Raleigh Park Sydney Australia a marketoriented suburban design 19822000

The creation of total urban designs is not straightforward in democratic countries even when there is considerable financial and/or political clout behind their design and development. Raleigh Park is a 30-acre (12.34-hectare) development on a triangular site in south-central Sydney. It is a total urban design - a suburban precinct based on Garden City principles at a neighbourhood scale. It was a brown-field site. The W.D. & H.O. Wills' cigarette factory and workers' recreational facilities occupied it previously. Like Pruitt-Igoe, Raleigh Park received a planning award (from the Royal Australian Institute of Planners) in 1996 and a design award in 1998 (from the Urban Development Institute of Australia), but only after it had been largely completed and occupied. Raleigh Park is a very different place to Pruitt-Igoe for people in very different financial circumstances.

The development was a joint venture of two property development companies: Mirvac Ltd and Westfield Holdings Pty Ltd, designed in-house by Mirvac's HPA Associates (Henry Pollack Architects). It was named after Sir Walter Raleigh who introduced tobacco to Europe from North America. It consists of six residential towers of between eight and thirteen stories in height, three-storey walk-up housing units and 150 houses (well below the legally permitted number of units). The administrative buildings of the cigarette company were preserved as communal facilities and commercial rental space. The history of the development is chequered and the site went through the hands of a number of potential developers and design firms before the implemented plan was created.

The impetus for the project came from the Labor government in power in New South Wales in 1982, catching the local government, the City of Randwick, by surprise. It announced that the site of the cigarette factory would be converted into a housing development as part of a larger packet of redevelopment aimed at securing its majority in Labor-held seats at the next state election. Local residents and merchants, however, took the proposal to the State Land and Environment Court challenging it on procedural grounds. The case became moot when the government passed a bill validating any invalidity in the planning process! Consequently an approach was made to the Randwick City Council in 1984 by Westfield Holdings (in joint venture with Amatil, the parent company of W.D. & H.O. Wills) to develop the site. The architects were Jackson, Teece, Chesterman & Partners. The scheme, which seems to have no central idea behind it (see Figure 7.22) did not proceed.

In 1986 Westfield obtained an extension of the development approval deadline and also bought out Amtil's share of the project. Shortly before the new date expired, and after considerable negotiation, the State Government bought the land from Westfield for $A30 million and sought tenders for the development of 1200 to 1400 town house units on the site (excluding a portion where Westfield had

Australia Urban Parks Designs
Figure 7.22 Raleigh Park: the Jackson, Teece, Chesterman and Partners proposal.

already begun constructing 155 units of housing).

In December 1988, the National Trust of Australia (NSW) listed the buildings of the cigarette factory for their architectural importance. The factory complex was at that time leased to Virgo Productions, a film production company, who wanted to establish a permanent location for the making of films and television programmes. Virgo submitted a bid to the government to retain the existing buildings for their own purposes. The proposal failed. Westfield Holdings won the tender for reputedly $A43 million with Mirvac as an interested party.

The design that has emerged consists of a simple loop road with a connecting road in its middle (see Figure 7.23a). There is one 'guarded' vehicular entrance to the site on Todman Avenue and a number of pedestrian entrances (often locked). Apartment blocks line the northern edge of the site facing the Moore Park golf course. The remainder of the site is devoted to single-family homes, two stories in height in a zipper-lot formation. The architecture is in a typical 1980s post-modern historicism style designed to appeal to the Asian market - much of the housing was sold to investors in Hong Kong. It is the landscaping that gives the site its character (see Figure 7.22b and c). Mature trees were preserved and much planting was added to give a high-quality, oasis-like atmosphere. A central park acts as a flood control device. The cigarette factory's administration building has been preserved as private offices and provides a sense of historic continuity to the site.

The scheme, after some early problems due to the economic recession of the 1990s, has been a marketing success. Early purchasers of housing units made sound financial investments. Raleigh Park has become an exemplar of a total urban design in Sydney where developer, urban designers, architects and landscape architects were one team. The project has spurred other similar developments. Worries do exist about the

Urban Park Design Urban Park Design

Figure 7.23 Raleigh Park, Sydney. (a) A model of the scheme as built and (b) a view of the landscaping.

Figure 7.23 Raleigh Park, Sydney. (a) A model of the scheme as built and (b) a view of the landscaping.

concept of gated communities (see Blakely and Snyder, 1997; Low, 2003) although at Raleigh Park there is seldom anyone manning the gate.

Major reference

Mirvac/Westfield (1997). Raleigh Park. A report prepared for the Urban Development Institute of Australia. Sydney: The authors.

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