Rush Wright: Hargreaves Mall forms the new centrepiece of the public domain of central Bendigo. Over the last seven or more years the City has embarked on an award-winning re-design of its central commercial and activity areas within the strategic context of the CBD Plan adopted by Council. This will see the CBD transformed from a predominantly retail core into a vibrant, mixed use area combining the full suite of civic and commercial urban functions with new types of urban housing including multi level and shop-top housing. In future it is envisaged that Hargreaves Mall will become a form of ramblas with people living, working and spending much of their day and night in the near vicinity. The Mall already forms the heart of the new ‘Walking Bendigo’ pedestrianisation, a controversial project locally especially amongst diehard users of private motor cars. Extensive areas of kerb-free shared zones are being created where cars, bikes and pedestrians negotiate for space.

Hargreaves Mall used to be Hargreaves Street, and was transformed into a pedestrian Mall during the flurry of Mall building in the 1980s. The old design attempted to turn the street into a semi-enclosed plaza, replete with one of everything from the repertoire of the time. This is best left to the juror’s imagination. Consideration was of course given to restoring vehicle traffic and a completely conventional street typology as has occurred elsewhere, but in light of the Walking Bendigo project and the potential for future living environments right on the Mall this was rejected early by the client and design team alike. The essence of a street however informs the new design at every level. We have restored a conventional street morphology of tree rows, walkway zones and clear pathways for vehicles, bikes and other occasion service traffic. Access is controlled by hydraulic bollards.

The client design brief required the design team to include for two unisex toilets and provision for retail kiosks. These have been presented together as large scale civic marker structures. These forms are derived from the minimum plan dimension of a unisex toilet and baby change, then projected upwards as a tower form, evocative of poppet heads and local mining infrastructure. From the towers are hung both retractable sun shades for the commercial space beneath, as well as dramatic cantilevered glass screens. These screens, glad in ‘digiglass’, include daytime images selected by local artists printed on an interlayer within the glass sandwich. These images take on particular presence at night, becoming translucent lantern shades for neon backlighting fixed to the internal steel structure of the cantilever.

The screens have also been designed to display projected images. The digiglass interlayer chosen through extensive prototyping, also has the ability to reflect just the right amount of light to become a projection surface. A careful balance was struck between the competing requirements of lantern translucency, daylight appearance and suitability for projection of video and other moving or static images. We imagine a Grand Final or World Cup could work well projected onto the screens, as could art-based imagery from Bendigo Gallery and local artisans.

This new Mall for Bendigo aims to provide a very long lasting, durable legacy for the City. The bar of ambition, by client and design team, has been set high. The new space sits well along side the many civic achievements in Bendigo most of which date from the 19th Century. A new age of city building has begun, with the new Hargreaves Mall as a nucleus of quality and catalyst for future development in the CBD.

Landscape Architecture: Rush Wright
Location: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Design Year: 2006
Construction Year: 2010
Image Credits: Michael Wright, Chris Erskine
Text by authors of the project

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