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09 Feb 2023

Leveraging Sydney Central Station in the Over-rail Precinct

Leveraging Sydney Central Station in the Over-rail Precinct

Rob Stokes, the minister for cities, has revealed that Sydney Central would undergo a transformation that includes landscaping, outdoor furniture, pop-up shops, hospitality events, and glass roof-lights for the Grand Concourse.

TAHE CEO Benedicte Colin says Sydney Terminal Building Revitalisation project will "turn the station into a global, modern destination with exciting retail, bar and dining options, better outdoor spaces for travellers to unwind while improving accessibility options to the station.”

An enticing flythrough shows the ambition for a daring, new neighbourhood to the south of the CBD. The renovation is a part of the Central Area Renewal Program, the new precinct over the rail yards at Sydney's Central Station.

There are many positive aspects of the master plan and the suggested station activation, but Central Station was a squandered opportunity to be a key component of place-making. By lowering its intrinsic value, it fails the historic station.

The new over-rail development's Central Station is its driving force and ought to be its beating centre. One of the busiest stations in the world, it brings millions of commuters from the suburbs and the countryside to the edge of the city. Its historical structures have a rich social history and are ingrained in our city's collective memory. Physically, the scale, materials, and architecture of the station produce a distinctive sense of place. What makes this part of Sydney unique is its central location.

However, the proposed over train deck is pushed close to Central's southern boundary by the master plan, denying it breathing room and paying it little attention. The station is visibly and physically cut off from the new precinct by steep banks of stairs that slope up from the Grand Concourse, which address the substantial level difference between the station and the plan. The station is effectively turned into a crowd-funnel.

Because the station and its historical significance have been ignored, the over-rail construction in some places literally overwhelm it.

Other options may be found by carefully examining Walter Liberty Vernon's original layout and endpoint from the eighteenth century. The goal must be to improve the station's status as a connected, rather than isolated, destination, linking the Surry Hills, Chippendale, Ultimo, Haymarket, and Redfern neighbourhoods, and presenting the station as an icon that will anchor this new location to the city.

Instead of the station being isolated from the over rail deck above, our vision would aim to connect more broadly to the landscape by establishing a natural series of terraces, spaces, and places that integrate the station and its neighbourhood into the new precinct.

It should be a modern addition to the station that offers spaces for people to gather, communicate, eat, and rest while maximising what is already there and paying homage to the scale, materials, and history of the existing structure. For for over a century, Sydney residents have been using the station in this manner. Instead of being left at the door, Central Station should be invited to the event.

Kings Cross in London serves as the example for this, where John McAslan + Partners was in charge of creating the stunning steel canopy dubbed one of London's most successful place-making ventures. Kings Cross serves as an iconic entrance to a nearby, extensive urban renovation, demonstrating the importance of rail stations as more than just hubs for travel. They are fair public areas that ought to serve the community, foster connections, and be given the proper place in the social fabric of the city.

We are enthusiastic about the over-rail development's potential to connect east and west and add to Sydney's future urban fabric. Think carefully about how these locations feel on the ground at a human scale, how they link more generally, and what they offer back to the city over time as we strive to create places where people want to be. Working with and improving what already existing is not only more sustainable, but it will also go a long way towards preserving what is "uniquely Sydney" and ensuring that the new precinct will actually benefit the residents of the city.

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