Catherine StewartBarangaroo baloney

There’s new info out about Sydney’s Central Barangaroo. Except it’s mostly baloney. I’d usually choose a different word to describe what the December Barangaroo enews says is an “exciting, diverse and active addition” to this huge 3-stage development on the western edge of Sydney’s CBD, but I know certain GardenDrum readers would take me to task for bad language.

Central Barangaroo - artist's impression

Central Barangaroo – artist’s impression

I looked at the illustration that came with this press release, and was delighted to see the fabulous public open space that sits outside the blocky, somewhat unprepossessing buildings. The park is thick with trees and clothed in green lawn, and an impressive informal outdoor theatre area cascades down the southern side.

And then I noticed the caption on the illustration – “artist’s impression”. Huh? Does that mean it’s not….um….real?

Central Barangaroo Dec 2013 Master Plan Framework

Central Barangaroo Dec 2013 Master Plan Framework

So I turned to the ‘Master Plan Framework‘ which shows a huge, rich-green area surrounding the buildings, which looks a lot to me like an enormous open park, as usually the colour green is used on a plan to show, well, ‘green’ stuff like plants and grass. Until I read some of the fine print alongside:

This framework reaffirms the commitment to 50% public open space across Barangaroo with the foreshore promenade running the length of the site. 2.6 hectares of public domain on the waterfront will accommodate a mix of active and passive public spaces available for events, festivals and recreation“.

Now to me, that sounds a lot less like a big green public park and a lot more like areas that can be hired and fenced off, making them exclusive for paying customers. Call me suspicious, but given this NSW Government’s attitude to other public assets like the Royal Botanic Gardens, it obviously sees them as resources from which it can make money rather than precious, publicly owned spaces for the enjoyment of all.

Central Barangaroo 'Urban Theatre' - artist's impression

Central Barangaroo ‘Urban Theatre’ – artist’s impression

But, just to be sure, I wrote to the Barangaroo Authority asking:

I would like to report on the plans for Barangaroo Central for my GardenDrum Sydney readers. Is there an actual landscape plan for this area? On what is the artist’s impression based?

And the answer came back:

We have prepared a revised master plan for Central Barangaroo. The artist’s impression is just that – a concept of how the proposed new master plan could or might be interpreted.

Detailed design and planning is yet to be done for both the development areas and the public domain in the central portion of Barangaroo.

You may be interested in reporting on the Headland Park at Barangaroo which is already under construction. More than 75,000 native trees, plants and shrubs are already being grown for the park.

Central Barangaroo Sydney Steps - Artist's impression

Central Barangaroo Sydney Steps – Artist’s impression

Yes, the Headand Park is indeed a fabulous addition to Sydney and the huge sandstone blocks and native planting will cause quite a buzz when it’s all finally revealed.

And MAYBE Central Barangaroo will end up looking exactly like this artist’s wonderful vision. We can always hope. But until that’s certain, please don’t send me deceptive pictures straight out of some unknown person’s imagination of something that doesn’t yet exist on any plan, and expect me to swallow an excited press releases about………..’baloney’.

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Original creator of GardenDrum. South Coast NSW.

9 thoughts on “Barangaroo baloney

    • Ha yes! Good point. Better get Sacha Coles on the job. Oh I forgot, they pretty much only employ non-Australian landscape architects on Barangaroo as apparently they know our climate, soils and culture way better.

      • If that’s the case that’s disgraceful – there are so many highly qualified and experienced Landscape Architects available right here to undertake a project like this one right now. Wonder what AILA are doing about it?

  1. I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out – those sandstone blocks will be a sight to behold.

    But why-oh-why did they approve a bloody big casino as part of the development? It’s just like when they tacked a discount shopping centre onto the side of the Spencer Street Station redevelopment here in Melbourne, only worse.

    • Yes, indeed, why would Sydney need another casino?? It’s the same up here in Brisbane – we have a casino on the Gold Coast and one in Brisbane already and ‘Can Do’ is planning to give us ANOTHER ONE!

  2. Thanks Catherine,
    as usual, well researched coverage …. “artist’s impression” huh .. Well time will tell but I think most will be surprised to see anything like the lush illustration shown.
    I dooooooooo hope will eventuate into more than the token “green cover” at Central Park on Broadway near me .. Despite Patrick Blanc’s ill advised organic based medium supported “greenwalls” that deceptively drape the main building & will require replacement along with the plants within a fairly short time when that medium disintegrates, becomes “root solid” with nothing for those plants to grow in & at rather “high” exposure that no amount of irrigation will compensate ..

    So sad for unsuspecting people who have invested there and the inevitable special levies that will be inflicted upon them to rectify …. but you know how it is as far as planting in this town ..”Bar-botched-garoo” … ? Well at least we’ll have some nice big stone blocks & gum trees to sooth the soul ..

    …other interesting & durable public planting that could also be contract grown from the vast horticultural treasury our kind Sydney climate supports, (both native & exotic) would be totally out of the question I know .. why would ANYBODY want THAT for one of our most prominent harbour locations … no ?
    Hoping I’m completely wrong of course and that Barangaroo is the horticultural success darling Harbour is (in my humble opinion..), oh please let it be so. Staying tuned for more CS insights on Garden Drum as progress continues on the The Big “B”

    • It’s quite interesting to look at the differences even between the ‘artist impressions’. The first shows that thick, lush canopy, but another shows a row of little lollipop trees. Maybe that’s meant to represent a just planted state. Or maybe not.
      And yes, I fear for the long term success of that Blanc wall at Central Park too. But as per Barangaroo, non-Australian landscape architects and designers apparently know our conditions so much better than any ‘home grown’ expert.

  3. Hello Catherine
    My son, Gregory Betts, recently contacted you regarding re your recent post on the Barangaroo development in his capacity as part of the project team. He is also a Landscape Designer and I was keen to discuss with him your post and the other comments to see if I could help clarify the matter for you. My particular interest was the foreign design element and current lack of definite design plan and plant list to date. He has assured me not all stages have been finalised, as would be reasonable in a project of this size,and there has been positive interaction with some of Australia’s own specialists in the fields of landscape design, soils, vegetation etc. The important matter of funding for further design plans is still being negotiated and I understand the Casino is part of that deal!
    I hope this follow-up will be of assistance to you and your readers.
    I am just pleased some action is being taken in this neglected area which involves plants, open spaces, happy people and jobs in that order!
    Regards Clare Bell 0416094396

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