Trainshed Way

Hassell’s recently constructed Trainshed Way shared space provokes questions about the design of such environments.

As an urban design solution intended as a “naked space” to mesh with the new intermodal transport hub at Geelong Railway Station, Trainshed Way also serves as a gateway to the city for rail passengers and strengthens the link between the station and Geelong’s premier design destination, its foreshore. It is urban infrastructure that has evolved from the City of Greater Geelong’s framework plan.

The Hassell-designed space is a carefully paved hardscape that starts near the station’s current main entrance, incorporating a secondary exit from the station, the vehicular access to the station car park from Mercer Street, pedestrian access from the station’s north-east catchment, and the station’s kiss-and-ride activity. The intermodal hub directly outside the main station entrance takes all bus and taxi activity and is closed to private car use.

The station itself is an elegant heritage-listed 1880s building of two colours of brick. Immediately to the east of its main entrance and south of the station car park is Geelong Police Station with its security, parking and access requirements.

The Chinese granite surface’s paving pattern subtly suggests pedestrian and vehicular movement.

The Chinese granite surface’s paving pattern subtly suggests pedestrian and vehicular movement.

Image: Andrew Lloyd

The plaza is a commendably strong civic and graphic gesture. It presents as a single surface – a carefully laid carpet of Chinese granite – the paving pattern of which subtly suggests pedestrian and vehicular movement lines. The long approach to the station is lined by an avenue of oak trees.

The design effort that has produced the subtlety of the paving’s patterned “signage” is in places literally sidelined by lines of bollards clearly defining the road space, two zebra crossings and other signage for bike lanes and parking. All this street furniture suggests that as a naked space, Trainshed Way is only stripped down to its Bonds.

A naked space – a form of shared space in which all signage is removed and a single surface created – is not necessarily going to be the most shared of shared spaces and Trainshed Way is a good example of that minimal sharing. Here it is very clear where the cars go and where the people go. Cars may slow a little to the twenty-five-kilometre-per-hour limit, being less certain of their status than at a traditional car park entrance. The lack of kerb and channel and the openness of the space encourage pedestrians to wander more freely. And the naked space has resulted in a finely paved space with little visual clutter.

This project succeeds as a design statement entrance to Geelong. It has a good feel. It succeeds as a treed avenue beginning to create a greater, structural connection to the waterfront. And it succeeds as a landscape waiting for its adjacencies to happen: Barwon Water is moving its head office here and there are plans for a reconfiguration of the station. And it also succeeds as the outcome of a conversation with the notoriously unforthcoming VicTrack.

What nags, though, is what might have resulted had the project never been conceived of as a naked space, if in the design process other frames had been foregrounded. For instance, would more emphasis on the avenue/promenade role of the space have resulted in a paving strategy less interested in subtle signing of movement and more in sympathy with the object at the end of the promenade, the station? Would kerb and channel be less intrusive than a landscape lined with bollards? Would a focus on the presence of signage make, say, the kiss-and-ride work better and position the station as more of the hub that it clearly must be?

The long, fenced edge stands as the de facto gateway to the area.

The long, fenced edge stands as the de facto gateway to the area.

Image: Andrew Lloyd

By seeking to “activate” the long, fenced edge to the police station, the designers have created a photogenic (and CADgenic) but overlarge and aggressive stockade fence that now stands as the de facto gateway to the area. It’s an active edge out of keeping with a naked, shared space, and as an accidental gateway it is misplaced.

Shared and naked spaces are necessarily going to be the result of particularly complex negotiations between multiple stakeholders. Elements imposed midway often undermine original intentions and need to be clearly dealt with up front – the bollards here are a case in point. This is a project in which landscape architects have demonstrated their skill and control over the ground plane, but in other ways they have been stymied in their efforts to achieve their ambitions. It’s about time the risk-averse world of traffic management came to the party. There can be no template approach to such outcomes. While the reality often does not live up to the ideal, it is only through the profession’s ongoing efforts that appropriate, quality outcomes will eventuate.

Credits

Architect
Hassell Melbourne
Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Project Team
Alun Chapman, Cassandra Chilton, Jason Geralis, Pe Yang Tang, Dean Thornton, Anissa Webb
Consultants
Project manager Department of Transport, VicTrack, VicTrack
Structural engineer Perrett Simpson
Site Details
Location Trainshed Way,  Geelong,  Vic,  Australia
Site type Urban
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 12 months
Construction 6 months
Category Landscape / urban

Source

Review

Published online: 28 Apr 2016
Words: Adrian Marshall
Images: Andrew Lloyd

Issue

Landscape Architecture Australia, May 2011

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