I’m sitting at Southern Cross Station waiting for my train to depart to go back to Geelong. I very rarely catch a train, so everything is exciting to me. This day has a slight breeze with some filtered afternoon sun shine striking through the Southern Cross Station architecture. I take a photo as the light cast interesting shadows on the ground surface. I start to observe everything within this station and am captivated by the building detail. My eye follows from one beam to the next getting lost in the steel maze. I start to watch the commuters that are waiting to board the idling trains. It appears people are covering their mouths with their scarfs and jackets. They are attempting to filter the diesel fumes through their clothing. Now I’m starting to speculate, is this station an unhealthy public space? Maybe, the station is in a chronic condition and we don’t even know it. Can we bring this station back to life?
The old Spencer Street Station is what I’m trying to remember. I recall it had an industrial simple charm with great detailing within the steel post. An unassuming steel awning that covered patrons from the sun and the rain. Trains were parked on open platform exposed to the elements that allowed diesel fumes to escape. The station was clean and allowed you to arrive or set of on your journey.
Now the current design is what is capturing my attention. Yes, the redesign is beautiful with great canopies of architecture connecting all the platforms. A very contemporary world class station.
Nonetheless, what is peculiar, the natural life essence of the station is somewhat nonexistent. Little things need to be considered to bring some spirit and life back into the station supports. Take for example the sun. How do you get it to shine onto your face? It is currently filtered through glass and steel. Nor does the rain enter the station. It is trapped outside and funneled into an internal network. How are you supposed to feel the rain through your hair or watch your umbrella blow away? A few pigeons and brown sparrows fly around taking the odd scrap, then dispersing into the air. They might call this place a fast food outlet, not a place they would choose to occupy. These birds are the only indication of nature in this cold, eerie and lonely place.
So why is this station so unnatural? Could it be from the idling trains which carry the loud continuous droning noise throughout the space? Maybe, it’s the diesel fumes that are being propelled upwards and then getting trapped in the roof spaces. A few questions come to mind. Are the exhaust fans working at this station? Why can’t the roof open up to allow the engine fumes to escape on certain days? What would it be like working at this station for a career? Why do the trains need to idle while they wait? Does the air get tested for quality? There has to be some better efficiencies to make this station a healthier place.
To me, Southern Cross Station provides a very similar environment to the following example. Imagine you’re in a running car that is parked in the garage. The car windows are down. All the garage doors are shut expect for a small window. As the car continues to run it will slowly fill up the garage and car with car exhaust fumes. Some of the fumes would leave the through the small window. So would you stay in this situation or get out? Is this an environment you want to be in? Surely you would get out or even turn your car off. So why is it any different to this train station? Soon enough an announcement comes over the speakers that proudly recorded blasts “Please do not board the train, please do not board the train”. Are you kidding! I want to board the train so I don’t get sick. If I was on the train I would at least have some partial filtered air.
So as a landscape architect how could I adapt the space to make it healthier for patrons and staff? I want you to imagine a living rainforest. A place that is really clean and fresh. Where you like to take a really big deep breather. This space has loads of natural qualities and is full of life. The perfect tonic to make you feel better. Now transfer this image to Southern Cross Station. All the rainforest attributes are carried into Southern Cross Station and will be highly visible under the canopies. The rainforest would clean the air removing most of the diesel fumes. This would allow humans to habitat the space all in a safe manner. The rainforest would provide soft calming noises that softens the diesel engines sounds. They might even make them disappear altogether. Over a small establishment period native birds, mammals and inserts will call the station home.
Every single support, rafter, post, advertisement, food dispenser would be upgraded with some high end landscape embellishments. The roof canopies and space are transformed into a hanging garden. This garden will be irrigated from Southern Cross Stations very own roof catchment. The pillars supports are clad in a vertical garden skins that provides seasonally flowers, texture and fragrance. All the platforms get some beautiful large trees in some giant planters. The walls get some climbing plants so you could smell a beautiful floral display advertisement. The cafes gets some planter boxes with herb planting to remind you of home. How much cleaner, greener and sustainable would this station become? Once this is done then it will truly be a world class station and it will be complete. A space that when the announcement comes over the speaker “Please board the trains”. You will choose to stay and catch the next one.
To achieve a rainforest in Southern Cross Station. I believe it can happen in three easy ways.
- Can the politicians find the entire 10% public open space contribution and allocate to fix it up.
- Engage some great local landscape architects to lead positive change.
- Share and spread this blog so people that have the power can make inspired decisions.