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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



Screenshot of the Garden Bridge design - taken from the Daily Mail with thanks.

Screenshot of the Garden Bridge design – taken from the Daily Mail with thanks.

In 1997, Actor Joanna Lumley had an idea to commemorate the death of Dianna, Princess of Wales by building a garden bridge over the Thames.  To many this idea may have seemed too ‘out there’ & too unfeasible.

Today community consultation starts on the design of the ‘Garden Bridge’ across the Thames from Temple to the South Bank.   Called for by London Mayor Boris Johnson & designed by Architect Thomas Heatherwick CBE, the garden bridge will have real trees.   “…the renowned gardener Dan Pearson, …. has a vision of 100 plant species, starting with ancient botany on the north side & changing through the glades & scarps to a pioneering planting on the south side.”

‘We are used to quite a harsh experience in the architectural landscape around us. Often environments don’t have a human scale, but plants give you that. There is something unpretentious about them — this project will have slugs & worms & autumn smells, rather than grand, Versailles-like power-planting.” ~ Architect Thomas Heatherwick CBE.

We are changing.  Cities are changing.  The knowledge that trees & plants are good for people’s levels of happiness & well-being is becoming part of good architecture & good urban design.  With no cars & a landscape full of trees & plants, plus a water & city views, the Garden Bridge will be an extremely important & beautiful site in London.  It will most certainly fill the City of London’s aim of providing somewhere for people to meet.  The Garden Bridge will also be high on the list for tourists to visit.  This taking iconic to a new level.

Building is expected to start by 2015 & the bridge completed by 2017.   See – and

Close up of screenshot of Garden Bridge plans - raken from Daily Mail.

Close-up of screenshot of Garden Bridge plans – taken from Daily Mail. These are big trees.

A light weekend post –

I came across three people doing art at the Cooks River today.  One was working in pastels, one in oils & the other in acrylics.   It was a beautiful day made even the nicer by seeing this. I thank them for allowing me to take photographs, especially as their work was unfinished.

This is what I think Placemaking is about. People using public space in all sorts of ways.

The river in pastels

The river in acrylics

The river in oils




Showing one of the ‘forests’ of Tempe Reserve. It is very small & has a pedestrian path through the middle impacting on its ability to offer real habitat

Marrickville Council has released its Recreation Needs Research Strategy for public comment.  Only 1.27% of the population participated in the community consultation opportunities. The results are now up on ‘Your Say Marrickville’ & the community is being asked to comment by the 6th June 2012. 

Following on from Part 1 & Part 2 I also found the following points in the report interesting.

“Implement a design and place-making pilot program to convert under-used pocket parks into a cohesive network of urban green space.”  This sounds great.  Some of the pocket parks are underused because they are ugly spaces with broken seats.  I know that there are many in the community who would like them fixed up.

“Investigate options for additional sustainability projects – including the redeployment of under-used pocket parks as urban forests or community gardens; the use of permeable pavements in parks and public domain areas and the use of vegetated roofs on park buildings.”  I think all of these suggestions are terrific.  I have always been a fan of green roofs & was sorry that they were not included in the LEP.  I’d also like to see Council negotiate to have empty Railcorp land planted with trees or shrubs to increase the urban forest & add beauty where there is little.

Need for clear distinctions between public and private space.”  I don’t really understand this point & can only think of one potential place where the distinction may not be clear; that is the open space for the potential new library development if it appears to be part of the potential residential development.  The new park was to be on the corner of Marrickville & Livingstone Roads opposite St Bridget’s Church & in front of the library building. This makes it clear that the open space is connected to the library & for everyone’s use.  I would like this issue to be considered if any new plans place the park in another location that would make it look like it is connected to residential units.

“Inclusion of sensory stimuli (including elements that delight the eye, hearing, taste, smell and touch) in public places.”  More attention needs to be paid to landscaping.  While woodchip is good for birds to forage for food, it seems to be the main feature in many locations.

“Upgrade landscaping and shade provisions at the water play park in accordance with issues raised in the community consultation.”  I would like any shadecloth structure to be a temporary measure only & trees planted around the WaterPlay area to provide natural shade for the future.

“Increased social interaction.”  This is a great suggestion.  There really needs to be tables near the entrance to Mackey Park & not in the playground for the older people to be able to get together as they used to. They used to meet here most days. Now they stay at home because there is nowhere to sit & as they told me, they don’t want to sit in the playground.  I wrote about this issue in January 2011.  See –

“Need to orientate buildings to streets, plazas and parks to create ‘eyes on the street.’”  “the widespread adoption, over the past ten years, of crime prevention through environmental design strategies to minimise crime in public places by enhancing the perceived risk of detection and apprehension.”  I think sightlines are over emphasised in our parks. It is very hard to get away from the sounds, smell & visibility of the traffic.  You can see from one side of the park to the other even in our largest parks.  Drive along Victoria Road Marrickville & you can look through Enmore Park right across to Black Street.

Another view of Tempe Reserve. There is so much unused lawn in this section of Tempe Reserve. It would be nice to have many more trees, including Sydney Blue Gums & Fig trees, which are quite appropriate for parks. The Princes Highway is just visible in the background & the noise from traffic travels right into the park.

Noise is also a big issue.  In Tempe Reserve you get unbuffered noise from the airport, the airport highway & from the Princes Highway.  It is unprotected from the wind as well.  Sydenham Green is worse as the heavy traffic is closer.

I think the emphasis on crime & injecting drug users is overdone to the detriment of the community.  Fear of crime should not be used as an excuse to avoid planting a decent quantity of trees and shrubs in parks. If fear of crime is over-emphasised in park design, the community & wildlife end up losing a great deal of beauty & amenity.

I give two very popular parks in two other municipalities as examples where the Councils have created a private green oasis without emphasising sightlines.

Rockdale Park in Rockdale – This is an incredibly beautiful park. So beautiful in fact that Rockdale Council’s website says that it, is the City’s most popular venue for outdoor wedding ceremonies and/or wedding photography.”  Understandable. It was the first place I thought of when discussing a friend’s upcoming wedding of their daughter.

So what makes it beautiful?  It has hundreds of trees of many different species. The majority have been allowed to grow naturally so they have side branches often just above the ground.  There are seriously good landscaped gardens & lots of flowers.  Large garden beds full of flowers are mass-planted twice a year – Petunias & Pansies. There is at least one pond & a man-made stream that curves around the park that I presume can be filled on request. A red Chinese-style bridge crosses the stream while a wooden pagoda stands nearby in front of a lawn area. There is lots of attractive seating placed in areas of dappled shade, full shade & sun.  Importantly, the busy road can’t be seen from most places inside the park & the traffic noise & smell is buffered by the trees & landscaping. This is a park where you can get away from the madding crowd, yet it still feels safe because there are always people using it.

Beauchamp Park in Chatswood – It is lined on one side by Canary Island palm trees & filled with very tall trees throughout the park.  Beauchamp Park makes me wonder why none of our parks have trees of this density or of this height.  This is a park where you can sit with your back against a tree without having to sit in woodchip.  There is tons of seating, some with tables scattered all around the park. There is also public art, a playground, memorial trees & garden beds of flowers & other flowering plants & no grasses, except for lawn. While you can see through the park, there is a strong feeling of privacy.  This is an extremely popular park because it is so people-friendly & beautiful. It is also filled with birdsong.  You can watch a short video here –

This & the last 2 posts on the Marrickville Recreation Needs Research Strategy are what I paid attention to in the report & I will be contributing on Council’s Have Your Say webpage.  While this is just a study with recommendations, without public feedback Marrickville Council can be forgiven for thinking that the community approves of the suggestions included & decide to put them up for decision at a Council Meeting.  If the Councillors vote to approve some of these recommendations then there will be great changes in our environment, some good, some excellent & some I consider disastrous.

This is a Google map of Maluga Passive Reserve in Sefton & a view into the park from Woods Road. As you can see sightlines have not been emphasised at all. This is a fantastic park that is very well used by the community. It offers peace & tranquillity for people & is a haven for wildlife as it offers real biodiversity & habitat. Compare this with any of our parks in Marrickville LGA & the differences are stark.

China Town Sydney is a cool & beautiful oasis on a hot day

I recently read an article on Sydney Council’s plan to change Thomas Street in China Town into a new green public art space. The Council plans to close off Thomas Street to traffic & plant gardens & a number of tall-growing trees.  Sydney Council says they want Thomas Street to be an area of “reflection & contemplation.”  It will be called the New Century Garden & will house permanent sculptures, as well as temporary sculptural exhibitions.

Last summer I went to China Town for the first time in at least a decade & was shocked to see 3-storey high Hills Figs growing the length of the main street of China Town.  It was a very hot day & the place was cool & shaded. It was also quite beautiful.

What Sydney Council plans for Thomas Street is just one of the many plans they have for China Town & almost all involve the planting of tall shady trees.  As I said in a recent post, not everything Sydney Council does or plans to do can be attributed to their financial ability. What is really important is that they have an attitude that is pro public trees, pro green spaces & pro green verges. They also intend to increase their urban forest by 50% in both the CBD & in their suburbs by 2030.

Like so many other cities worldwide, they are trying to prepare the City of Sydney LGA for the impact of global warming by making it a more livable & sustainable city & area. They are even changing the species of trees they plant. Trees that provide more shade to help lower the urban heat island effect & trees that will cope with the changes in temperature & growing conditions.

Thomas Street as it is now. Image sourced from City Hub newspaper

Thomas Street as it will look after the upgrade. Image sourced from City Hub newspaper

Glebe Point Road, about 2.5 kms from Sydney CBD & full of trees

I recently visited Glebe Point Road & noted how lovely & green the shopping strip looked.

Glebe Point Road is in the City of Sydney Council LGA. Glebe has always been a heavily treed area & the canopy includes Glebe Point Road.  Most of the street trees I first saw as a young woman are still there.

In the last couple of years Sydney Council has planted extra street trees along Glebe Point Road as part of a major makeover of the shopping strip.  These trees were 4 metre high when they were planted.  This had an instant greening effect & must have prevented vandalism.  There are permeable surfaces around all the street trees level with the footpath. Large mature trees such as Camphor laurels have been retained & gracefully create a canopy across the road.

Showing benches facing each other so people can meet, hang around & talk. This is placemaking. The benches are not connected to a cafe. Below the hanging baskets is a bike rack

Two years ago I noticed that very large hanging baskets filled with red Begonias were installed at regular intervals along both sides of Glebe Point Road.  These flowering baskets are vibrant & beautify the streetscape.  I am unaware whether the Begonias are replaced at intervals or pruned periodically to allow for new growth, but after at least 2 years they are continuing to bloom.  I’m taking a guess that they are Begonia acutifolia, which will grow in full sun & pretty much flower all year. I applaud City of Sydney Council for this initiative.

The hanging baskets full of Begonias is a relatively cheap way to add colour & beauty & it would be great if Marrickville Council copied this.  Imagine hanging baskets of flowers all along King Street & along our other main shopping strips. Begonias can be easily propagated from leaf cuttings.

The revamp of Glebe Point Road has other great features.  The footpath has been widened in parts & street trees that grow to a significant height have been planted in these areas. Widening the footpath overcomes the presence of shop awnings, a common problem in Sydney when it comes to street trees.  It also allows a wider area for pedestrians & for areas where café/restaurant seating can be provided without impacting on passing pedestrians.  A few car park spaces have been lost, but the overall benefit outweighs this loss.

Showing the arty bench which I love & the street tree with a reasonable sized trunk & permeable surface

City of Sydney Council has also installed a number of great looking park benches.  They are artistic in form & eye-catching.  My guess is that these would be more expensive than the usual bench designs, but they too are worth it.  Small things like these ‘dress up’ the street & beautify the streetscape. Once a street becomes better looking, graffiti tags lessen. Research on the whole has found that the more dowdy the area, the more tags there are & the more difficult it is to prevent repeat tagging.

Although Glebe Point Road has always been a shopping destination, the presence of nearby Broadway would have had a massive impact on the smaller shops when it was built, just like what will happen if the Marrickville Metro expansion goes ahead.  Sydney Council has fought back by making Glebe Point Road a pretty pIace to shop. The Glebe Markets held there in the school playground with lots of tall shady trees also draws the crowds.

I believe people are more likely to visit shopping strips that keep with the times & look good. If the strip is ugly, people go elsewhere. City of Sydney Council have achieved a good balance of beauty & convenience at Glebe Point Road. It is also a friendly place for the residents & must encourage them to do their shopping on Glebe Point Road.

Outside Glebe Markets. Both the colourful fence & the hanging baskets look fabulous

Sydenham Green before the upgrade- the placement of the benches was interesting

The upgrade of the front section of Sydenham Green along Unwins Bridge Road in Tempe was completed a couple of weeks ago.  This park has always puzzled me in that there are relatively few trees for the space. Sydenham Green seems to have been designed with a Placemaking idea behind it as there is an obviously designated meeting place in the centre of the park. This section is quite theatrical with an amphitheatre & a great arch. There is a giant teapot, kettle & a giant lounge that offers stepped seating.  I guess these represent home & pay tribute to the homes that were once here before they were demolished due to extreme noise from planes taking off & landing.  Much of the artwork is painted & fired tiles made by local school children & they are great, well worth a look.  I have been there a number of times & it is always empty.  Maybe because it is hot.

The entrance to Sydenham Green opposite the St Peters-Sydenham Library is the section of the park that was most puzzling to me.  It was, until recently, a large area of grass, a couple of Gum trees & a large section of terracotta coloured pavers & grass that had benches placed in & around it.  It puzzled me because I couldn’t work out why the seats had been placed in that particular way & why this layout was deemed inviting.

I thought that the best things about this section of the park was a row of Callistemon that lined the front edge of the park.  I also quite like the sculpture that tells of the history of Sydenham Green & I love that it has a natural birdbath carved into the sandstone.

Today we went to have a look at the finished upgrade.  Hmmmm.  We did not think it good-looking, but this is only a matter of personal taste.  Maybe plenty of other people will think it looks good.

The problem I have is that Marrickville Council removed the permeable hard & soft surfaces & replaced them with hard, impermeable surfaces – concrete & black bitumen.  This will make the area hotter than before & ensure that the stormwater runs off instead of the rain soaking into the ground as it did previously.

Council has also removed the row of bird-feeding Callistemon replacing them with grasses, some other small growing plants & 2 Crepe myrtle trees, none of which provide food for birds.

Should we care about this?  I believe we should.  So many food sources for urban wildlife have been removed over decades due to urbanisation.  Current garden trends are removing even more.  I believe that it is incumbent on Councils to ensure that they plant sufficient food sources for urban wildlife all over the place; in car parks, as street trees & especially in parks.  If there are insufficient food sources our urban wildlife will slowly disappear. Most of them just can’t move to another area.  Plant a couple of Grevilleas or Red Flowering Gums & watch the increase of birds. They arrive in large numbers. It’s a happy sound.

An ornamental wall has been built at the front with the name of the park in silver letters.  Clear, visible letters is great.  The benches are back in a new configuration & now you have to choice of facing the grass or the bitumen.

8 Crepe myrtle & 8 Lilly pilly trees have been planted.  2 Lilly pillys have already died.  The trees were not planted near the benches, nor are they of a species that will create shade so the place will remain hot. Time will tell whether it remains empty.

The 2 Prunus trees on the footpath have either been replaced or have come back to life after they were vandalised.

The design layout is an improvement of what was previously there, but the choice of both ground surface materials & tree species fail to meet the needs of this era of climate change.  I am confident in saying this because all recent literature about urban landscaping & placemaking speaks about such simple things as using albedo surfaces & planting sufficient shade-producing trees to make a cool environment that is not only useable for the community, but actually encourages them to go there.

See what you think. I have put up a 1.47 minute YouTube video of the works at Sydenham Green here –

Sydenham Green after the upgrade




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