Should Sydney Harbour Become an “Open City”? 1

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
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The concept of the “open city” could prove highly applicable to the Bays Precinct Development on the Sydney Harbour foreshore, following the recent success of a similar urban regeneration project in the EU.

Professor Stephen Cairns, scientific director of the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, will examine the potential of incorporating the “open city” concept into Sydney’s Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Program at the University of Sydney’s Festival of Urbanism in November.

Professor Stephen Cairns

Professor Stephen Cairns

Cairns, a keynote speaker at the Festival of Urbanism, is renowned for his work on the HafenCity in the north German commercial hub of Hamburg, which is frequently cited as an outstanding example of urban regeneration.

The development of the Hafencity involves the transformation of obsolete warehouses on islands of the Elbe River into residential, retail and office space, following their decline as free ports in the wake of the Eurozone’s creation.

The project is the largest reconstruction development in Europe, covering approximately 2.2 square kilometres of landmass with a tentative completion of date of between 2020 and 2030. Hafencity is expected to eventually serve as home to around 12,000 residents and provide office space to approximately 40,000 workers.

Cairns will explore development possibilities for the Bays Precinct with reference to his experiences working on the HafenCity, and the nature of “open city” design in particular.

The “open city” concept involves the planning and creation of large-scale precincts that are subject to continual and unending evolution, with an open-ended design process which never truly reaches a terminus point. The concept entails the combination of architectural design with social and urban planning.

Open city methods and techniques were of immense benefit to Hamburg’s HafenCity, and could have proved equally advantageous to Sydney’s ongoing urban renewal undertakings.

The concept could still make a vital contribution to the Bay Precinct Urban Renewable Program, particularly given the scale and complexity of the development, and the attendant need for a more comprehensive and farsighted planning paradigm.

The Bay Precinct Development encompasses 80 hectares of foreshore land in Sydney’s inner west, including Glebe Island, White Bay, Rozelle Bay, Blackwattle Bay and Sydney Fish Market.

Local government expects the revitalisation of the Bays Precinct to be a potential “game changer” for Sydney, transforming prime real estate which is at present under-utilised into thriving economic and business areas.

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  1. Roger Jones, P.Eng.

    Why does logical, continuous city inprovement need an odd name like "open city"? It also has connotations of war zones! Just get on with the improvements.