244 Wardell Road Dulwich Hill

244 Wardell Road Dulwich Hill

Kudos to Marrickville Mayor Haylen who put forward a proposal at the Council Meeting of 3rd December 2013 to establish an Architectural Excellence Panel.  This panel will review & make recommendations on the architectural merit of future development proposals.  The proposal was passed unanimously.

“The establishment of the Panel comes in the wake of community disquiet over the new multi-storey development at 244 Wardell Road Dulwich Hill.  The decision by Council to reject this development was successfully appealed by the developer to the Land & Environment Court.

The panel will send a very loud & clear message to developers that Marrickville Council is paying close attention to the architectural quality of new buildings.   It will tell developers that Council takes very seriously the issue of design excellence & will encourage those developers to engage architects with proven level of expertise in the first place.”

Members of the panel will be well-regarded & experienced Sydney architects, as well as Council’s own design staff.

There are numerous examples of horribly ugly buildings in Marrickville LGA, many of them built in the 70s & 80s & they are a blight on the landscape.  I live near a number of these buildings & even after nearly two decades living here, I still cringe when I see them.    It must be worse for those that live in these buildings.

The Architectural Excellence Panel is an excellent idea.  Development is coming to Marrickville at a rate of knots & this will change our municipality in a fairly major way, at least in the town centres.  The very least that should happen is that these buildings look great & are great for people to live in.

There have been serious concerns with the community regarding the height of some buildings proposed, especially as they go beyond the height limits set out by the Local Environment Plan (LEP), sometimes by several storeys.  Hopefully the Architectural Excellence Panel will insist that the LEP is adhered to, as well as ensure that the buildings add beauty to their location & add to the character, not detract.

One thing that personally bothers me is that many new apartment blocks are built right up to the footpath boundary.  I understand that the developer wants to maximize their profit by building the whole of the site.   But Council should insist on allowing 3-5 metres undeveloped space from the footpath boundary, even if this may need negotiating to allow development of an extra storey.   The undeveloped parcel may remain in the developer’s property to look after & may in appropriate circumstances be negotiated as a transfer of ownership of the parcel to  Council.

For one it would ensure that people that live in these buildings are not butted up against the road.  The extra space facing the street would allow for landscaping or a larger footpath area. It would also allow for decent-sized trees to be planted.  The trees would assist the residents of the building by collecting particulate matter from vehicles & therefore improving the air quality inside their homes & businesses if ground floor shops were included.  Looking out onto trees would also add to the livability of these apartments.  Importantly, the presence of trees is known to increase business by 11%.   Everyone would benefit, including the wider community because we all see these buildings, even if we don’t live next to them.

Wider footpaths would mean more room for pedestrians.  It would also leave space for landscaping & outdoor seating if there was a café/restaurant included in the building, as seems to be common.

Building right to the footpath creates a canyon effect, increases the hours of shade making it a cold area & also increases wind.  Add a wind tunnel to shade & this can make shopping unpleasant.  Anything unpleasant often sends shoppers to the controlled comfort of a shopping mall.

This extra 3-5 metres of footpath could be focused on Placemaking.  Because there would be room to do so, the area in front of the building could be beautified & used for a number of purposes – trees, landscaping, outdoor seating, areas to meet, public art, performance space – the options is only hampered by imagination.

Obviously, there would be some areas where this would not be able to happen because the façade of a building needs to be retained in any new development or the extra storey would have too much an impact on surrounding houses.  However, every new area of open space would improve the municipality in my opinion.  Look how popular Telstra Square (site of the ‘I Have a Dream’ mural) & outside the Hub in Newtown are.  People are always congregating in these two spaces despite the traffic & despite that one of the sites desperately needs work.  When people have room they often create their own placemaking.

I love that an Architectural Excellence Panel is being established.  I think it is an excellent idea & demonstrates that the Mayor is listening to a community that is becoming increasingly disgruntled about the aesthetics & impacts of new buildings.

We all know & accept that development for housing is necessary because of an increasing population.  However, development doesn’t need to be ugly, imposing or destructive to the character of the inner west.  There is much that we like about the look of Marrickville municipality, which is one of the reasons why we all chose to live here.

Hopefully the Architectural Excellence Panel will prevent development from leaving the community a legacy that punishes us all for the next few decades.  Aesthetics is a very important factor when creating a livable area.

Mayor Haylen mentioned our “charm-filled streets.”  I think it is attainable to retain this with new development.  With creativity & the co-operation of developers, our area could make the transition to higher density without huge detriments.

Front on view

Front on view

Further down the hill

Further down the hill

From near he trafic lights.  Another multi-storey development is happening this side of the road that appears to be built to the footpath

Taken from near the traffic lights at Ewart Street. Another multi-storey development is happening on this side of the road that appears to be built right up to the footpath