Why Sydney’s giant chimneys will be covered in steel “vines”

Glue together: a stainless steel mesh will cover the space between the 30 meter high ventilation chimneys.


Spiderman arrives at Rozelle. Well, if not the Marvel action hero himself, a sculpted steel frame shaped like a web, weaving and twisting around three giant ventilation towers above Sydney’s new WestConnex interchange.

The metal tendrils, along with the vertical green panels and zinc patterns perforating the shell of the 30-meter-high chimneys, are intended to break their mass and soften the structures channeling the fumes out of the underground road network below.

“The idea is to create an interwoven sculptural framework like organic growth, where nature takes back the constructed form as if an old ruin had now been consumed by this new natural system,” says Chris Fox, the artist originally Artwork.

The towers will span a nine-hectare public park that will be created next to the Rozelle Bay light rail stop and above the underground interchange, a network of roads connecting the M4 extension and the new M5 from Sydney to Anzac Bridge and Victoria Road.

Fox, also known for the Interloop artwork of the 1930s Hanging Wooden Escalator Steps in the York Street Escalator Lobby of Sydney Wynyard Station, worked with contractors John Holland and CPB and claims that the additional cost created by the work is minimal.

“It’s a fraction of the scale of large infrastructure, but has enormous cultural value and enormous cultural well-being for the city,” he says.

Construction is already underway and should be completed by the end of 2023.

With public infrastructure spending on the rise in Australia – forecaster ACIF projects $ 278 billion in work this year and over the next three years – projects need to be not only functional and efficient, but also designed to deliver. people a sense of connection to an area and treats them with respect.

“Intuitively, people understand this type of investment as an investment in themselves,” says Shelley Penn, architect and urban design consultant.

If there is an investment in quality in the public domain, it is like saying publicly “We appreciate you – we think you are important”. “

It is also a chance to recognize what sort of shape the area had before white colonization. The space on the edge of the bay of Rozelle was made up of mud flats and mangrove forests before being invested for maritime and rail use.

The multidisciplinary design firm Hassell is landscaping the park in which the Fox Tower artwork will be held. It will have a wetland section and a large land bridge connecting the light rail station.

“We have this to get around faster, but we have to think about the other costs as well,” Fox said.

“Our well-being and the way we navigate these sites are equally important. How do you relate to this park, how do you get around in this park? If there’s an opportunity out there to create a place you’d like to visit outside of that other functional use, that’s pretty special. Shouldn’t we have this for our city? “

But this thinking has not always undergone infrastructure work and when applied, it should not be superficial, explains Sydney architect Andrew Nimmo.

“It is a positive change that the authorities responsible for large infrastructures agree to apply the principles of design excellence to their projects,” he says. “However, design is not a process applied after the infrastructure is complete. It should be integrated and not treated as a decoration.

Fox, who says he’s been part of the planning process from when contractors bid on the $ 3.9 billion highway project, says designers also need to decide whether to get involved in the work. infrastructure.

“There is an ethical decision you have to make as a practitioner. Do you choose not to engage or do you choose to engage and try to optimize, to try to put the audience back first? Put the landscape in the foreground? There is a battle there.

Nimmo, whose redesign of the former HMAS Platypus submarine base in North Sydney won the NSW Award for Urban Architecture this year, argues that the infrastructure should be subject to the same requirements as any residential or office tower for giving back to the region and the community.

“There is no reason why infrastructure projects should not be subject to the same urban design standards as any building,” he says. “These ventilation towers are actually three buildings 30 meters high, so their impact on the public domain is similar. The fact that they are not inhabited is irrelevant.

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