George Street Sydney Australia a street upgrading project 19979

The responsibility for planning and managing change in the City of Sydney (as opposed to the metropolitan area) has been the responsibility of the Sydney City Council since its inception in 1855. The state government, however, has retained its veto power over planning and urban design decisions in the city. The redesign of George Street is an example of a landscape project often referred to as urban design. It was carried out under one auspice even though a number of eminent consultants were involved in dealing with various aspects of the project. They worked as one team under the direction ofMargaret Petrykowski of the New South Wales Public Works Department (PWD) who was responsible for the overall design and many of the details. The light pole design was by Alexander Tzanes, Barry Webb and KWA, the landscape architects were Tract Consultants, and Philip Cox and J. C. Decaux Australia designed the street furniture.

George Street is the major street running through central Sydney. It changes character considerably along its course from Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) in the north to the Central Railways Station in the south (see Figure 5.15a). Until it was refurbished its sidewalks were narrow (3.6 metres wide) and crowded, and their surfaces varied from asphalt to patched concrete and a variety of other paving materials. Few would describe George Street as a great street. A Statement of Environmental Effects of the George Street Urban Design and Transportation Study (1993) noted that the street possessed neither visual unity nor did it afford pedestrian amenity. It had been shaped incrementally over its 200-year history by piecemeal design.

In the mid-1990s a decision was made to upgrade the street from Alfred Street at the harbour end to Central Station, a length of 2.6 kilometres (about 1.8 miles). The city council was the client for the project but the PWD had overall responsibility. It delegated the design to its Projects Department in conjunction with City Projects with Petrykowski as designer. Contract drawings were done by Noel Bell Ridley Smith, Architects. During implementation the project architect was Bill Tsakalos of the New South Wales Government Architect's office. The design of the programme, the civil and the electrical

Figure 5.15 George Street Sydney, improvements. (a) The George Street location, (b) George Street North Proposal, (c) a typical intersection detail, (d) a general view towards the south, (e) a detail, (f) the bus station at the southern end.

engineering, and the quantity surveying were all contracted out to private firms. The budget for the whole upgrading was $A75 million (approximately $US50 million in 2000).

The project was developed in three phases. The first two involved the preparation of the street for rebuilding rather than the actual reconstruction. The first step consisted of the removal of the median strips where they existed, the relocating of existing traffic lights and the creation of temporary traffic lanes and other street markings. The second phase involved the installation of mobile barriers between the roadway and the sidewalk to protect pedestrians while the sidewalks were widened by up to 2.5 metres (8 feet) and were prepared for new kerbs and paving. The third and final phase involved the relocation of existing services, the installation of new services and the preparation of the area for the reconstruction of the sidewalks, their surfacing in bluestone and the insertion of new granite curbed gutters to the street. The installation of a coordinated set of street furniture followed. London Plane trees, chosen because of their resistance to pollution, were planted along the street to give it a sense of unity.

During construction, there was much opposition to the changes being made. There were also some design problems. The kerb cuts, for instance, were too steep for wheelchairs and had to be altered. Disruptions to the flow of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic were frequent. Despite the complaints the project had the continuous support of the major of Sydney, Frank Sartor and the New South Wales State Government.

The result of all the work is a tidier street unified by consistent paving materials and street furniture. Cluttered areas were de-cluttered to give an air of roominess, wider sidewalks were provided and street furniture was made simpler and modern. The changes have not, however, made George Street a great street. Its cross section is given and in the absence of an autocratic power advocating change it will remain much as it is. The George Street upgrading remains a highly competent award-winning landscape architecture project.

The refurbishment of George Street has had a catalytic effect leading to the upgrading of a number of shopfronts along it and, particularly, around Railway Square. In combination with other similar projects and the increase in the number of apartment units in Sydney's central business district (CBD) it has enabled more sidewalk cafés to be located on the city's streets and thus initiated a chain reaction of events that have added to the precinct's vitality. It has also led to the redesign of other city streets. A precedent has been set.

The goal for George Street in the present Central City Development Control Plan is to maintain:

1 the street line and the current building-street relationship;

2 the height of buildings as they abut the street, and to create;

3 continuous colonnading along it. Doors and entranceways should, according to the plan, be 'emphasized' in any new buildings. In combination the development control plan and the landscaping work on George Street are certainly urban design. One without the other is hardly so.

Major references

Department of Public Works and Services and the Council of the City of Sydney (1997). George Street and Railway Square Redevelopment: Statement of Environmental Effects. Sydney: The authors. Lochhead, Helen (1999). Sydney afresh. Architecture

Australia 88 (September/October): 68-75. Urban Projects Unit (1993). George Street Urban Design and Transport Study — A Draft for discussion with the Sydney City Council. Sydney: The authors. http://www.statetrail.nsw.gov.au/Railestate/VOL-UME1/ NUMBER4/5a57f74.htm

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

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