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    Denton Corker Marshall’s new north entrance to Melbourne combines archaic memories of ancient city walls and gateways with arresting modernist imagery conceived for the speed of the highway.

    Photography Tim Griffith

Project Description
Melbourne’s City Link Gateway marks its north entrance from the new ring road linking the Tullamarine Freeway with the Westgate Bridge. The ensemble comprises a monumental beam and a line of 39 30-metre sticks cantilevered at precarious angles; a concrete sound barrier raking 15° back and forth along the freeway, and a 300 metre-long ‘sound tube’ enclosing an elevated road.

Comment by Anthony Styant-Browne
Cities used to have walls, not only for defence but to separate the urban from the non-urban realm. Entry to the city was through a gate left open during daylight hours and closed at night. Like all thresholds, the gate became an important focus for activities other than acts of arrival or departure. Although the Industrial Revolution changed the form of cities, the schema of wall and gate remains embedded in our subconscious. In the 19th century, the city gate was the railway station, which usually featured a monumental urban lobby. Contemporary cities have no walls or gates. Boundaries are blurred and the point of entry is unclear. Is it the airport? Or is it the freeway from airport to downtown? But the schema persists. Testament to this is the hackneyed appending of ‘gate’ to the names of commercial developments—Southgate, Westgate, Anygate. In the Old World, fragments of medieval city walls exist as ruins (Rome) or in absentia(Vienna). The impulse to appropriate the wall in a transformed state for the cities of the New World is irresistible. The modernist slab blocks in Le Corbusier’s Villa Radieuse, Hilberseimer’s Berlin or even the recently demolished Princes Gate buildings in Melbourne can be read as fragments of a fictional city wall. Denton Corker Marshall has deconstructed the schema and reconstructed it north of downtown Melbourne at the confluence of several important routes—Flemington Road, Tullamarine Freeway from Melbourne Airport, Moonee Ponds Creek and the connection to the new City Link freeway system. This gate is a dynamic choreography of a sinuous ‘DCM orange’ wall opposing a line of inclined tall, skinny, red sticks. A huge yellow beam cantilevers over all this at an alarmingly awkward angle. Weaving through the composition are ribbons of freeway, one of which leads through a glimmering, elliptical bridge tunnel called ‘the sound tube’. Designed to be experienced at 100kph, the ensemble works equally well coming and going. From the north, at the Brunswick Road exit, the freeway curves to reveal the city skyline seconds before the red sticks hove into view, enfilade, connected at the top to the yellow beam forming, for an instant, a portal. Seconds later, the thin red line breaks into its constituent pieces, the beam separates (becoming a boom) and the orange slash of wall appears. In the thick of the threshold, the apparently single line of sticks becomes two, with the latter’s feet set in an elliptical pool—a retarding basin made into art. The entry is pure cinema. Fragments seen from the surrounding streets mark the place as special. At night, the white-lit sound tube hovers above Flemington Road like a flying saucer in a B-grade 1950s sci-fi movie. The scale of the piece is monumental; its composition simple and astonishingly assured. Although abstract, with its roots in Lissitsky, it is figuratively powerful in its evocation of archaic urban memories of entrance and contemporary artefacts like power poles and boom gates. Although the experience of driving the freeway may have an aesthetic dimension, the freeway’s primary purpose is instrumental. So it is with the City Link system. But this place, this moment of pure aesthetic pleasure may be City Link’s greatest gift to Melbourne.

Details of the ‘DCM orange’ undulating concrete wall along the freeway entry to Melbourne city, the yellow and red sticks marking the junction of the Tullamarine Expressway and city bypass, and the sound tube installed along the elevated bypass.

Anthony Styant-Browne is an architect and urban designer in Melbourne

City Link Gateway, Melbourne
Architects Denton Corker Marshall. Developer Transurban City Link. Builder Baulderstone Hornibrook. Civil Engineer Hyder Consulting (Australia). Lighting Engineer Barry Webb & Associates.



Published online: 1 May 1999


Architecture Australia, May 1999

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