Architecture

Harbouring grand ideas at Docklands

April 13, 2016

From a swamp, to a dock, to a beacon for high-impact development, Docklands has admittedly come a long way in the last decade – but what is crucial is that the area should foremost be liveable and appealing to the community it accommodates.

Render courtesy Damian Rogers Architects.

The Docklands precinct on the western fringe of Melbourne’s CBD has received its fair share of criticism. Established in 2000 as part of a renewal project to expand the city, the ongoing challenge to establish an engaging, socially-sustainable urban precinct has been widely reported.

After a recent segment on radio station 3AW in which it was suggested that Victoria needed to step up when it comes to theme parks, a campaign emerged asking for public support for a Disney Land on our shores – with Docklands labelled as the prime location for the theme park.

Docklands Community Association president Roger Gardner was open to the idea, saying it hadn’t been discussed but “I would say it’s a reasonable idea to consider. It would bring people to the area but where you would build it would be a key consideration.”

“It’s very important to get people to Docklands, tourism is a big thing when it comes to developing an area,” he said.

In 2014, an $8 million artificial beach and wave pool with 1.5m surfable waves was proposed for the waters of Docklands. The heated salt-water pool was proposed by Damian Rogers Architects as an extension of Central Pier.

“We wanted to create something in the heart of the Docklands that’s a genuine place that people can go to and enjoy,” said Phil Carter, urban and transport planner at Arup, who worked on the project along with Damian Rogers.

While the wave pool never came to fruition in Docklands, a similar project is being planned for the Essendon area.

Docklands is no stranger to problematic attractions. The unfortunate hoopla surrounding the Melbourne Star ferris wheel has done Docklands no favours in courting the enthusiasm of locals. After opening in 2008, two years behind schedule, the wheel was open for just 40 days.

From a swamp, to a dock, to a beacon for high-impact development, Docklands has admittedly come a long way – but what is crucial is that the area should foremost be liveable and appealing to the community it accommodates. Docklands is still considered a windy and peripheral area by Melburnians. Large-scale gimmicks distract from the pursuit of real, lasting solutions in urban activation.

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