South-East Queensland has important recent rail infrastructure, with the Brisbane to Gold Coast railway line and proposals for a new northern spur to Redcliffe, Petrie to Kippa-Ring, about 35km north of Brisbane. However, the achievements of sensibly integrating development with rail are ordinary. Robina Station, at the southern terminus of the Brisbane /Gold Coast rail corridor misses the commercial centre (designated a key regional centre in SEQ 2001, the Government’s previous foray into strategic planning in SEQ) by 800metres. The proposed northern rail extension misses the new Northlakes town centre by a similar distance. The mantra of Transit Oriented Development is easy to recite – but harder to achieve.
A conjectural exercise
The studio required students to design a medium/high density mixed-use TOD on the Petrie to Kippa-Ring railway line focusing on the next proposed station east of Northlakes, incidentally where the main arterial from Northlakes connected with the rail. Although the site is real, with a collection of rural residential uses, the project was framed as a conjectural exercise, where the outcomes had broader policy implications than site specific ones. Since this was the first studio for some students, they weren’t left on the site to ponder an urban future and asked to pin up something some weeks later. Students were eased into the design with a primer course of urban analysis in the first half of the semester, looking at an existing settlement on a railway line. Urban tissues were then used to inform design responses. Ten tissues of Oslo were provided at the same size of the study area, 400m by 800m. Oslo, a city with fine urbanism, was chosen for a number of reasons. I once lived there and knew the place well, and a 1:5,000 map of the entire city with every street and building shown was available. Videos of tram trips through the city and a walking tour website gave the students a feeling for the urbanism.
Students observed, measured and analysed the tissues. The built form and land use transitions, relationships of parks and squares were recorded. Block sizes, street widths and street lengths were measured. The land-uses and ways the buildings and spaces may operate as urban places were imagined. Midway into the project, at the beginning of the design phase, a comprehensive site visit and council briefing was conducted. Students then had to apply the principles identified from the tissues and apply them to the site, taking into account orientation, topography, drainage corridors and noise.
The final station location was chosen to best integrate with the urbanism. The completed work was of a consistently good standard with Madonna Locke and Stephen Smith completing the best project. This work from the QUT Urban Design Masters program has created a series of design concepts for integrating land-uses, built form and significant public transport to contribute to the debate about desired urban futures for the South-East Queensland region.