Open House Melbourne

Open House Melbourne (OHM) has run on the last weekend of July (or close to) in Melbourne since 2008. Every year, thousands of people gain access to buildings and spaces not generally open to the public, ranging from historic buildings, icons and contemporary architecture.

The original Open House concept was implemented in London in 1992 and still runs today. OHM and its sister events in other cities across the world aim to expose the public to architecture at the urban scale. OHM is a not-for-profit organisation, coordinated by a large team of volunteer architects, and is run purely for the benefit of the wider architectural dialogue.

The concept of OHM is simple: it reinforced the notion that public engagement with our built environment is an important civic issue. The success of this is evident in the large number of people who attend the event (130,000 last year) and document it via various social media outlets. Last year, a crowdfunding campaign augmented ongoing corporate sponsorship and patronage in funding the event.

Within the Melbourne architecture and design calendar, OHM is arguably the single most important event of the year, because it opens up the output of the profession to the general public. It stands in a very small group of likeminded organisations that focus on communicating to the public instead the industry.

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Image sources

  1. Where, this and subsequent images copyright of author.
  2. Size.
  3. Programme.
  4. Open House Melbourne description.
  5. Open House London comparison.
  6. Cost.
  7. Project procurement.
  8. Community served.
  9. Project success and expansion.

Living and naked streets

20140827 naked streets #1

Historically, streets within Western city centres were naturally shared spaces. It was only in the 1950s, when private vehicles began to dominate the street, that different road users became segregated into distinctive zones with pedestrians sidelined to narrow, restricted footpaths.[1]

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Part of the agenda behind the Streets Without Cars studio is to re-imagine the streetscape as a pedestrian-focused space, and explore the possibilities for alternative street development once the car is given less significance within the street hierarchy.

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The living street and naked street models are examples of alternative street development aimed at developing streets as public shared spaces which are safer, more social and pedestrian-focused.

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Living streets

The living street or woonerf model began as a movement in the late 1960s in Delft, The Netherlands, as a reaction to the dominance of cars impacting the traditional streetscape of the city. It was pioneered by Dutch engineer, Joost Vahl, and sanctioned in 1976 by the Dutch government as a new residential street model.[2] The main agenda behind living streets is creating streets as shared social spaces that facilitate a variety of uses, not primarily as a vehicular thoroughfare, but as a residential garden to be equally used by pedestrians, cyclists and cars.

The key principles of living streets are:

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The main operational and design features of living streets are:

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Naked streets

The naked street model was advocated in the 1970s by Dutch traffic engineer, Hans Monderman, appointed by the Dutch government to resolve the escalating traffic accidents within the town of Friesland, Netherlands.[3] The main agenda behind Monderman’s theory was to create safer, shared streets through the deliberate removal of conventional street paraphernalia such as traffic lights, curbs, road markings etc. This strategy creates a higher level of perceived risk of accident, and corresponding increase in risk-mitigation behaviour. It works to “exploit the natural skills of humans to negotiate movement, resolve conflict and engage not only with each other but with their context.”[4]

The key principles of naked streets are:

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The main operational and design features of naked streets are:

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The case study of Exhibition Road, London, is an example of how the living street and naked street models have been more recently applied to transform a previously vehicle dominated, cluttered street environment into a shared, safe and socially conducive street environment. The re-development was completed in 2012 by Dixon Jones and involved the removal of all street signage, a reduction in traffic speed to 20km/h, street art and furniture and continuous textured surface treatment.[5] Reviews of the changes after completion showed that:

  • Traffic volumes were expected to reduce.[6]
  • Increased pedestrian activity in the area.
  • Safer street environments.
  • Attractive public space.

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This case study demonstrates how shared street models, such as living and naked streets, provide an outcome that can be beneficial to both pedestrians and vehicles. Both provide good examples for the Streets Without Cars studio, demonstrating the possibilities of creating better street environments where traffic movement and pedestrians can coexist.


  1. Introduction to the woonerf; Woonerfgoed; Delft.
  2. Bruce Appleyard and Lindsay Cox; At Home in the ZonePlanning; volume 72, number 9; 2006; p. 31.
  3. Hans Monderman interview with Sarah Lyall; The New York Times; 2005.
  4. Naked Streets; Re: Streets.
  5. Exhibition Road London redevelopment; E-Architect; 2014.
  6. Exhibition Road Phase 4 report; Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; 2014.

Image Sources

  1. Morice Town Home Zone, copyright the The Neighbourhoods Blog.
  2. Car use figures in Australia, author’s own image.
  3. The argument for pedestrian-prioritised streets, author’s own image.
  4. Living and naked streets models, author’s own image.
  5. Living streets principles, author’s own image.
  6. Living streets operational and design features, author’s own image.
  7. Naked streets principles, author’s own image.
  8. Naked streets operational and design features, author’s own image.
  9. Exhibition Road, London, before redevelopment, copyright Olivia Woodhouse.
  10. Exhibition Road, London, after redevelopment, copyright The Daily Mail.

Evolution of American playgrounds

In the United States of America, facilitation of play has been a public responsibility for the entirety of the 20th century. In the Streets Without Cars studio, will establish the need for play space within the public domain, hence it is important to understand the discourse behind playgrounds and the drivers that allow for their creation.

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There have been proven developmental and social benefits associated with childhood play, best represented in the United States by public playgrounds.[1] However, politicians and policy makers were not always interested in this, with playgrounds originally constructed as a necessary public safety measure.

At the turn of last century, progressive liberal reformers in line with Theodore Roosevelt and New York mayor, Seth Low, acknowledged the need for publicly funded outlets for poorer children to access education, health services and daycare. This resulted in the construction of schools and settlement houses.[2] Settlement houses were converted properties run by middle class volunteers as a form of daycare for children of the working families of the tenements. The play spaces these houses included were fenced off green spaces sometimes featuring a sand pit and swing set. The settlement houses were designed to keep children safe and out of trouble.

However it was established by 1901 that there were far too many children playing on the streets, causing high youth delinquency, an increased number of play-related car accidents, and a public nuisance.

A study conducted in New York City in 1901 revealed that there were 183 minors killed in moving vehicle related accidents, an additional 381 incidents were reported where the child survived. This tendency had led three years previously to the establishment of a group run by New York settlement house workers, the Outdoor Recreation League, which had already opened 9 privately owned playgrounds. In 1902, the city acquired all of them. Later that year, Seward Park became the first publicly commissioned play ground in New York. Key features of the park included an athletics space for boys, children’s play area with swings and sandpit for girls and younger children, green space, and public baths. The park was well received with over 20,000 people attending the opening ceremony.[3]

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After World War I there was very little improvement in play spaces, however more playgrounds continued to be built following the playground typologies seen at Seward Park:[4]

Athletic fields
For boys over 14
Competitive track and field sports
Lockers and toilets

Baseball fields
Maintained lawn
Screening of danger zone and bleachers

Boys playground
For boys under 14
Space for ball games

Girls playground
Same as boys
Sand pit
More open space for free games

In the 1930s, Carl Theodor Sorensen, a Danish landscape architect, thought of providing scrap materials to children to create their own environment as a new form of play. The first playground following this philosophy was opened in Denmark in 1943. The first junk playground was opened in the United States during the 1970s in Huntington Beach, California. This was a significant step towards establishing the importance of free play, where children were able to design their own environment. By this point there was an awareness of the relationship between play and learning, with the purpose of playgrounds no longer a response to the outmoded idea of children as public nuisance.[5]

However, through a history of regulations for playground safety, such as policies to regulate the speed of merry-go-rounds, swing safety harnesses and rubberized play surfaces, we see less adventurous play facilities emerging. Parents are also taking a more hands-on role in directing children how to play, removing the learning and developmental benefits of play in the process.[6]

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In 2010, the Rockwell Group completed the Imagination Playground in New York. This playground differs from typical playground design thanks to the assortment of proprietary Rockwell Blocks made available throughout the playspace. These large foam blocks were designed to maximise design options for children to construct their own environment. They mimic the flexibility of the junk playground without requiring the space and insurance premiums that go with it. Other facilities within the playground are intended to be used in conjunction with the Rockwell Blocks: water, sand an timber climbing frames to name a few.[7]

While the limited flexibility of the 15 standard Rockwell Blocks does not provide the same free play experience as the junk playground, the designer of the blocks, David Rockwell, also identifies the necessity for parents to limit their controlling role in their children’s play. Carers within the Imagination Playground are thereby instructed to ensure parents leave their children alone to play as they please. The key innovation of this project is that it recognises the difficulty of designing a playground to freely stimulate children. It is in fact the children’s ability to reshape and construct their own environment that ensures the success of a play space.

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  1. Interview with Joe Frost; What’s wrong with America’s playgrounds; American Journal of Play; 2008.
  2. Seward Park history; NYC Parks.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Playgrounds in parksNYC Parks.
  5. Kurt Kohlstedt; Urban Adventure Playgrounds: Cool Places Too Few Kids PlayWeb Urbanist.
  6. Hannah Rosin; The Overprotected Kid; The Atlantic; March 2014.
  7. Rebecca Mead; The State of Play; The New Yorker; July 2010.

Images sources

  1. Benefits of play, author’s own image.
  2. Seward Park site plan, copyright Harvard University. Image sourced from Harvard Art Museums.
  3. Seward Park pavilion, copyright Harvard University. Image sourced from Harvard Art Museums.
  4. Imagination Playground #1, copyright Rockwell Group.
  5. Imagination Playground #2, copyright Rockwell Group.
  6. Imagination Playground #3, copyright Rockwell Group.
  7. Imagination Playground $4, copyright Rockwell Group.

Federation Square and Birrarung Marr

Federation Square

Jeff Kennett, former premier of Victoria, announced an architectural design competition in 1997 for a new civic square in Melbourne, which received 177 entries from around the world. The aim of the project was to better connect Flinders Street to the Yarra River and to complement the neighbouring heritage buildings.

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The winner of the competition was LAB Architecture Studio. Originally estimated to cost between $110 and $128 million, the project experienced repeated cost blow outs and construction delays. The final cost of the project was over four times the initial budget, coming in at approximately $467 million. Construction began in 1998 and the building opened in 2002.

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Federation Square has been described as being part of a deconstructivist style; post-modern architecture that involves the manipulation and distortion of the structure.

Champion's Bar at Fed Square.

Demonstrated throughout the design of the square, director of LAB Donald Bates places emphasis on various aspects of human interactivity. The square is enveloped by the surrounding buildings in order to create a sense of intimacy and security. Buildings are designed with multiple axis points; each entrance serving as a transition zone, encouraging a more “incidental and accidental passage”.[1]

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The materials used are bluestone that matches the footpaths in Melbourne and ochre-coloured sandstone blocks from Western Australia that invoke a sense of the Australian outback. Various local artists designed pieces for the project, such as the plaza paving, which was designed as a huge urban artwork by artist, Paul Carter.

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Facilities within Federation Square include:

  • Melbourne Visitor Centre – contains an interactive news display promoting current events.
  • The Edge – theatre space that seats 450 people.
  • Zinc – event and function centre.
  • National Gallery of Victoria – houses Australian art collections.
  • Australian Centre for the Moving Image – 2 cinemas and interactive presentations.
  • Transport Hotel Bar – 3 storey restaurant, bar and lounge.
  • SBS – television and radio headquarters.
  • Melbourne Festival Headquarters.


Awarded the “World’s Fifth Ugliest Building” in 2009 by Virtual Tourist, many people took a dislike to the aesthetics of the newly built project. Over time Melbournians have learned to love the building, as evidenced by the 80 million plus people who have visited it since it opened.[2] Also a sign that public opinion is changing, Federation Square made an appearance on The Atlantic Cities’ 2011 list of “10 Great Central Plazas and Squares”.

Birrarung Marr

Formally a rail yard, Birrarung Marr is an inner-city park created as a result of the reorganisation of infrastructure and land uses near Federation Square. The site is a contemporary landscape consisting of dramatic earth forms, formalised water courses, feature display planting and linking bridge structures.[3]

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Costing approximately $15.6 million to construct, Birrarung Marr was established through a joint venture with the City of Melbourne and the State Government of Victoria. Construction began in 2000 and the park opened in 2002.

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The area encompasses 8 hectares of land and is described as a “festival park” that can accommodate sporting and cultural events, such as Circus Oz and Moomba.

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Birrarung Marr was imagined as a series of open terraces, each with a robust surface to accommodate different events, such as grass, gravel and shell-grit.

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The park contains:

  • Federation Bells – inverted bells controlled by computer that sound 3 times a day.
  • Speaker’s Corner – historically used for public lectures, protests and demonstrations.
  • ArtPlay – historical railway building converted into a children’s art and cultural centre where workshops are held.
  • William Barak Bridge – allows pedestrian access over CityLink and railways.
  • Angel – sculpture by artist, Deborah Halpern.

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Federation Square East Development

An extremely sought-after piece of land, according to a list compiled by the industry group of 20 publicly owned Melbourne properties, Federation Square East is worth $4.6 billion.

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LAB Architecture Studio were commissioned by the state government to propose a design that utilised the space above the Jolimont rail yards. The design included a market hall, retail outlets, a corner hotel and commercial developments surrounding a major green urban park used for festivals, exhibitions and entertainment. The proposal was modelled on Chicago’s Millennium Park, a big tourist attraction also developed in order to cover an unsightly rail yard and to connect a body of water to the city. Opposition leader at the time, Ted Baillieu, ridiculed the proposed redevelopment. A flythrough of LAB’s proposal can be viewed here.

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Donald Bates believes that allowing developers to take over the site will not benefit Melbourne in the long run: “I think the government has been trying to look at ways to develop it without spending any public money, but I think there is a risk of an over-commercialised project.”[3]

Controversy over a new public design proposal is not always a bad thing. Community reaction can spark conversation between stakeholder groups regarding the creation of spaces that address the needs of the users. Similar to the principals adopted by Streets Without Cars, this dialogue results in a deeper understanding of community character and in turn, makes for a more versatile design.


  1. Scott McQuire and Nikos Papastergiadis; The Evolution of Federation Square; Australian Design Review; October 2012
  2. Ibid.
  3. Melbourne CBD Waterfront. Birrarung Marr, Federation Square. Australia; A + T Architecture Publishers; May 2012
  4. Aisha Dow; Federation Square extension plan unveiled; The Age; November 2013

Image sources

  1. Aerial view of the south of Melbourne’s CBD, copyright Michael Evans.
  2. Aerial view of Federation Square, copyright the author.
  3. Champion’s Bar at Federation Square, copyright the author.
  4. Time Out Cafe at Federation Square, copyright Fed Square Pty Ltd.
  5. Federation Square tiles, copyright Farsouth.
  6. SBS Headquarters, copyright Donaldytong.
  7. Aerial view of Birrarung Marr, copyright John Gollings, Ron Jones and the State Library of Victoria.
  8. Shell-grit surface at Birrarung Marr, copyright Ben Wrigley and Swaney Draper.
  9. Birrarung Marr, copyright Luke Tscharke.
  10. Children’s Play, copyright City of Melbourne.
  11. Federation Bells, copyright James Henry.
  12. Google Earth map of the south of Melbourne’s CBD, copyright the author.
  13. Chicago Millennium Park, copyright the author.

Turia River garden

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The Turia River garden is located in Valencia, Spain, and runs through the central axis of the city. It is not a masterpiece of landscape design, but it does provide a sense of the spirit of Valencia.

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Since the city’s foundation by the Romans, Valencia grew around the Turia River. Over the centuries, the river caused many floods. In 1957, a particularly damaging flood encouraged the government of the time to divert the river around the city. The initial plan was to use the urban space vacated by the river as a highway, a plan that was approved in 1973. However, substantial protests by the local populace were successful in altering this decision to use the space as a large, elongated park.

In 1979, a national competition was held for the design of the proposed park. This was won by Ricardo Bofill, who presented his final masterplan to the city in 1982. The 8.5km long, sunken park is designed as a sequence of eighteen independent gardens, punctuated by a series of existing and new bridges.

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The first segment of park connects it to the city, and also the Valencia Wildlife Park. It is primarily used for strolling, jogging, cycling, resting and enjoying the lake.

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Head park – Resting, cycling, jogging, walking, lake

There are numerous activities that take place along the length of Turia park, facilitated by sporting facilities, bicycle lanes, running tracks, soccer fields, rollerskating areas, a giant chessboard, a skateboarding zone and a rugby field. In addition to ample green landscaping, there are ponds, fountains, cafes and towards the southern end, the Arts and Sciences Precinct designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela.

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Stretches #1 and #2 – Resting, cycling, jogging, walking, playing, cafes
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Stretch #3 – Resting, cycling, jogging, walking, rollerskating
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Stretch #6 – Resting, cycling, jogging, walking, cinema
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Stretch #11 – Resting, cycling, jogging, walking, market events
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Stretches #13, #14 and #15 – Cycling, jogging, walking, arts and sciences precinct

Maintenance costs of the park are half those of other parks in Valencia thanks to the use of native plants and efficient systems for watering and cleaning.

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Superkilen is an urban project situated in one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighbourhoods in Denmark. Conceived through an idea to support diversity, Superkilen uses culture as a means to address Copenhagen’s multiplicity by way of architecture, landscape architecture and art.

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The site is located in Norrebro, Copenhagen. Norrebro is popularly known for its ethnicity, with the site surrounded by residents from over 50 nationalities. Devised as a giant exhibition, Superkilen showcases the diversity of the people that live within the immediate vicinity of the park. Allowing each culture to nominate specific objects from other countries.

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57 objects from 57 cultures were chosen to symbolise everyday experiences and make up a global vernacular in the one space. Objects such as seating, signage, bins, trees and playgrounds were either produced in a 1:1 copy or bought and transported to the site.

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The project was undertaken by architectural heavyweights Bjarke Ingles Group in collaboration with landscape architecture studio Topotek1 and artist collective Superflex. First initiated by philanthropic organisation Realdania in 2004 as part of Partnerskabet, Superkilen finished construction in June 2014 at a total cost of 7.7 million euros.

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Realdania is a private philanthropic organisation based in Denmark that focuses on investment activities in both architecture and planning. Working in conjunction with the City of Copenhagen, it played a significant role in getting the Superkilen project off the ground.

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Stretching over 750 meters, Superkilen covers a total area of 30,000 square meters at an average width of 40 metres. The project programmes are divided into three main areas: The Red Square, The Black Market and The Green Park. Defined by the three colour coded areas, Superkilen offers distinctive functions and atmospheres as you move through the exhibition.

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Market / culture / sport: The Red Square is designed as an extension of the sports and cultural centre at Norrebrohall. Superkilen addresses the space by extending the conceived internal life from the hall. The square offers a large range of recreational spaces where local residents are able to meet up with one another and engage in physical activities and games.

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Urban Living Room – The Black Square is located in the heart of the Superkilen masterplan. This space is where locals are able to engage and relax while enjoying a game of backgammon or chess, as if it were your own living room. With paving lined with Japanese cherry trees, both pedestrians and cyclists are able to move through the site on designated paths that intersect with existing bike ramps that surround the site.

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Sport / play – The Green Park is where residents are able to engage with a number of sports facilities, ranging from the existing hockey field, basketball court and soccer field. With the theme of play, hills and trees frame the space with a feeling of relaxation and playfulness.

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Procured as a result of an invited competition initiated by the City of Copenhagen and Realdania, the project aimed to create an urban space with a strong identity on a local and global scale. Superkilen primarily serves the community of Norrebro and Copenhagen’s surrounding districts, however thanks to the media coverage of the project, visitors from both within Denmark and overseas continue to use the space.

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In Superkilen’s design, sustainable urban principles were considered in the planning of the urban space. To create a more transparent infrastructure throughout the neighbourhood, existing bike paths and pedestrian walkways were recognised with new connections linking to surrounding neighbourhoods.

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The design process was heavily influenced by the local community. Public meetings and suggestion boxes were provided throughout the process to give voice to residents and allow for everyone to submit their own ideas for the proposal.

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The project has received a lot of media attention. There has been an overall positive response to the space from locals and critics. The spaces provided are thoroughly used by residents, who benefit from the safety and sense of local identity it provides.

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The Superkilen website is an up-to-date portal that can be used to access itineraries for planned events and activities.

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Melbourne’s inner suburban condition can definitely take note of the process involved in Superkilen and how the project responded to the ethnically diverse and socially challenged area of Norrebro. Through meaningful symbolisation of each culture a sense of community has been created, a lesson particularly relevant to our similarly diverse culture.

Image Sources

  1. The Red Square overview, sourced from Superflex.
  2. Superkilen aerial map, sourced from Archdaily.
  3. Nationalities, sourced from Archdaily.
  4. Site plan, sourced from Archdaily.
  5. Bike paths, copyright Iwan Baan. Image sourced from Archdaily.
  6. Aerial view, copyright Iwan Baan. Image sourced from Archdaily.
  7. The Red Square design ideas, sourced from Design Boom.
  8. The Black Square design ideas, sourced from Design Boom.
  9. The Green Park design ideas, sourced from Design Boom.
  10. Climbing frame, copyright Torben Eskerod. Image sourced from Archdaily.
  11. Hilltop, copyright Iwan Baan. Image sourced from Archdaily.
  12. Shovelling dirt, copyright Torben Eskerod. Image sourced from Archdaily.
  13. Celebration in the Red Square, copyright Hasse Ferrold. Image sourced from Archdaily.
  14. Black octopus, copyright Iwan Baan. Image sourced from Archdaily.
  15. Swing set, copyright Torben Eskerod. Image sourced from Archdaily.

The High Line

1 Introduction

1.1 Location

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The High Line park is located in Manhattan in New York City. It runs from Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street in the lower western side of the island.

1.2 Description

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The High Line is an elevated, linear public park. It is an innovative transformation of an elevated railway, repurposing the disused infrastructure into a public park. It acts as an urban gallery or museum, allowing people to experience the city in an extraordinary way. From careful vantage points along the length of the park, the city becomes the exhibits.

The High Line is 1.6km long and is divided into three stages of construction. The first and second stages are already built and open to the public. The third has yet to be commissioned.

The total project cost for stages 1 and 2 was $152.3 million. This cost was funded via a collection of sources:

  • $112.2 million from the City of New York.
  • $20.3 from the United States Government.
  • $400,000 from the State of New York.
  • $44 million from Friends of the High Line.

2 History 

2.1 Birth of the High Line railway

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In New York in 1846, a free public train shared the street with all other traffic types. Thanks to the high record of traffic accidents and deaths on 10th Avenue, this street was also known as Death Avenue.

2.2 Last Cowboys

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From the year 1847 to 1941, a group of cowboys were hired to ride along the train tracks and warn people of oncoming trains..

2.3 High Line railway construction

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Construction of the High Line Railway finished in 1934. It was elevated 10m above the ground.

2.4 Last train

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The last train made its final journey along the High Line in 1980. Consideration was given to demolishing the infrastructure, though no decision was ever taken.

3 Park proposal

3.1 Friends of the High Line

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Co-founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammon, Friends of the High Line was created to lobby the city to protect the railway. At that time, they had no money, experience or proper plan.

3.2 Joel Sternfeld

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Sternfeld popularised the wild landscape growing from the railway surface via a series of photographic exhibitions.

3.3 Design competition

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In the first half of 2003, an open ideas competition was conducted to solicit proposals for reuse of the High Line. 720 teams from 36 countries entered. Hundreds of design entries were displayed at Grand Central Station. The winning submission was a collaboration between architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro, landscape architect Field Operations and Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf.

3.4 Ownership

The High Line is owned by the City of New York and falls under the jurisdiction of the NYC Department of Parks and RecreationIt was donated to the city by CSX Transportation Inc., the private owners of the original railway. The land beneath the High Line is owned in parcels by New York State, New York City and more than 20 private property owners.

4 Design

4.1 Plants

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While it was hoped that the existing wild landscape could be in part retained, the design team came to the conclusion that removing and replacing it was necessary: “Retaining the existing, self-sown landscape was considered, but after much investigation the design team, the City of New York, and Friends of the High Line concluded that it had to be removed – to properly assess the High Line’s structural and maintenance needs, and to responsibly prepare the underlying structure for the creation of a park that will last decades into the future.”

4.2 Gansevoort Plaza

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4.3 Open Space

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4.4 Diversity

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4.5 10th Avenue Square (street cinema)

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5 Impact

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The High Line project has had impact across many areas of influence:

  • $2 billion in economic impact
  • 29 major development projects
  • 12,000 jobs
  • 2,558 new residential units
  • 1,000 hotel rooms
  • 39,300 square metres of new office space
  • Total visitation in 2011 = 3,724,886


PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day is an annual festival dedicated to car parking spaces… not the celebration of car parking, but to rethinking the possibilities of the parking space as a public space which can be meaningfully used for social activities. The festival began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco.[1] Images of the first guerrilla event were widely distributed online, and Rebar received many requests for the same parking space conversion in other cities.

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Instead of replicating the mini-park installation, Rebar decided to promote the idea as an open source urban project. Anyone with an interest is able to undertake a PARK(ing) Day project independently, without the direct involvement of Rebar.[2]

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The guidelines created by Rebar most importantly limit the commercial exploitation of the event, and keep participation focused on the principles of community service, creativity, experimentation, generosity and play. PARK(ing) Day is about making new experimental forms of public space for public activities, not for commercial uses or promotions.[3]

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People in different urban contexts have adapted and redefined the event to address relevant local issues. The photo collage above shows some of the many interesting ideas that have been employed so far.

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There are a range of ways in which PARK(ing) Day events are established. In some cities, individuals and artists independently curate their own installations each year. In others, not-for-profit organisations, local councils and universities undertake larger events.

20140823 parking day #6

With the support of local councils, universities and private sponsorships, Brisbane and Adelaide have organised PARK(ing) Day events almost every year since 2008. Both cities have run the event as a student design competition and paired it with seminar and workshop programmes. In Sydney, PARK(ing) Day is advocated by a national not-for-profit organisation, Object. Object facilitates individual participation, and assist with submitting projects for design approval. In both Melbourne and Tasmania, the festival has only interested a few private enterprises and small groups of students. Less than 5 PARK(s) have been produced over the past two years… Do we already have enough public space?

20140823 parking day #7

Since its humble beginning with one PARK in San Francisco in 2005, it expanded in 2011 to 975 parks in 162 cities around the world.[4] In some cities in South Africa, the festival runs each year for a whole week. PARK(ing) Day created the term parklet and inspired the United States’ Pavement to Park Programme which provides permanent benefits to local communities.

This case study shows the potential of a temporary / small art movement in challenging the way people think about urban space and encouraging the active participation of the public in civic processes. Its flexible structure allows many different ideas to be explored, and a strong sense of ownership by local organisations. It is also easy and affordable for anyone to participate, not only large organisations and design institutes. As we can see, it allows everyone to contribute to the social environment in a fun and easy way!


  1. Rebar Group; About page; PARK(ing) Day; accessed August 2014
  2. Ibid.
  3. Rebar Group; PARK(ing) Day Manifesto; PARK(ing) Day; p. 9
  4. Rebar Group; Home page; PARK(ing) Day; accessed August 2014

Image sources

  1. PARK(ing) Day origins; this and subsequent images copyright of author.
  2. The birth of PARK(ing) Day.
  3. Typologies of PARK(ing).
  4. Past installations.
  5. Approaches.
  6. Do we have it in Australia?
  7. Influences and values.

The Hamburger Deckel

20140822 hamburger deckel #1

The Hamburger Deckel is an infrastructure improvement project on one of Germany’s busiest and longest motorways, the A7. The project is in direct response to the increasing traffic congestion and growing patronage along the motorway, which runs for 964km and linking Denmark in the north and Austria in the south.[1]

For decades this vital road link has been a major headache for the residents of Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and Europe’s second largest port. Since its construction several decades ago, the 6 lane freeway has created a major physical barrier disconnecting the communities on either side. The residents of the Schnelsen, Stellingen and Bahrenfeld districts of Hamburg have endlessly expressed their concerns over the large levels of unwanted noise and air pollution generated by the heavy truck and car traffic along these sections of the freeway. Community pressure groups have been campaigning for over three decades, demanding that federal and local governments provide a solution to the noise and air pollution problems generated by the A7. These demands remained unanswered for a long time due to a lack of government funding.[2]

20140822 hamburger deckel #2

However, the A7 has developed into one of the worst bottlenecks in the country and has finally managed to attract the German government’s attention. The current flow of 152,000 vehicles per day is predicted to rise to as much as 165,000 by 2025 between the Bahrenfeld and Schnelsen sections of the motorway. The current and predicted vehicle flows will exceed the designed threshold by at least 26%, which has lead to the decision by the City of Hamburg and Federal Government to install an additional two lanes and a number of new slip roads to relieve this bottleneck.[3]

The City of Hamburg has decided to tackle this project of cross generational significance not only as an infrastructure and engineering problems, but also one that will eliminate the “wall of noise” and physical barrier stretching across the three districts of Hamburg.[4]

20140822 hamburger deckel #3

This primary design principle gave rise to the “Hamburger Deckel cut and cover” solution consisting of three new road tunnels through the districts of Schnelsen, Stellingen and Bahrenfeld, with a total combined length of 3.5km. The concrete and parkland canopy for the tunnels span on average 34m and have an average structural depth of 2 to 3 meters. Aimed at reconnecting the disconnected districts and stitching together the urban fabric, each tunnel deck is to support new extensive parklands, allotments of community gardens and parcels for new residential developments.[5]

20140822 hamburger deckel #4

The project is expected to cost around AUD$1 billion and take almost 10 years to complete, with the largest 2km section at Bahrenfeld to be completed last by approximately 2025.[6]

20140822 hamburger deckel #5

The first section of the project at Stellingen began construction in 2012. The standard cross section of this part of the tunnel is 22.5m wide and 893m long.[7]

20140822 hamburger deckel #6

The tunnel cover supports a surface of park, new residential development parcels and allotment gardens. A planning and design competition was conducted in 2010 with the winning design chosen to be implemented once the tunnel deck is completed.

The main design principle followed in this section of the Hamburger Deckel project was primarily to reconnect the communities on either side of the A7. This will be achieved by the establishment of a green corridor through the city. The tunnel deck will provide a new vast open space for leisure and recreation activities. This “cut and cover” solution aims to directly solve the noise and air pollution problems raised by the community by providing an effective physical noise barrier. It will also offset pollution generated by traffic exhaust through the establishment of new parklands and meadows.[8] The landscape designers also saw the tunnel deck as an opportunity to create a new tree lined town centre square where the community can hold festivals and markets, further facilitating the initial design idea of bridging the previously disconnected communities.

20140822 hamburger deckel #7

Following the same design principles, the 560m long tunnel deck at Schnelsen will create a spacious new park bordered by trees and flanked by small gardens. The idea of reconnecting communities is again addressed through the establishment of a new town centre and market space.

20140822 hamburger deckel #8

The residents of the district can also make use of the series of community garden allotments located to the north of the deck with a pedestrian and cycle connection running along the length of the freeway. Once again, cafés and public open spaces will be established where community activities such as markets and festivals can be held, turning the area into a new heart of the Schnelsen district.[9]

20140822 hamburger deckel #9

Extending along 2030 metres, reaching from the S-Bahn urban railway line all the way to Volkspark, the Bahrenfeld section of the tunnel will be the project’s longest covered motorway segment. The construction period will last approximately four years and the cost will be shared between Hamburg and the federal government.[10]

20140822 hamburger deckel #10

A new urban neighbourhood comprising approximately 1700 homes will be built in between the horse racing track and Schnackenburgallee with most of the existing allotment gardens transferred on top of the tunnel cover. Once again, this new urban landscape is primarily dedicated to the community’s leisure and recreation activities. The new tunnel deck will also provide a link into the existing parkland around the northern section of the tunnel and establish a green corridor through the city.[11]

The success of the “cut and cover” solution is that it not only provides an effective noise barrier to protect the community and mitigate the air pollution problems created by the A7, it also provides new opportunities for residential development which can contribute to the financing of the project.

The Hamburger Deckel project has been community driven from the outset. During the planning process the community was engaged at a number of stages, with regular workshops and public events held within the communities. These workshops were used as an opportunity to create a design brief for the landscape design competitions, ensuring the needs of the residents were incorporated into the design outcome. Throughout the planning process, consultants and planners were in close contact with the districts’ residents through public consultations and regular publications of design proposal documentation. This created a transparent planning process with regular community feedback.[12]

20140822 hamburger deckel #11

In terms of project financing, an infrastructure improvement scheme on a scale such as that proposed for the Hamburger Deckel was inevitably to be shared by the federal government. The only precondition for obtaining federal funding was that the German Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan classified the project as being urgent. This was established to be the case for the A7, with consideration given to the large amounts of community pressure to solve the traffic congestion and noise issues, as well as the issue of increasing vehicle patronage.[13]

First estimates put the City of Hamburg’s share at AUD$215 million in investment costs, plus AUD $24 million for planning. It was decided that the land owned by the City of Hamburg at the edge of the noise-reduced motorway was to be offered to private property developers. The sale of this land will contribute to the costs of the project and offset the financial burden on Hamburg. The total project cost is split between the City of Hamburg (17%) and the federal government (83%).[14]

20140822 hamburger deckel #12

The only negative response to the Hamburger Deckel so far has been the concerns of existing owners of garden allotments which will be forced to relocate during construction and then again to the tunnel roof once completed. Critics have also showed concern over possible loss of business productivity due to the long delays caused by construction activities. Similar fears are shared amongst road users which feel that the lengthy construction will cause major disruptions to an already strained vital roadway in Hamburg and Germany.[15]

20140822 hamburger deckel #13

This type of project procurement and community involvement is very interesting and an important case study for the Streets Without Cars agenda, as local community support and feedback will be essential in identifying what opportunities exist when we reimagine our local streets as spaces for pedestrians instead of cars.


  1. City of Hamburg, Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg; A7 Information Brochure.
  2. Ibid.; p. 18.
  3. Ibid.; p. 12.
  4. Ibid.; pp. 4-5.
  5. Mark Boyer; Hamburg is building a giant green roof cover over sections of the A7 MotorwayInhabitat; November 2011.
  6. Ibid.
  7. City of Hamburg, Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg; A7 Information Brochurepp. 6-7.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.; pp. 6-7.
  10. Ibid.; pp. 7-8.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.; pp. 18-19.
  13. Ibid.; pp. 16-17.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Simon Tomlinson; The underground motorway: Germans plan to cover one of Europe’s longest autobahns with a giant parkDaily Mail; December 2011.

Image sources

  1. A7 Motorway, image sourced from The City Fix.
  2. Issues with the A7, author’s own image.
  3. Hamburger Deckel, image sourced from The City Fix.
  4. Project overview, author’s own image.
  5. Project timeline, author’s own image. Maps sourced from the City of Hamburg: here and here.
  6. Project proposal, author’s own image. Renders sourced from the City of Hamburg: here, here and here; and Inhabitat.
  7. Stellingen design principles, author’s own image. Renders sourced from Inhabitat.
  8. Project images, sourced from the City of Hamburg: here, here, here and here.
  9. Schnelsen design principles, author’s own image. Renders sourced from the City of Hamburg.
  10. Bahrenfeld design principles, author’s own image. Renders sourced from the City Hamburg: here and here.
  11. Planning process, author’s own image.
  12. Project cost analysis, author’s own image.
  13. Community response, author’s own image.

The East-West Link

20140821 east west link #1

The East-West Link, if given the go ahead will be one of the largest infrastructure projects to be ever constructed in Melbourne. Over the years a lot of work has been completed to understand the benefits of the project and needs of Melbournians. This has taken the form of feasibility studies, early planning investigations and business case development. [1]

20140821 east west link #2

The East-West Link was conceived following a study by Rod Eddington in 2008 into Melbourne’s future east-west travel needs. The report provided a number of recommendations, including new rail tunnels, public transport improvement plans and the East West link as a duplication of the West Gate bridge. According to the study, as the demand for travel increases, fast and reliable connections around the city will become more and more important for businesses and the future prosperity of Melbourne.[2]

According to studies undertaken by the Linking Melbourne Authority (LMA), the demand for the East-West Link is driven by the need to enhance connectivity to critical destinations, including the Port of Melbourne and Melbourne International Airport. In order to accommodate rapidly growing freight movement, nationally significant industrial precincts in the south-east and the east must be linked with both the port and interstate supply chain corridors in the north and west of Melbourne.[3] The LMA study attempts to show that improving the travel choice for businesses and individuals accessing goods, services, education and employment through the new east-west link will maximise Victoria’s competitive advantage, even though a comprehensive business case is yet to be published.

20140821 east west link #3

The study concentrates on evidence that Melbourne’s congestion and road network unreliability are getting worse. The annual cost of congestion is estimated to grow to $5 billion by 2021 and to $7.2 billion by 2031, more than double current levels. The East-West Link is intended to provide a long term alternative to the congested West Gate bridge and address growth forecasts in population, freight and traffic.[4]

The project has been surrounded by controversy, in particular related to its very short design development and feasibility study period, which it seems has been fast-tracked by state and federal government for political motivations. The published project timeline by the LMA shown below suggests that the $8 billion Stage 1 of the East-West Link is to go ahead with just over a year of project planning.

20140821 east west link #4

The controversy has been stoked by industry reports showing that the previously considered $1.5 billion assistance for the Metro Rail Tunnel would have been a better use of public funds, with a capacity to shift the passenger equivalent of 24 lanes of freeway. Further reports by Infrastructure Australia, such as Spend more, waste more, argue that the existing level of road expenditure is unsustainable and unjustified.[5]

As yet, there has been no East-West Link business case published by the state government. Writing in The Age, Senior Columnist Kenneth Davidson has suggested that this may in part be because it relies on increasing car dependence at the expense of public transport. The East-West Link ties into Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s Plan Melbourne, which envisages a growth in Melbourne’s population by 2020 of an extra 1.3 million people, almost all of whom will be housed in dwellings with one or two cars. Davidson suggests that “if the East-West Link goes ahead there will be no money for public transport for at least a generation, irrespective of political promises.”[6]

Despite the strong criticism of the project, the current design for Stage 1 has been given the green light by the Naphtine government. The design for Stage 1 consists of :

  • Twin 4.4km long, three lane tunnels connecting Eastern Freeway to Royal Park
  • Tunnel portal west of Hoddle Street
  • Tunnel portal in Royal Park
  • Elevated roadways linking the tunnel to the City Link Tollway
  • Eastern Freeway widening at the junction of Hoddle Street and Tram Road
  • Upgrades to Hoddle Street in both north and south directions
  • City Link connection to M1, M80 Freeways
  • Connections to Port of Melbourne and Melbourne International Airport

20140821 east west link #5

The proposed tunnels are to be three lanes in each direction and will carry commercial and private vehicles. As part of the contract signing with the winning construction and maintenance consortium, the tunnel route and detailed design will be finalised and influenced by geological conditions along the route. The tunnels are likely to use a combination of construction methods because of different ground conditions and design requirements.[7]

Some of the major issues raised with the current design proposal are the flyover connections to the City Link Tollway, which will effected the Ross Straw Field part of Royal Park, substantially compromise the adjacent wetlands, compromise the visual amenity of surrounding suburbs and significantly encroach on the Arden Street and Macaulay Road precincts.

In terms of project financing, Stage 1 of the East-West Link is being procured as an Availability Public Private Partnership (PPP), with the state government initially retaining tolling and traffic risk. Under the PPP model, the private sector designs, constructs, finances, operates and maintains the road to specified standards in exchange for availability payments over the term of the concession period. A competitive tender process commenced in late 2013 with a successful project proponent expected to be determined by late 2014.[8] The Victorian State Government has contributed $294 million towards project procurement costs, with the Federal Government pledging an additional $1.5 billion towards Stage 1 Costs. The Federal Government has also recently announced an additional $1.5 billion towards the future costs of Stage 2.[9]

20140821 east west link #6

Major criticisms of the project have come from community action groups such as the BetterEWL residential action group. In collaboration with architecture studio Atelier Red+ Black, they argue that the LMA did not undertake appropriate community consultation, a specific directive of the Planning Minister’s scoping directions for the project. The LMA instead developed a reference design that would have what it termed acceptable outcomes. To achieve the intent of the scoping directions, the LMA puts the onus on the tenderers, which according to BetterEWL is outside the statutory approval process.[10] The BetterEWL team has also commented on the LMA’s lack of consideration for design alternatives as part of the statutory approval process. This and other public groups feel that the LMA should be required to go back and conduct a thorough investigation of the alternative designs presented.

20140821 east west link #7

The decision to build the first stage of the East-West Link has also been criticised as a misuse of public funds that could be better spent on public transport. This has been particularly highlighted by the City of Yarra-sponsered action group, Trains Not Toll Roads. Polls indicate that the Melbourne Metro Rail project is the preferred infrastructure option and is viewed as the infrastructure project of highest priority. The support of this group by the City of Yarra is particularly interesting for the Streets Without Cars agenda, as the design proposals will be looking at transforming and reimagining streets strategically selected throughout the municipality.

Further information on alternative designs proposals for the East-West Link’s controversial interchange and link to the City Link Tollway, visit the BetterEWL Alternative 1 and Alternative 2 information pages.

20140821 east west link #8

20140821 east west link #9


  1. East-West Link: Project overviewLinking Melbourne Authority.
  2. Rod Eddington; Investing in Transport overviewDepartment of Transport; 2008; p.5.
  3. East-West Link: Project benefitsLinking Melbourne Authority.
  4. East-West Link Stage 1 Short Form Business CaseLinking Melbourne Authority.
  5. Spend More, Waste More: Australia’s roads in 2014Infrastructure Australia; 2014.
  6. Kenneth Davidson; East-West Link: The case against this road gets ever strongerThe Age; 28th July 2014.
  7. Tunnel Fact SheetLinking Melbourne Authority.
  8. East-West Link Stage 1 Short Form Business CaseLinking Melbourne Authority.
  9. Jason Dowling; Victoria gets federal budget funding for East-West Link but not airport railThe Age; 14th May 2014.
  10. Design alternatives, BetterEWL.

Image sources

  1. East-West Link Stage 1, copyright Linking Melbourne Authority; screen grab at 0:15 seconds.
  2. Project overview, author’s own image.
  3. Why the East-West Link, author’s own image.
  4. Timeline overview, author’s own image.
  5. Tunnel cross section, copyright Linking Melbourne Authority.
  6. Financing overview, author’s own image.
  7. Project criticism, author’s own image.
  8. A better alternative for Arden Macaulay, copyright Atelier Red + Black.
  9. A better alternative for Parkville, copyright Atelier Red + Black.