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NorthBank

Part 2 Project 2010
Nicholas Flutter
University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
Northbank is an urban planning and public architecture proposition that sets out to salvage a section of Brisbane Riverbank adjacent to the CBD that has been rendered uninhabitable and impenetrable by layers of 1970s traffic infrastructure. Northbank is a response to this contemporary terrain vague at the front door to our city.

By manipulating roadways and public open space, opportunities are made for architectural interventions that create places along the riverbank, are scaled appropriately for people and provide a range of context-specific, civic functions.

The southbound lanes of the expressway are to be excavated under a new public ground plane and pedestrian-paced city street. A generous, shaded footpath along the river edge of North Quay can be reinstated, and in places a thin sequence of retail spaces, places and functions creates a perforated built edge to the river. While reviving an important pedestrian link in the city, this intervention also allows for a CityCat ferry stop connecting directly to Roma St Station, overcoming the disjunction between Brisbane’s rail and river transport networks. A duplicate bus-only bridge untangles one of the city’s most deadly traffic conflicts by removing vehicular dominance of the Victoria Bridge, and improving the link between the key pedestrian plazas on both banks of the river.

At the centre of the scheme are two timber and Corten steel hulks that squeeze up through the expressway and lean on the riverbank. The first, adjacent to Brisbane Square, creates a large gathering space at city level with restaurants and a CityCat ferry shopfront along its outer edge, and child care facilities, bike storage and gym tucked below. The second exploits a grand found volume below twisting off-ramps, and houses a bar and live music, and accessible via a grand staircase from North Quay. Both forms are derived from the lost landscape between the riverbank and road works, and reference darker memories of the river in the city.

Nicholas Flutter


This astounding project nonchalantly untangles the largest planning stuff-up in our city. In the 1970s, while other cities dismantled inner-city freeways, our engineers erected two kilometres of elevated expressway to form a continuous barrier between the prime bank of the triangular Brisbane CBD peninsula and its river. In recent years unsuccessful public projects have sought to extend, hide or demolish the more benign downstream reach of this structure.

Nick tackled the harder upstream kilometre of viaduct - a high cliff between land and water. With forensic three-dimensional analysis he identified two zones where public plazas can oversail the structure to connect vertically to the water, and squeezed through a new cross-river bus bridge to untangle another transport knot. Astutely, he recognized a potentially valuable half metre vertical tolerance in the footpath levels that could allow one artery of the freeway to be tucked into a cut and cover tunnel and liberate a new longitudinal landscaped pedestrian and cycle link to the river edge walk.

From the reconfigured infrastructure Nick then constructs his architectural projects. Found volumes articulated by the underbelly of the freeway are seized as remarkable public opportunities. These voids, reimagined as chandelier-encrusted, trapped, semi-submerged hulls is particularly poignant on this riverbank, the disembarkation point at the Moreton Bay penal hellhole.

My role as witness to the slow evolution of Nick's project was a genuine privilege. A true polymath, each week he would bring a new reworking, a new proposition, a new provocation and a new process. Enthusiastic early propositions for river connectivity were shown as compelling comic animations, but the patient, rigorous task of modelling and analysing the space proved to be the ultimate catalytic act. Needing a more precise landscape base model, he built (yes built) a flatbed CAD/CAM router in his garage. His precise modelling of each engineering alignment and ramp was rewarded by the discovery of a previously unmapped terrain.

The level of sophisticated design synthesis is outstanding and the evocative renders are sumptuous. This modest young student is as close to a Renaissance man as I have met in thirty years of teaching.

Tutor(s)
Mr Peter Skinner
2010
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