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Australia’s first street competition: finalists revealed

The three finalists for a competition to reimagine George Street in Sydney have been announced by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), with designs from staff from practices including McGregor Coxall, CHROFI, Tropman and Tropman and Site Image among those chosen.

The competition invites designers under 35 to propose urban interventions under the theme “transforming spaces into greater urban spaces”, and offers the winner both prize money and the opportunity to present their ideas at the ULI’s 2016 Asia Pacific Summit. The ULI is an international, nonprofit urban development research and education organization.

The designs that have been announced as the finalists are:

  • George Street Living Room by Nicola Balch, urban designer at McGregor Coxall, and Albert Quizon, architect at CHROFI. The design centres around the idea of a “services carpet” that a range of elements could plug into, including exercise equipment, flexible furniture and a large yoga mat, stage and/or city picnic space. “These elements can offer a range of active, social and ecological opportunities to the street, catering for different uses, users, and times of the day,” the design proposes.
  • Urban Street Craft by team leader Christian Vitulli, landscape architect at Site Image, as part of a wider team. The design for the section of George Street in between Park Street and Bathurst Street takes advantage of its proximity to the Sydney Town Hall, the Queen Victoria Building and the Town Hall train station. Transformative surface elements that can passively fit into the streetscape when not in use are key to the design, and it also incorporates illuminated patterns and designs through digital projections or in-ground LED light pavers.
  • Staying Place Moving place by team leader Krystal Pua, graduate architect at Tropman and Tropman, as part of a four-person team. The design proposes that humans form the heart of building a successful city, and aims to grow a human centred city by encouraging participants to actively engage with the surrounding built environment.

The jury included Lucy Turnbull, chair of the Committee for Sydney, Michelle Tabet, co-creative director of Australia’s exhibition at the 2016 Venice biennale, Marcus Westbury, urbanist and founder of Renew Newcastle, CHROFI director David Choi, Barangaroo development director David McCracken and University of Technology Sydney School of Architecture lecturer Simon Kilbane.

“Proponents addressed the challenge by considering George Street as an activation spine, proposing a range of enabling infrastructure for people to inhabit the street more comfortably, through better amenity, design and across a wide range of uses,” the jury said.

“Proponents addressed the task at a variety of scales – with many grasping the challenge of human identity within a major urban space. Landscape, connection, place, colour, program, moment, intervention, scale, human scale, journey and revitalisation were common themes across the portfolio of works.”

There are already plans in place to redevelop George Street – believed to be Australia’s first street – and works have just begun to build a light rail that aims to improve the area’s amenity. The City of Sydney’s draft strategy for George Street was prepared in collaboration with Gehl Architects, and it proposes the creation of a pedestrian boulevard along the thoroughfare. A final strategy has not yet been released.

The final winner of the “George St 2020: Re-imagine Sydney’s main street” competition will be announced in late November 2015.

This competition is the first in a series of biannual Urban Innovation Ideas competitions by the ULI that will champion urban innovation, collaboration and youth leadership in the property industry.

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