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Business infrastructure

A Games legacy designed for generations to come

Nick Nichols | July 24, 2020

The Parklands Project is among the Gold Coast’s dominant legacy infrastructure developments of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Even before the Games were held it was recognised as such by winning the 2017 Gold Coast Urban Design Awards, taking out the Excellence in Urban Design Award and the Helen Josephson Award for Urban Design Leadership.

The project was lauded for setting an international benchmark for integration of architecture and the public realm, and it set the tone that year for the awards which also honoured the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre at Carrara.

It was a dual recognition for the architectural excellence of these projects and for the significant legacy benefits that Games infrastructure investments provided.

While the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre is now a major hub for community and sporting events, the evolution of Parklands has only just begun.

The primary role of the Parklands Project was to provide a temporary home for athletes competing at the Commonwealth Games. Architecturally it achieved this with anecdotal evidence from participants declaring the village one of the best of any global sporting event.

However, from a city-making perspective, its key objective was to deliver a project of scale that would benefit generations to come.

Peter Edwards, founding director of architectural firm Archipelago, was among the design team that delivered the Parklands Project, a collaborative venture involving Archipelago, Arkhefield and ARM.

For Mr Edwards, who had previously worked extensively with stakeholders to develop the master plan for the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, the Parklands Project would be a catalyst for growth that he believes will takes decades to fully appreciate.

“We never approached this project with the sole purpose that it would become an athletes’ village, because the city-making objective was ultimately the main driver,” says Mr Edwards.

“We were creating a very important component for the future Health and Knowledge Precinct which had to be designed and master-planned to best deliver that objective.

“The original tripartite intent of health, knowledge and industry working together has been made physical in the way the master plan responds.

“It’s been designed to reach out and leverage all the associated investment in the broader Health and Knowledge Precinct which includes Griffith University and Gold Coast University Hospital, as well as the overt connectivity to transport infrastructure of the light rail.”

The transformation began immediately following the Games, with the Athletes’ Village buildings, now known as The Smith Collective, transformed into Australia’s first large-scale build-to-rent community. The appeal of the new living environment is enhanced by 9 hectares of open space providing an attractive parkland amenity.

A start-up community is also thriving on the site with the establishment of the Cohort coworking and innovation space specialising in health and technology ventures.

More recently, plans for an $80 million children’s health and education centre of excellence highlight the many growth opportunities still to come for the Parklands precinct.

As a member of the judging panel for the 2020 Gold Coast Urban Design Awards, Queensland architect Dr Michael Lavery, a director of m3architecture and president of the Australian Institute of Architects’ Queensland Chapter, acknowledges the importance of designs that meet the emerging demands of communities.

“Architecture needs always to have one eye on the future, and it needs to be flexible and robust in that way – urban design even more so,” says Mr Lavery.

“One of the really clever things about the Athletes’ Village was its ability to adapt to an event and to look forward to the needs of longer-term residents and longer-term living.

“Sustainability initiatives really mean that projects such as these must be flexible and adaptable in place.

“The Games Village, and similar projects, are great briefs because essentially great communities are built around villages.

“The essence of good urban design is written in the brief, but it takes a very skilled hand to turn that into something that is successful at an event level and then to be successful for a permanent community.”

Submissions for the triennial Gold Coast Urban Design Awards are currently being accepted until 21 August. The winners will be announced on the awards night to be held on October 9.

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