The fortuitous visit to Melbourne of the internationally renowned Professor Jan Gehl for the Eco Edge conference and the visit by his colleague Professor Lars Gemzøe both from Copenhagen, presented an opportunity to capitalise on their experience and knowledge in exploring options for the design of the proposed Civic Plaza.
A half day workshop was organised for Jan and Lars to investigate the conceptual design requirements for the proposed Civic Plaza. Present at the workshop were the Lyons design team architects; Carey Lyon, Neil Appleton, Michael Wright, and Jessica Blood. Also present were RMIT’s Karen Burns and Stuart Harrison. Attending from Council were the Mayor Kevin Sheahan and the CEO Darrell Treloar together with Kurt Bruhn, Nicole Mahoney, Frank Dixon, Michael Nelthorpe and Graeme Douglas and from DSE, Stuart Niven, Nick Joveski and the author.
The workshop was divided into a number of stages. It began with a welcome from the Mayor, the workshop outcomes by the author, and a presentation on the new Civic Office building by Neil Appleton. Jan Gehl and Lars Gemzøe then gave a “12 point Quality Design Criteria” presentation on what makes a good public space. This was followed by a brainstorming session led by Carey Lyon. After a break, the Design Workshop commenced and it was organised into two groups, one each led by Jan and Lars.
Jan Gehl Group
In the group led by Jan Gehl and Neil Appleton, ideas were based on the wider Broadmeadows area as a catchment of people for the Civic Plaza. As such, the concepts emanating from the group were of a larger scope. The main ideas were:
Broadmeadows boulevard: converting the current Main Street to a tree lined boulevard with plenty of pedestrian access to and from the train station. Slowing traffic on the street and redirecting it was also encouraged because it would allow people to enter the space easily, in contrast to ‘mini highway’ alternative. Broadmeadows boulevard was also identified as a desirable location for a sculpture or sign which signifies the centre of Broadmeadows.
From car parks to public space: redesigning the town centre, which is currently dominated by car usage, to facilitate increased pedestrian activity which would be anchored by the Civic Plaza and Shopping Centre. In well used, high quality public spaces, the movement and amenity of people should not be made secondary.
The square itself should be permissive to a variety of activities so that a mix of people actually use it. People should be able to do as they please – relax, play, eat, drink and generally enjoy the ambience. Attractions such as art and water features are considered as integral to creating a quality, well frequented urban environment.
The Civic Plaza can connect the new Civic Offices and the existing Global Learning Centre to the Broadmeadows Shopping Centre, thus creating a larger area of pedestrian space for the people of Broadmeadows. This was seen as a long term goal for the town centre.
Lars Gemzøe Group
The Lars Gemzøe and Carey Lyon group focussed more on the design issues for the square, and some of the initiatives to be developed included:
- elimination of the change of grade between Civic Plaza and new Civic Building and introduction of bollards & speed ramps on the laneway
- good crossing at grade required at Pascoe Vale Road
- two good crossings at least required across Main Street
- civic Plaza should have a hard surface and a green canopy – for example, basalt cobblestones and benches under trees
- use slope of land towards north for steps to sit on
- hard edge on north with trees – with trees on both sides of Main Street
- interesting by day – remarkable by night
- 24 hour commercial uses preferred – café/bar at western end
- global Learning Centre should be transparent by day
- public art on site with possible water feature along length with possible ‘Alhambra’ overtones.
In exploring these ideas the following were considered: pedestrian infrastructure such as traffic signals geared to allow easy pedestrian movements; attractive lighting would encourage use of the space at night; numerous doors leading into and out of the surrounding buildings would promote the idea of a people friendly space; maximising the use of the sunny side of the street would allow people to enjoy pleasant weather; attractive landscaping would define the promenade and provide shade in the warmer months, and the inclusion of a large screen for use during community events and major sporting events would all help to bring people together in a space created for them.
To summarise, through the proposed Civic Plaza, the urban character of Broadmeadows town centre can be improved in synchronicity with the development of the new Council Offices. The introduction of quality public space would foster a strong sense of community and will, in turn, benefit the long term development of the Broadmeadows Transit City
It is intended that the Design Workshop outcomes be used to assist in briefing consultants involved with the proposed Civic Plaza development and, when published in an appropriate form, as a indication to the community and the public and private sector of the commitment of Council and the State Government to quality urban design outcomes in Broadmeadows Transit City.
For further information about the Broadmeadows Transit City Project contact Bill Renehan, Senior Project Manager, Urban Programs, Department of Sustainability and Environmenton 03 9655 3394.