Lonsdale Street, Dandenong, Victoria

By Keren Lavelle

13 November 2013 — The top gong for urban design in the 2013 National Architecture Awards has been won by a partnership between BKK Architects and landscape architecture/urban design studio TCL for the Revitalising Central Dandenong: Lonsdale Street Redevelopment project in Victoria.

The redevelopment of Lonsdale Street is a key part of the $290 million Revitalising Central Dandenong Initiative, launched by the Victorian Government in 2006.

Awarding the Walter Burley Griffin Award, the national jury commended TCL/BKK’s design for its dramatic impact in changing the feeling of the city: “Not so long ago Dandenong was seen by some as a place to avoid; now it is a destination.

“Lonsdale Street has been transformed from a wide, barren arterial route into an engaging pedestrian realm.”

The design process was also applauded for being genuinely consultative and collaborative, with a resilient, clear master plan that allowed the community and other stakeholders to contribute meaningfully to the vision. BKK/TCL’s approach was commended for recognising that successful urban design should not be concerned with a fixed plan but instead offer key ideas that are fundamental catalysts for change.

The jury commented: “The architects and landscape architects describe themselves as ‘urban curators’ who ‘offer key ideas and strategic moves that are catalysts for change’. This first built outcome demonstrates the power of such a strategic design approach. Transport systems (bus routes) have been reconfigured and existing infrastructure (train station, substation) integrated into the existing urban fabric, with clear new connections established to Lonsdale Street. This has helped shift the city’s centre of gravity and created healthy, vibrant urban spaces.”

Lonsdale Street was historically a prosperous retail strip but in recent years had developed into a major arterial route dissecting the retail heart and creating a significant physical and psychological barrier to the city. It was redesigned as a grand boulevard with a pedestrian focus.

Through traffic was concentrated into a central band defined by four rows of trees. Adjacent to the retail frontages, a broad tree-lined plaza, shared traffic zones and linear rain gardens provide a pedestrian realm of generosity and distinction. The design is an example of an interdisciplinary approach to the construction of the city involving expertise across a wide range of disciplines.

The jury noted the project demonstrated “the success of a whole-of-government approach… achieved through a concerted, coordinated effort from VicUrban, the Department of Planning and Community Development, VicRoads, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect and others.”

Sustainability

“The first sustainable initiative was to change the order of priority for the street from the existing condition where cars and trucks were prioritised over the pedestrian to the proposed pedestrian, public transport and cyclist friendly street,” said TCL director Scott Adams. The more pedestrian-focused space has helped to rejuvenate on-street retail, creating a more sustainable economy and social condition.

The second major sustainable initiative has been capturing and treating most of the site’s stormwater for storage and reuse onsite via rain gardens and a series of storage tanks located under the roadway. This water is used to irrigate the linear park space on each side of the road, and ensure that the 260 trees in the new boulevard have adequate water in times of drought.

Photos by John Gollings