The Goods Line by ASPECT Studios

The strategy behind the design of The Goods Line was to create a strong civic spine and establish a range of opportunities for people to come together, inhabit, occupy and use the space in a variety of ways - responding to the demographics of the area and to provide choice.
— From the landscape architects

Project Information

Architects _ ASPECT Studios _ @aspectstudio
Design Partner _ CHROFI _ @chrofi_architects
Location _ Ultimo, New South Wales
Year _ 2015
Area _ 7,000m² (North section)
Photo _ Florian Groehn _ @floriangroehn
Client _ Property NSW
Engineers _ ACOR
Interpretive Design _ Deuce Design
Heritage Consultant _ GML
Planning Consultant _ JBA
Lighting Designers _ Lighting Art + Science
Research for Precast Concrete _ AR-MA
Head Contractor _ Gartner Rose


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Architect’s Statement

“The original site was once part of the first railway that opened in Australia in 1855. It was vital to the transport of Australia’s coal, shale, timber, wheat and other produce. The use of the line declined due to increase of road transport and plans for a new seaport. Its rail operations shut down in 1984. The Goods Line has since been an isolated, disconnected and forgotten part of the city. In 2015, it was revitalised as a conduit for 21st century industry, providing social infrastructure to the thriving innovation economy.

Located in downtown Sydney, The Goods Line reimagines the disused rail corridor as a leafy, energised ‘public campus’ in the heart of one of the most densely populated, urbanised and formerly disconnected parts of the city.

This unique 7,000 m² elevated city park forms a row strategic link from Sydney’s Central Station through to Chinatown and the Darling Harbour entertainment and leisure precinct (Sydney’s playground). More than 80,000 tertiary students, locals and visitors are linked to the many major attractions of Darling Harbour, with 26 million visiting annually. The Goods Line creates a people-focused address to various cultural, educational and media institutions which line its length.

The original brief for The Goods Line called for:
- An integrated linear park.
- Safe pedestrian and cyclist access.
- Upgrade the overall landscape, amenity and character of the area.
- Provide local university students with a level connection between the Broadway and Haymarket campuses.
- Incorporate environmentally sustainable initiatives, and heritage interpretation.
- Create a special destination.

The project involved a whole of government planning solution, bringing together both local and state government organisations as well as private institutions and stakeholders. The Goods Line is a model of participatory design and governance by the agencies and authorities which have been invested in its development. As such, a site specific governance model was developed for The Goods Line to ensure that the commitment to ongoing activation is an embedded and enduring part of the project and providing a best-practice example of multi-agency management.

The Goods Lines’ unique decision making process was highly inclusive and collaborative. A steering committee chaired by the landowner/government body (client) including representation from other key landowners along its length and the lead design consultant was established prior to the design process commencing. Key decisions regarding funding, ongoing curation of programming, and design resolution were presented to the steering committee in an ongoing process which ensured co-ownership of ideas and efficiency of process. 

The cultural institutions which had direct investment into The Goods Line project also have premises with direct access to the site have come together over the project.

Recognising the critical need to have broad community ownership and understanding of the project, the design team undertook a comprehensive approach to engaging the community. Several methods were applied to capture critical feedback from a broad cross section of community key stakeholders. The project invited community to provide their feedback on the schematic design approach.

An open session took place on site mid 2012 with valuable feedback captured from the public. A report based on the findings was developed and delivered, outlining key learnings and requirements and informing design outcomes. 

The strategy behind the design of The Goods Line was to create a strong civic spine and establish a range of opportunities for people to come together, inhabit, occupy and use the space in a variety of ways - responding to the demographics of the area and to provide choice.

There is a strong overarching narrative in the design revealing the transformation from a rich industrial history to one of social interaction, creative industries, and the promotion of innovation. By embracing unique, interspersed modes of heritage interpretation, the rich history of The Goods Line is revealed and at the same time a new identity is created for the precinct.

The Goods Line is an example of the potential for design to transform isolated city spaces into creative and connected public destinations.

The ‘Social infrastructure’ such as bleachers, seats, an amphitheatre, Wi-Fi facilities, a playspace, ping pong tables and raised lawns support the burgeoning public life of this part of the city. Bespoke seating and furniture hark back to the site’s industrial heritage while the blurred boundaries along its length are designed to facilitate pop-up events and festivals, injecting a sense of community in a previously disused urban expanse. Pedestrian and cycle connections are formed, unlocking access to existing streets and neighbourhoods that surround the park, knitting Sydney back into its surrounding city fabric.

Sustainable approaches including innovative use of materials and reinterpretation of the site’s history work to protect, enhance and regenerate the area and give a strong sense of place.

By fabricating the majority of material (precast concrete) off site and using advanced digital fabrication, drawings and coordination, the project ensures minimisation of waste and demonstrates its commitment to sustainability. The project minimised cut and fill by layering a new ground plane and as a result preserved the heritage rail tracks and avoided any damage to the underground power cables.

Environmental values and processes are celebrated through reused water, and recycling.  Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) initiatives enable The Goods Line to achieve the objective of 80% potable water consumption reduction. Water efficient solutions, such as planting choice are included along the length of The Goods Line. Inlet pits have been concealed within garden beds, enabling storm water to naturally irrigate the drought tolerant, low water use and (majority) native/indigenous species. Where additional run off drainage is required, grated steel drains are integrated within the language of the precast concrete plank ground plane.

By retaining critical elements including the Ultimo rail bridge and rail infrastructure, and re-purposing others, the project has demonstrated innovative approaches to designing with respect to the past. The design utilises the robust materials associated with its rail infrastructure past – gravel, concrete, steel, and timber. Original brick was salvaged and the site is fused with contemporary and sustainable elements, reinforcing the legacy of the site.

The native, site specific palette of plants which are set in gravel along the remnant rails are hardy, yet bring colour and texture to the post industrial site. The retention of existing trees was critical to the project, illustrating the sustainable approach to the design. The Goods Line was painstakingly planned and executed with ‘Study Pods’ that cantilever over the adjacent city street positioned between the canopies of existing fig trees offering working and social spaces for students, workers, and visitors. By integrating landscape into built form, a resilient environment using urban greening is created for a more environmentally and socially sustainable city. The project contributes to Sydney’s green spine quota and uplifts the health and wellbeing of the local community and the greater city by creating wide reaching connectivity and movement opportunities.

The history and cultural heritage values of The Goods Line have been integral to the transformation and revitalisation of this significant piece of rail infrastructure. The gritty industrial character and the toil of industrial labour have been conveyed through the design and materiality of the project and the interpretive initiatives.

The Goods Line plays a much more important role than just being a new green space in the city. The Goods Line is a public platform for showcasing the cultural richness and innovation of the community it supports. As a new spine for the area, it galvanises the diverse social community.“

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