The success of New York City’s landscape architecture retrofit ‘The Highline’ is renowned worldwide. The innovative plan – now reaching completion – to turn one of the city’s formerly most industrial, and unused, infrastructure pieces into landscaped community spaces has been marked as a flagship green building initiative, setting the project apart as one of the world’s leading retrofit projects.
However, while the Highline is definitely the first of its kind on such a scale, it may not be the last. New plans have been released by urban design firm Habitation for a Highline of sorts to be located on Sydney’s unsuccessful monorail.
Dubbed the ‘Highlane’ the concept would see the to-be-demolished Sydney monorail transformed instead into a 3.6 km public walkway through the centre of the city. Plans include the development of cycling space and garden spaces in addition to pocket parks, cafes and gallery spaces. The work would be completed with the incorporation of sustainable materials such as recycled timber.
Design firm director David Vago notes that this is the perfect solution in order to both save money and strengthen Sydney’s green reputation.
“From a sustainability point of view it makes sense to reuse not to remove,” says Vargo.
In terms of economics, the cost of demolishing the rail could cost anywhere between $10 – $15 million, whereas Vargo estimates the retrofit would be closer to $5 million.
This is, however, one of the many aspects of the plan that is being contested by various sources, who are labelling Vargo’s estimate as highly conservative and saying the overall design is not a good fit for Sydney.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, an avid sustainability supporter and fan of the New York Highline development, argues that the overall infrastructure setting would simply not suit the project.
“The pillars are ugly and intrusive and the track is not wide enough to do the idea justice,” says Moore.
Crikey journalist Alan Davis is even more blunt in his criticism of the plan, saying that ‘the proposal should be called the Bye Line and quickly forgotten.’
Vargo, however, stands by his project plan, conceding costs may blow out, but would still cost less than the planned demolition. He says the Highlane would also offer extensive environmental and lifestyle benefits to Sydney-siders.
While the redevelopment certainly has its critics, Transport NSW is not confirming any position as yet.
“(We are) examining options for removing and potential reuse of the Monorail,” says a spokesperson.
The project has a strong public backing, with a poll by the Sydney morning Herald showing that 81 per cent of readers are in favour of the plans. If approved, Vargo estimates the construction period could be as short as 12 to 18 months.
In the green building sector, nearly any alternative to demolition and waste is a strong alternative. With the success of the Highline in New York standing as the benchmark for this project, the potential is there, with a favourable outcome contingent on the delivery.