After the release of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden 25-year redevelopment draft, landscape architects and architects have offered differing views on the plan.

The redevelopment plan, which is the first long-term plan in the the Botanic Garden’s history, includes a five-star, $80 million hotel.

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects released a statement criticizing the redevelopment plan for using “buildings as solutions.” Mark Frisby, National President, said, “Failure to specify master planning led by landscape architects in the original brief has diluted the outcome.”

The AILA has offered support for some of the plan’s recommendations, including parkland enhancement and endorsing the conservation, education, and research roles of the Botanic Gardens. “The challenge is to open the door for more community activation of the space while not eroding the civic value of either the Gardens or Domain,” said Frisby.

Also critical of the masterplan was Luke Foley, opposition environment spokesman, who said the Botanic Garden was meant to “provide green space to the people of Sydney and to increase our knowledge and appreciation of Australia’s plant life.” The new commercial focus, he said, will mean “The voices of botanists, plant scientists and horticulturalists will be drowned out by the construction planners and commercial event organisers.”

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has also criticized the draft, writing that the plan “fundamentally commercialises this historic garden place. The plan seeks to give the gardens a railway station, a ferry wharf, a hotel, a permanent sound stage and, as inappropriate as these things are, worse than that, three clumsily placed buildings.”

In contrast, the Australian Institute of Architects has offered support for the project and has praised the “transparent public process” used to solicit comments.

“Public debate is healthy and even more paramount for major public precincts,” said David Parken, Australian Institute of Architects CEO. “By releasing the draft master plan, the Trust has followed best practice planning processes including genuine public consultation unlike what we’ve seen recently in some other developments.”

The AIA also emphasized that, in addition to Cox Richardson Architects, the project team included internationally awarded landscape architecture firm Grant Associates. Other specialists involved addressed conservation, horticultural planning, lighting, signage, soil evaluation, sustainability, water sensitive urban design, and wayfinding.

According to the AIA, “Improvements to the precinct will enhance the original purposes of the scientific Botanic Gardens and recreational Domain space to remain relevant and useful in a 21st century environment and beyond.”

Premier Barry O’Farrell, likewise, has defended the plan, saying “to suggest this is going to commercialise the Botanic Gardens is a complete…rewrite.”

Key elements of the master plan include:

Botanic Gardens

● Enhancing views between the Garden, waterfront, and Sydney Harbour.

● New thematic displays involving innovative horticulture.

● Creating three or more gardens designed for children to explore nature and plants.

● A new visitor center.

● Showcasing best practices in sustainability and ecology.

The Domain

New infrastructure including

● Hotel.

● Permanent sound shell.

● Sports facilities.

The draft master plan will be available for viewing and public comment at the Botanic Garden through May 4.