The Goods Line: Sydney’s missing link

Goods Line Bridge, Image via http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-28/goods-line-2/6731828

Snaking from Railway Square along the spine of traffic clogged Ultimo towards the nautical glory of Darling Harbour; The Goods Line creates a new urban space to connect art, education, culture, tourism and community.

Built in the 1800s, The Goods Line was originally a rail line and bridge which brought wool, meat and wheat in and out of Sydney. The last trains lumbered over in 1984 and it lay disused until the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) commissioned architects ASPECT Studios and CHROFI to bring it to life.

The Goods Line wide shot looking north, photograph courtesy of SHFA

The Goods Line wide shot looking north, photograph courtesy of SHFA

The first stage of the project, The Goods Line North, began in 2011 and opened in August. The architectural team have neatly connected the area’s rich history as a gritty trade and industrial heart to its new role as an evolving cultural, media and educational hub. Starting at the mouth of Central Station’s Devonshire Street tunnel, a stroll along the Line will take you past the Frank Gehry designed Dr Chau Chak Wing (Dr Chau Chak Wing) UTS Business School, the ABC, Sydney TAFE and the Powerhouse Museum before ending at Darling Harbour.

The Goods Line North route is approximately 250 metres long. Nods to the area’s heritage have been referenced throughout its design including built elements made from concrete and timber and the reuse of an original stone culvert.

The Goods Line grass north, photograph courtsey of SHFA

The Goods Line grass north, photograph courtsey of SHFA

In a statement, Rob Stokes, NSW Planning Minister, said The Goods Line not only provides an important link to the arts, education and cultural institutions based in Ultimo, it also provides two new east-west connections between the city and Ultimo and one new north-south connection between Ultimo and Central Station.

“This urban corridor will connect more than 80,000 tertiary students and visitors to Darling Harbour’s major harbourside attractions, world-class bars, cafes, restaurants and attractions, bolstering the precinct’s annual $800 million contribution to the visitor economy,” he said.

The Goods Line will mean many different things to Sydney’s community.

For some it will be a simple elevated pedestrian walkway and cycle path, a quicker way to get to work. For others it will be a welcome breath of greenery with its plants, children’s water playground, sandpit and ping pong tables. The stage and amphitheatre will attract pop-up events like fashion shows, book launches and maybe even a moonlight cinema. The study pods and free wifi will be a hit with students from nearby UTS and TAFE.

The Goods Line bridge looking south, photograph courtesy of SHFA

The Goods Line bridge looking south, photograph courtesy of SHFA

Sacha Coles, Director, ASPECT Studios, told Broadsheet that he felt the project was a “place to celebrate the new industrialism” and was about “redefining industrial infrastructure into social infrastructure and facilitating multiple people to work together at any time of day.”

In a statement, Catherine Gallagher, CEO of SHFA, said the project has already invigorated Sydney’s most densely populated area and is attracting students, families and tourists to its many mixed-use green spaces.

Catherine Gallagher

Catherine Gallagher

“Our vision was to create a series of recreational, entertainment and study spaces where people can have fun and relax, whether that be playing table tennis, exercising, lying down on the grass and reading a book or socialising at the 20-seat communal table,” she said.

The Goods Line held its very first public event this past weekend – the 2015 Sydney Architecture Festival. The event featured tai chi and yoga classes, a book swap, and photography and drawing sessions.

On October 24, Ride the Link will show local residents how to use The Goods Line to connect with Darling Harbour from Eveleigh using the Broadway Link – a new walking and cycling route created by the City of Sydney. The event, which is a joint effort between the Powerhouse, the SHFA, and the City of Sydney, will include guided walks and rides, safe cycling information and a free tune up for your bike.

The High Line, credit: Vivienne Gucwa via Flickr (the ‘before’ image)

The High Line, credit: Vivienne Gucwa via Flickr (the ‘before’ image)

Although slightly smaller in scale, The Goods Line draws obvious comparisons with Manhattan’s High Line, an urban promenade which has transformed a derelict rail line into a vibrant and successful linear park.

The High Line is a place which is very much part of its local community and neighbourhood.

The High Line, photograph by Joel Raskin via Flickr (the ‘after’ image)

The High Line, photograph by Joel Raskin via Flickr (the ‘after’ image)

Some of its upcoming activities include tours of the public art and gardens stretched across its route, stargazing with the Amateur Astronomers Association and Social Soup –a one pot meal in a restaurant without walls billed as a chance to “meet your neighbours”.

Another High Line-inspired project, the 606 in Chicago, opened in June this year and similar projects have been proposed across the world, everywhere from Rotterdam to Mexico City.

If The Goods Line’s humble beginnings as an unglamorous rail freight route can be considered the first part of its story, the recent revamp is only the second part. Steps to discuss the development of The Goods Line South, another 250 metre stretch which runs from the Ultimo Road rail underbridge to Railway Square – are now underway, with the hope that another neglected area can be revitalised and welcomed into the city.