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The Darling Flower Mill as a landmark with Albion Station underneath a raised podium and potential development along Ballarat Road.

sunshine rising

Urbanising the suburbs

WORDS BY Rutger Pasman

current  pressures on some suburban areas in Melbourne ask for another kind of urbanity based more on modal changes, the acceptance of the automobile and the by-product of big box retail as the main drivers of design, rather than walkability or than ‘town centre’ model we have seen proposed in many activity centres throughout Australia. This urbanism is raw, dirty and loud. A series of projects and drawings were made to test ideas of a different kind of urbanity using Sunshine as a field of experimentation.

In Victoria’s recently released Plan Melbourne, Sunshine is identified as an emerging employment cluster. What these clusters are, and how they can or should operate remains unclear. Unlike other identified clusters, Sunshine has a dispersed nature and lacks a centrality or focus. For example, the Monash employment cluster is defined by the presence of the university. Similarly, the Dandenong South employment cluster has a strong industrial employment base. Sunshine however has a bit of everything, but nothing prevails. Most of the elements that define the cluster, such as universities or hospitals are at its edges.

Views from the interior of the station capture the heritage past.

Restructuring the flyover as an asset at Sunshine station.

Redrawing of Sunshine as an overview. Airport-Sunshine-Melbourne

 abundant opportunities  opportunities exist within the 6km stretch from Sunshine Hospital in the north-west to the land abutting the railway in the south-east. It has existing institutions and large employers, as well as some well-defined parks and an open space network crossing the area. Some of the elements in the cluster are hard to access due to the many intersections of transport infrastructure such as highways, high capacity streets and rail. A reorientation of built form seems necessary to unlock and celebrate these opportunities as real urban assets.

This landscape of activities and collisions is about the size of Melbourne’s expanded CBD. The existing functions and a current lack of developer-interestroffer a unique opportunity for large scaled urban interventions with localised differentiations. Sunshine doesn’t need to become one identity or one centre, it can become many things.

With the additional expansion of Greater Melbourne in the western growth area, towards Melton and Wyndham, there arises a need for a larger regional centres. Sunshine does seem the natural candidate as it has some historical basis as a centre and direct access to the regional cities of Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong with the Regional Rail. A new regional importance in Sunshine can thus justify larger institutions and amenities.

Sunshine’s industrial heritage is reflected in the enormous lot sizes and a car-based infrastructure that leaves it difficult for slower traffic, such as pedestrians and bicycles, to navigate. The linear shopping strip on Harvester Road and Anderson Road – major collector road, a block awae perpendicular to the natural growth of the citd,emakes Sunshine a place to go to, not to go through as we see in other clusters. Only Ballarat Road has severe significance as a radiating east-west thoroughfare, but it is of a scale and type that celebrates the car.

 

IF WE CAN SHIFT  our way of thinking about the suburbs and how they can urbanise, can we imagine a Ballarat Road as a little sister of the Las Vegas Strip or Hampshire Road as a part of post-war Rotterdam?

In the early nineties the Netherlands started to implement a model that uses intersecting modes of transport as a basis for city development. Amenities and activities are brought inside the interchange, which provides constant opportunities to change between road-based and public transport, with further developments proposed around it. Dealing with congestion and expensive rents, institutions and businesses settled in these locations quickly as it guaranteed access to their employees and clients.

In the first project, a mixed use modal interchange model is overlaid on Albion Station that sits on the crossing of Ballarat Road, leading to the Western Ring Road and the Bendigo rail line, with the preferred future Airport Link option on the same line. The project primarily offers an expanded parking requirement to serve additional commuters and the existing big box retail nearby. Additional programs such as a supermarket and childcare are accommodated in the podium that connects both sides of the rail for slower traffic. The existing Darling Flower Mill was converted and serves as a recognisable landmark to give identity to the interchange.

A second project restructures the existing flyover at Sunshine station. By suggesting a roundabout that encompasses the railway station in its centre, additional programs can be included on the edges that serve locally as well as regionally. The bus interchange opens up to Hampshire Road while new large-scale development may occur on the land abutting the railway to the south. From the outside, the project may look like a hill, an imagined Landmark. From the inside, an artificial grassland. The sky dominating the atmosphere, with cars buzzing on the horizon. A small homage to a Sunshine long gone by.

The projects show where the opportunities within Sunshine lie, but accept that there is no finished version of the urbanism (or architecture) as an outcome. They merely open up neighbouring sites for development.

Our interests as a practice are focused on exploration through the act of drawing. The process of re-drawing previous projects can open up new ideas for current projects.

In Sunshine the redrawing of the previous projects led to further discussions about the potential of a cluster-based strategy, the identity of these clusters and places or moments of conflict between a dispersed urbanism and centralisation. As such the act of re-drawing becomes a tool for generating and communicating ideas about urbanising the suburbs.

These suburbs can be messy places and often hold the complexities of a future city imbedded in their structure. Sometimes you’ll find a centre that is difficult to read, but contains a richness and depth richness and depth to create resilience and build upon a unique identity. Embrace it.

Rutger Pasman is a full-time researcher at MAS (Monash Architecture Studio) and co-founder of CHORDstudio, a practice that manoeuvres between architecture and urbanism.