Landscape architecture and urban design firm Habitation has submitted plans to re-develop Sydney's doomed and unprofitable monorail into a walkway reminiscent of New York's Highline.
The proposed boardwalk dubbed the 'Highlane' would provide a walkway above the city which director at Habitation, David Vago said could feature cafe's, gallery space, cultural walks and a way of getting around for commuters, the disabled and tourists.
Vago said his inspiration from New York's Highline was subconscious and he is more interested in using the space in a sustainable way.
"We're always taught as architects to re-use and recycle and regenerate. It just happens to be a very similar idea in using a transport item as a pedestrian space.New York's Highline.
In terms of design, Vago is interested in creating a greener city.
"It's really taking what's there and saying ok, lets take the monorail, off-sell the cars and keep the track there and we'll dress it up and put a boardwalk on it and maybe have some hanging plants, maybe make the columns green and you've got yourself an artistic, quite sculptural piece of infrastructure in the city."
Other design elements that Vago would be interested in incorporating would be a vertical garden, steel balustrading and recycled timber.
"It really comes down to budget and feasibility in terms of longevity and all those sorts of questions that need to be asked in the design phase. Maybe potential hanging planters with beautiful cascading plants so that when you're looking up you've got this lovely green edge," Vago said.
Projected Image of converted Monorail
Vago has been criticised for the proposal by Crikey journalist Alan Davies who said "the proposal should be called the Bye Line and quickly forgotten". While Clover Moore told the Sydney Morning Herald:
"The pillars are ugly and intrusive and the track is not wide enough to do the idea justice," she said.
Vago said that critics hadn't thought the idea through properly and that the track could be widened to more than three metres, with the cascading plants an alternative to big plant spaces.
"You've got to think of the monorail as a steel beam and you run the steel across the beam to whatever width you want," he said.
Another criticism of Vago's plan has been the $5million estimated price for the project.
"The costing was a bit of a ball park and it didn't look at the whole lot of layers, there is no question that that figure might go up. I think the point I was trying to make was that if you're going to spend $15million bringing it down, why not spend less than that to keep it and add an asset to the city?" he said.
The Highlane would add greenery to Sydney's CBD
Vago is adamant that the city will be improved by the proposed Highlane.
"The focus on detail is very narrow-minded and probably why Australia and this city doesn't have any decent design, we keep wanting to rip everything down and we don't think creatively beyond our boundaries."
Vago is yet to hear a positive response from any sectors of government though has not been given an outright 'no' from Transport for NSW.
"Clover's been sent the drawings- no response. I had a meeting with the government, I met with the Premier's office, I met with Transport for NSW and they've asked for more information so they can look at it in regards to the other feasibility study they're doing on the light rail and see how it all fits together," he said.
Images courtesy of Habitation