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Gehl report finally emerges

06 Mar 2014

Gehl report finally emerges Image

Places Victoria has released Gehl Architects’ Docklands report, almost four years after the document was created.

The report features an analysis of the physical conditions in the area and detailed description of the activities taking place in Docklands as well as recommendations to improve conditions in the area.

It found some of the main challenges in Docklands were its large scale, difficult pedestrian environment, poor access and connections, wind conditions and lack of diversity amongst users.

However, it also highlighted Docklands’ potential in its high-quality design, strong recreation attractions, good public transport, proximity to major destinations, variety of housing and working options and room to evolve.

The report suggests public life in Docklands should be supported through increasing the mix of use, activating building edges, opening up ground floors and allowing spaces to be used temporarily for community uses such as gardens, sports and meeting places.

It also found that way-finding in Docklands was difficult and that the many artworks in the area provided little opportunity for interaction. The report suggests a solution – incorporating art into a public space trail, which tells a story about the site and helps users to navigate the area.

Another key recommendation was providing ways to connect with the water.

A survey conducted by Gehl found that the waterfront was underused, with just 970m of the 7km waterfront utilised and its only function was in docks.

“The water in Docklands is entirely underused and is underperforming as a public space.”

Gehl also conducted a survey of the area during the Melbourne Summer Boat Show and found a high level of activity surround it.

“Bringing activities to the water has an extremely positive effect on public life in the areas surround the water,” the report stated.

According to the report, a public life survey found less than 10 per cent of activities happening in Docklands involved children, cultural activities or physical activities.

The report proposes several “pilot projects” including a pedestrian bridge across Victoria Harbour and an urban beach on Central Pier.

According to Places Victoria general manager precincts, Simon Wilson, the Gehl report has been used as a reference document in conjunction with the Docklands Public Realm Plan to apply a consistent approach to all public areas in Docklands.

“It has also informed a number of strategies including the Docklands Community and Place Plan, the Docklands Public Realm Plan and Access Docklands,” Mr Wilson said.

He said some of the Docklands master plans had been revisited to incorporate laneways, more human scale development and that Places Victoria was working with developers to plan for more active street frontage.

“The study is now four-years-old and, in that time, we’ve seen major improvements to road and public transport, including the $20 million extension of Collins St and additional tram services on Collins St and Harbour Esplanade, and significant investment in community facilities including parks, community gardens, sports courts and the $18 million Jim Stynes Bridge.”

He said Docklands’ evolution would continue with investment in the Victoria Harbour civic hub and Western Park.

“Places Victoria and the City of Melbourne are currently focused on improving the waterfront at Harbour Esplanade, with work underway to remove ageing wharves and consultation expected to begin in the next couple of months.”

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