The Goods Line (North)
Landscape Performance Benefits
- Improves experience of the entire Goods Line according to 89% of 89 survey respondents. The most frequent reasons cited were amenities or activities (25%), aesthetics or feel (22%), and green space (17%).
- Increases visitor dwell time, with 32% of 182 survey respondents reporting spending more than a half hour at the site per visit. 72% of 105 survey respondents reported that they spent much less or somewhat less time in the adjacent unimproved space, The Goods Line South, before the opening of the new section.
- Promotes social interaction, with 67% of 357 observed users visiting the site in groups of 2 or more. At the same time, the space caters to solitary activities, with over 60% of survey respondents reporting that they sometimes or always/usually visit the site alone.
- Improves connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists in a previously inaccessible corridor, with approximately 55% of 1,214 users observed using the space as a pedestrian connection during weekday daytime hours.
At a Glance
Former Land Use
14-28 Ultimo Road
Ultimo, New South Wales 2007
Located on the southern fringe of downtown Sydney, The Goods Line (North) repurposes a decommissioned rail corridor to create a leafy, public open space. This linear and, in places, elevated city park forms part of an inter-urban pedestrian and cycle network linking the key transportation hubs of Sydney’s Central Station and Railway Square to a series of cultural, educational, entertainment, and leisure spaces on the southern and western edges of the Central Business District. Sydney’s southern fringe has now been reconnected to the surrounding city fabric, providing more than 80,000 locals, visitors, and university students direct access to nearby Darling Harbour, Chinatown, and the rest of Sydney. The Goods Line is located within one-quarter mile of Sydney’s busiest transportation interchange: the hub of Central Station (train and light rail) and the adjacent Railway Square interchange (bus). The Goods Line (North) connects to The Goods Line (South) on the other side of Ultimo Road, a 1990s redevelopment that received fairly minimal landscape interventions. The northern section features extensive social infrastructure such as bleachers, seats, an amphitheatre, wi-fi facilities, a play space, ping pong tables, and raised lawns, supporting a range of outdoor activities. The Goods Line (North) has significantly enhanced the burgeoning public life in this rapidly-growing district.
- The project preserved the rail tracks and several associated heritage features, drawing attention to its historical function as a working ‘goods line’ from Darling Harbour to Central Station. The project retained and repurposed critical historic elements of the rail infrastructure, like the renovated and restored Ultimo railway bridge, which facilitates pedestrian links over Ultimo Road.
- Numerous interpretive panels attest to the site’s industrial history, helping to create greater awareness of the significance of the site in the development of Sydney.
- The project provides safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and parking, which increases connectivity within and across the city. The linear park is wheelchair accessible complying with Australian Standard 1428.
- The project adds 25,800 sf of new green space to its precinct where none had existed within a half mile. Over 33% of the project’s surface cover was developed as green space, reducing cross-surface runoff from large areas of previously bituminised hardscape as well as decreasing the urban heat island effect. This offers an important respite within the heavily built-up periphery of Sydney’s urban core.
- An herbaceous and predominantly native drought-tolerant planting palette ensures low maintenance needs and increases in the almost non-existent biodiversity on site. The plants are located in gravel and mulch planting beds and include Banksia and other local species that are hardy and adapted to the site conditions, while also recalling the pre-settlement character of the site.
- The retention of a long row of existing fig trees forms a large shade canopy over the public areas along the eastern edge of the site.
- Water-Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) initiatives enable The Goods Line (North) to achieve the New South Wales Government’s objective of 80% potable water consumption reduction. Concealed inlet pits within garden beds enable stormwater to infiltrate and naturally irrigate the garden spaces. Where additional runoff drainage was required, grated steel drains were integrated into the precast concrete panelised ground plane.
- A range of passive and active recreation opportunities contribute to the health and well-being of visitors and the general community by encouraging physical activity within and through the site. These include 2 custom-designed ping pong tables, a heritage and water-themed children’s play space, a fitness station, and raised and sunken lawns that are frequently used by personal trainers or for outdoor yoga classes.
- Other design features encourage greater social engagement in the public outdoor space for work, study and public events. These include pods that can seat up to 25 people, an amphitheatre for up to 100 people, and communal tables to serve a large student and professional population. These areas incorporate power outlets, including 3-phase power at intervals throughout for larger events, and a 50-amp outlet for major events.
- The use of innovative digitally-designed precast concrete unit paving means that panels can be removed for access to utilities that run below the site without major demolition and excavation. The decision to use this paving and construction method also made it possible to integrate the historic rail tracks on-site and retain existing site elevations.
The landscape architects were tasked with creating an integrated two-phase linear park in a rapidly transforming inner-city area that already hosted major educational, media, entertainment, and cultural institutions and was also witnessing the addition of many new residential and commercial developments. The site’s heritage as a railway corridor needed to be preserved. The rail corridor and its heritage-protected bridge serve as ongoing material evidence of the important trading history that connected the state’s railway network (Central Station to the south) with its warehouses, ports, and dockyards (Pyrmont and Darling Harbour to the north). The landscape architects were also required to develop a design solution for construction that would not interrupt the functioning of the live high-voltage district power cables running through the site.
The design repurposes the remnants of industrial infrastructure to create contemporary circulation infrastructure and meet new public space demands, drawing on this post-industrial aesthetic in design features and interpretive elements. The design focused on the idea of connectivity not just within the site and its immediate surroundings, but in the context of a broader strategic vision of pedestrian and cyclist mobility across a larger area of the city. In addition to the north-south pedestrian linkages created, The Goods Line opened up east-west linkages to connect two district streets previously terminating in dead-ends on either side. Parts of the site were designed to function as an event platform with spaces for flexible programming to facilitate temporary activation along the length of the project. To address the underground live cables and to retain the existing railway tracks, a novel precast concrete panel solution was developed that facilitated not only installation but also future access needs to the important infrastructure corridor that lies under The Goods Line (North).
- Air quality on the site and in adjacent baseline urban areas was measured before, during, and after construction. No significant improvement in ambient air quality was demonstrated even with the conversion of 33% of the space from greyfield to green space. This may be because much of the additional green space was lawn rather than a more complex assemblage of vegetation types such as trees, shrubs and grasses; air quality improvements are generally associated with increases in the amount of leaf area and in the number of large trees and shrubs present.
- With the advice of Birds Australia, a bird survey was conducted after the completion of the project as a potential indicator of improved biodiversity. The survey did not suggest that the redevelopment could be linked to any changes in biodiversity without more intensive biodiversity survey methods. Like air quality improvement, enhanced biodiversity at small urban scales requires increased coverage and complexity of vegetation.
- The Goods Line’s “activation pillars” were designed by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA). The SHFA has since been disbanded, leaving a lack of clear leadership in place management and confusion over who is allowed access or has control over the different areas of The Goods Line. The challenges with programming events and formulating a well-publicized events calendar have also impacted the potential of The Goods Line to realize the degree of activation originally intended. This was reflected in survey responses from users of The Goods Line, which suggested the activation could be improved by the inclusion of more programming such as events or markets.
- There was no clear evidence that the redevelopment of The Goods Line (North) has contributed to increased business activity in the area. It is also difficult to disaggregate the contribution of The Goods Line from the numerous other changes of use, upgrades, and new developments occurring in the area. Interviews with adjacent business owners also revealed concerns about the contribution of The Goods Line to the overall gentrification of the area and the possible displacement of existing businesses as a result of increased rents.
Custom precast concrete panels and benches: Hanson Precast Concrete
5.5-meter and 4-meter tapered column lighting pole: Vicpole
WE-EF spotlights, in-ground uplights and area lights: Light Culture
Custom LED channels mounted to rail line and downlights to column under Ultimo Bridge: Nocturnal Lighting
Irrigation system: Hydroplan
Laser-cut steel custom yellow seats, communal table, ping pong tables, and exercise equipment: Emerdyn
Plantings: Alpine Nurseries and Andreasens Green Wholesale Nurseries
Client: Property NSW (formerly Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority)
Landscape Architect/Project Design Lead: ASPECT Studios
Architect/Design Partner: CHROFI
Civil, Structural, Hydraulic, and Electrical Engineers: ACOR
Interpretive Design: Deuce Design
Heritage Consultant: GML
Planning Consultant: JBA
Lighting Designers: Lighting Art + Science
Research for precast concrete: AR-MA
General Contractor: Gartner Rose
Role of the Landscape Architect
The landscape architect was the project design lead responsible for the master planning and detailed design of The Goods Line project, both north and south. This included landscape architectural services, urban design, project management, coordination of consultants, extensive high-level stakeholder and community consultation and workshops as well as compliance with New South Wales building design codes and relevant Australian Standards.
Case Study Prepared By
Research Fellows: Simon Kilbane, Senior Lecturer/Course Director, University of Technology, Sydney
Andrew Toland, Lecturer, University of Technology, Sydney
Research Assistant: Kane Pham, PhD Candidate, University of Technology, Sydney
Firm Liaisons: Sacha Coles, Director, Atsuko Kunugi, Marketing Coordinator; ASPECT Studios