Comment from TCL: Harnessing the power of design to transform cities

As urban designers and landscape architects, we are the disciplines with the most power to transform public spaces into destinations and attractions that unite communities and help cities thrive. On any project, compared to the costs of tunneling and road construction, landscaping is one of the smallest costs but creates the greatest legacy.

Think of the feelings evoked when you walk across a well-designed pedestrian bridge or through parks or wetlands. Truly transformative projects – projects that completely turn the dial on inconspicuous, neglected or even abandoned locations – start by creating strong connections with landscapes.

design to transform cities
Scott Adams.

A good example of this is our design to regenerate what was once an unloved beach strip in Western Australia. Known as the Scarborough Foreshore, the site was dominated by a car park and largely frequented by local skaters. Now this location is a ‘must-see’ destination for beach lovers, shoppers and foodies visiting or living in Scarborough.

Working as lead consultants, we collaborated with local landscape architects from UDLA to design the master plan and landscaping for the waterfront redevelopment. At its inception, this project was an initiative of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority and the City of Stirling.

design to transform cities
Scarborough Foreshore, photography by Douglas Mark Black.

Hon. John Carey, WA Minister for Planning, Lands, Housing and Homelessness, described the project as a “major success story, with thousands of locals and visitors coming to Scarborough to enjoy its world-class beach and thriving activities and entertainment district.”

Key to our design was reconfiguring the parking garage to prioritize pedestrians and give them better access to the beach and the nearby shopping and dining area of ​​the promenade. This was achieved by introducing two shaded, wide promenades. In between there is an outdoor swimming pool, a surfing club, a restaurant, a playground and a vertical skating rink.

design to transform cities
Foreshore of Scarborough.

The new design celebrates the region’s surf and skate culture. But it goes one step further and provides the location with facilities and sufficient spectator areas for the international skate and surf festivals of the future. We understand that surf culture and skate culture go hand in hand. Now the site could easily host international competitions for surfing, surf lifesaving or skating events.

In addition to being ‘future-oriented’, our design strategy was also a boost for the local economy during the construction phase. We worked closely with local Whadjuk Nyoongar artist Sharyn Egan and architect Fred Chaney of TRCB, as well as local sail makers. Together they took inspiration from the stitching used in Sharyn’s basket weaving to create large sail-like shade structures that were robust enough to withstand Scarborough’s coastal conditions.

Scarborough Foreshore, photography by Dion Robeson.

This isn’t the first time our designers have tapped into the artistry and insights of First Nations. We did the same for our internationally awarded contribution to Victoria’s North East Link project, which completes Melbourne’s entire highway system. TCL was responsible for the urban design and landscape architecture of the project and worked closely with BKK Architects, Warren and Mahoney Architects and Jefa Greenaway.

Here we have embedded the Wurundjeri philosophy of connecting to the land, caring for the land and connecting people. Our design choices were strongly influenced by this idea of ​​a reciprocal relationship with the land.

design to transform cities
North East Link (TCL & BKK), view of the Yarra River Bridge.

A good example is the large ventilation tower at the south end of the North East Link (used to extract gas from the tunnel). Normally a tower like this would be clad in a fairly nondescript architectural finish. Instead, our design team integrated solar panels. Essentially, we generate electricity that is immediately fed back into the tunnel’s own lighting network. This is the most efficient way to create sustainable energy.

Northeast Link (TCL and BKK).

design to transform cities
Southbank Boulevard (TCL and City of Melbourne), photography by Dianna Snape.

Part of the project also includes the design of a series of pedestrian bridges. In addition to being structurally efficient, I believe that these bridges should also provide a connection to the land. The design of each bridge must be specific to its context. Priorities will include the conservation and/or restoration of native plant communities and ecology.

That contextual connection is also evident in another of our Victorian projects. TCL was recently appointed by the City of Melbourne to lead the development and delivery of the Southbank Boulevard masterplan. Comprising a series of new public spaces adjacent to the sites of some of Melbourne’s best-known cultural institutions, including the Melbourne Recital Centre, the Melbourne Theater Company and the Victorian College of the Arts, our role included overseeing the functional and technical issues related to moving tram lines, as well as designing different identities for each new public space for these public institutions.

design to transform cities
Southbank Boulevard, photography by Dianna Snape.

Each new park space is designed to create a distinct experience as you move along the promenade. Materiality was crucial here. Bluestone, beloved and plentiful in Victoria, is a dominant feature along the footpaths. However, each new piece of land is provided with alternative stones and treatments to give those park spaces their own identity. The plantings are also varied to add character and enhance biodiversity.

design to transform cities
Southbank Boulevard, photography by Dianna Snape.

It is striking that this part of Melbourne is one of the most densely populated parts of Australia. Per square meter, the people who lived and worked here had access to the least amount of public space. Our design gives those people a large area of ​​high-quality public space to enjoy.

In short, the design process always unlocks opportunities and those opportunities lead to better outcomes for people from all walks of life.


This article was originally published by Indesignlive and republished by Architecture & Design.

Top image: Scarborough Foreshore by TCL and UDLA.