to the east, and to Melbourne airport and interstate destinations to the north.

PROJECT PARTICIPANTS

The projects presented here are the outcomes of design studios in the first semester of urban design in Masters of Urban Design at Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne and Lower Pool Design studios in the undergraduate program at the RMIT School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University, undertaken over several semesters since 2011.

The ideas are often formative, yet informed by often well-intentioned research (for the level of experience and time constraints) into the processes of urban and ecological systems thought appropriate by students to what they consider viable solutions for twenty-first century urbanism.

The digital skills are emergent and experimental, often testing recent digital software to explore its relevance to urban speculation.

They exhibit all the strengths and weaknesses of ‘big picture plans’, but embedded within them is a well resolved set of urban systems with a clearly expressed intention and desire to see future urbanism as positive, achievable and most importantly sustainable

 

MELBOURNE’S INNER WEST OBSERVATIONS

Some observations as to the character of Melbourne’s inner west are essential to understand the background and impetus of these studios.

Melbourne’s inner west is dominated by the presence of Melbourne’s docks areas – Webb Dock to the south of Yarra River and Swanston, and Appleton docks to the north.

Ecologically the area is much altered from the original tidal land and water-scape that existed prior to western occupation 150 years ago.

Yarra River is completely re-aligned and evidence of original landscapes and ecologies almost non-existent.

Fishermans Bend is largely in private ownership, with a majority of the area significantly in the ownership of a minority of stakeholders.

Public land is limited, save for the possibilities of the freeing up of significant ‘public’ land and water by relocating the existing dock infrastructure either to the western side of Port Phillip Bay or to Westernport be adopted, an idea with some political and economic currency. This theme was quickly adopted by students as a studio pre-condition.

Access to Fishermans Bend is severely limited from the east and south with little public transport and under-developed vehicular access.

Westgate Freeway dissects the area and, apart from docks access, largely caters for non-local transport movement, isolated from the site.

To a similar extent, CityLink and the Bolte Bridge operate in equivalent isolation.

Development is largely industrial and densities are low.

Along the three kilometres of its southern edge, Melbourne’s CBD has six river crossings linking across the Yarra, all carrying vehicular and public transport (trams) enhancing permeability, connectivity and mobility between north and south.

Four pedestrian bridges offer small-scale local pedestrian connectivity.

To the west of Grimes Bridge, apart from Westgate and CityLink, there are no cross connections in the six kilometres to the mouth of the Yarra.

Docks areas and Fishermans Bend are isolated and disconnected from the north and west; the area is an urban-scaled cul-de-sac.

Fishermans Bend offers limited and minimal (bus only) public transport.

River transport is minimal and tourist orientated, not localised as a means of connection to the CBD or along the Yarra.

Bay traffic is effectively non-existent.

Without real and sustainable mobility infrastructure, the areas make little sense urbanistically in any future speculations.

Water frontage and its potential is unique and under-utilised and seldom forms part of urban discourse about urban futures.

The Yarra River offers six kilometres of potential river frontage along its northern and southern banks, enhanced by the configuration of Victoria and Appleton Docks.

Webb Dock offers another potential six kilometres of water edge exposure.

The configuration of the Yarra and docks offers enormous potential for iconic sites for both formal and informal urban-scale, architectural and landscape opportunities.

 

SIZE

The overall sites are not small.

Two simple overlays of the existing CBD grid fits comfortably over both Webb Dock and Victoria Atherton Docks.

 

VISIONARY HISTORY

Historically, several proposals for connecting Melbourne to Hobson’s Bay are truly visionary.

An early proposal by engineer John Millar in 1860 resonates with visionary potential even today

.

STUDIO INTENTIONS & OUTCOMES

Design studios, speculating on urban futures, require, if not demand, some level of critique of contemporary urban ‘culture’ and indeed urban politics and practice, if not suspension of any acceptance of what passes as the ‘existing order of things’.

The existing conditions noted above are the ‘found’ conditions which students were invited to interrogate and respond to.

STUDIOS VARIED IN INTENSITY OF INTERVENTION.

Students were encouraged to consider these areas with, or without, the existence of the docks infrastructure.

Some assumed complete respect for existing infrastructure and ownership while others explored the possibilities of ‘tabla rasa’ and ‘terrain vague’.

The most successful identified the strengths of hybrid responses, maximising change where most achievable.

ACROSS THE STUDIOS VARIOUS SITE CONFIGURATIONS WERE CONSIDERED:
  • Webb Dock
  • The whole of Fishermans Bend including docks
  • Webb Dock and Victoria/Appleton Dock’
STUDIO OUTCOMES CAN BE SUMMARISED AS FOLLOWS:
  • Urban form is site responsive and densities should vary.
  • Urbanism is predominantly mixed-use and hybrid developments with higher densities encouraged.
  • Informal and formal urbanism is essential.
  • The whole area is intensively serviced by land-based public transport – Metro, tram, and bike – with limited vehicular access and use.   No timetables here.
  • River transport is encouraged, including the possibility of bay-orientated networks.
  • All transport and mobility systems connect generously across Yarra River and to existing CBD.
  • Cross river connections should initiate development each side and within the links to benefit both sides of the Yarra.
  • Transport nodes or hubs become places of maximised density and connectivity. As opportunities for maximised development these sites should contribute to, and offset, transport infrastructure investment. E.g. Hong Kong, Kowloon and Qing Yi stations in Hong Kong or London’s new underground lines
  • Ferry terminals and stops are equally considered as points of intensive development again to offset infrastructure costs.
  •  High density development and transport infrastructure, including ferry infrastructure, is strategically located to act as ‘hot-spots’ or attractors, to initiate development, with lower density interstitial development to follow.
  • High level mobility and small scale occupation/connectivity are priorities to drive large scale decision making.
  • Food security, both land based and water based is integrated into urban fabrics.
  • Landscapes were to be specific and working, not generic.
  •  A water-based urbanism. E.g. Amsterdam, Venice, Suzhou, is encouraged for its possibilities of a low energy, human scaled, operational infrastructure,
  • Sustainable and distinctive landscapes for water management and grey water treatment are integrated. E.g. Houtan Park, Huangpo River Shanghai Expo site, Turenscape 2010.
  • Locks and weirs transform the sites and Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers into fresh water ecologies, easing concerns for rising sea levels.

 

NEW MELBOuRNE

New Melbourne emerges as three distinct and sustainable CBD’s.

  • The existing CBD where the gains of the last twenty years are not sacrificed to the pressures of over-densification and excessive  ‘Manhattanisation’
  • Two new CBD’s – vibrant and unique water based urban – and land-scape urbanisms that are responsive ecologically and sustainable,   with high densities encouraged,
  • High speed efficient public transport linking each city.
  • New high speed train networks connecting each CBD and a new Melbourne airport and capital cities beyond.

New Melbourne becomes Australia’s equivalent of China’s recently announced plan for Shanghai’s Pilot Free Trade Zone.

International developers, e.g. China’s Vanke, are invited to participate in future planning and financing, bringing years of experience at large scale development.

In 1914 no-one could predict the urbanism of the twentieth century.

 

Lindsay Holland is an architect in Melbourne with an interest in urbanism, with occasional projects in China.

He currently undertakes architecture and urban design studios and thesis supervision at RMIT University’s School of Architecture and Design, and urban design studios at the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne School of Design.

Together with Yingtong Peng, Lindsay was recently selected as an exhibitor in 2014 Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture + Urbanism being held in Shekou, Guangdong.

The exhibition, Vanishing Borders, explores the history of, and future relationship between, Hong Kong and Shenzhen along its border, a border that will disappear in 2047.

The exhibition is being held at Shenzhen University School of Architecture and Urban Planning and is on display from December 2013 to end of February 2014.