Cox Architecture’s design of Melbourne’s new elevated rail is one of Melbourne’s most significant urban intervention projects in recent years.
Cox Architecture was commissioned by the Victorian Government’s Level Crossing Removal Project to replace nine dangerous rail level crossings.
The project presented major urban accessibility challenges as five new elevated railway stations were constructed along one of Melbourne’s busiest transport corridors. Caulfield to Dandenong was a landmark project under a significant Victorian Government infrastructure program, which includes the removal of 75 level crossings around Melbourne.
“The key issue was that there were nine road/rail level crossings in a relatively short stretch between the Melbourne suburbs of Caulfield and Dandenong,” says project architect Jonathan Gardiner, who is also a director at Cox Architecture.
“The existing situation was that the crossing boom gates were down for 90 minutes out of every 120-minute peak period, resulting in highly congested traffic outcomes, and in effect provided a cap on the number of train services that could be scheduled on the line that served a rapidly growing part of the city.”
During a government-conducted market bidding process, it became clear that elevating (vs trenching) the rail would be the most effective approach, from a programmatic and design perspective. “The benefit of elevating the rail, was the creation of a significant area of ‘new’ community land under and adjacent to the rail corridor,” says Gardiner.
“The nine level crossings included the construction of five new stations that were conceived as bespoke transport hubs, with each station including a new urban plaza and buildings at the ground level providing purposeful, pod-like structures reflecting their use and together forming the active edges of the ground level station concourse,” explains Gardiner.
“The linear park connecting the urban plaza is designed as a varied element, with soft landscaping and active zones that were designed in conjunction with the community.” The plazas provide a significant improvement to the precinct both in terms of station and inter-transport (bus, taxi, bicycle) accessibility and interconnectivity with surrounding neighbourhoods.
The architects conceptualised and ultimately realised the rail viaduct as a ‘split’ solution, by separating the tracks to reduce visual bulk, creating a light-filled, welcoming and safe ground-level plane.
“The concrete piers and capitals were sculpted to reduce their visual bulk and reflect their structural forces,” Gardiner adds. “The sand-blasted acrylic screens have been designed to rise and fall within the eye-line of train commuters while limiting passenger views into adjacent properties.”