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Is Barangaroo a lost cause?

It would take a change in government to save Sydney’s last headland, Paul Berkemeier tells Gemma Battenbough.

Is Barangaroo a lost cause?


August 2nd, 2010

The plans for the proposed headland park at Barangaroo may have been unveiled earlier this month but the damage done by a bungled design competition, inept planners and land peddling by the government is “irreversible”, Paul Berkemeier, architect on the original competition-winning team, said.

While the NSW government appointed “exceptional” landscape architects in the team of Johnson Pilton Walker and Peter Walker & Partners Landscape Architecture to design the headland park, it is not enough to redeem Barangaroo, Berkemeier said.

The brief they have been given to restore the landscape to its natural form is a “broken chalice” that amounts to historic pastiche, he said.

The plans also include a new cultural centre, which will be 10,000-20,000sqm in area and “buried” beneath the headland.

While the centre is a good idea, it needs more commitment for it to be worthwhile, Berkemeier said. “It gives the appearance of being culturally aware. But cultural awareness is about engaging the community rather than imposing an idea from outside.”

Lend Lease is responsible for all key facets of the project including development management, project and construction management and ongoing asset and property management.

This reliance on one party has been the project’s downfall, Berkemeier said, because commercial interests have become too strong.

“The big mistake of the government made was to allow one proponent to take control of 80 per cent of the site. It’s inevitable that the tail will wag the dog.”

The development on Sydney’s last undeveloped headland has become too driven by commerce, turning the significant site into a “glorified shopping a mall on steroids”, Berkemeier said.

Every element of the public domain has a commercial purpose, even the streets, so civic space is within the control of the developer.

“The fallout is for the public interest. Those things that are important to the city will be lost. It would take political change to redeem Barangaroo, but by the time that happens Lend Lease will already be building.”

A Lend Lease spokesperson said: “Reinvigorating an unrivalled location on Sydney’s waterfront requires more than great architecture. It needs people.

“Barangaroo South is designed for people. It’s about Sydneysiders and visitors. It’s about a place that belongs to the people, a place that everyone can enjoy – and a natural extension of our city. Each day there will be 23,000 workers plus many thousands of shoppers and other visitors.”

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