The development of a successful new town centre often takes many decades or even centuries to evolve. At Rouse Hill we looked to understand the layers and complexities that are required to create such a place but with the requirement for it to be constructed in less than 2 years. The GPT Group (GPT) spent $470 million creating the vibrant Rouse Hill Town Centre, which is managed and owned by GPT. Rouse Hill Town Centre will sit at the heart of the 120 hectare New Rouse Hill development, which includes $1 billion of residential and commercial development and is being undertaken by the Lend Lease/GPT (LLGPT) joint venture over a period of 12 years. The land occupied by Rouse Hill Town Centre and the New Rouse Hill was earmarked for development by the Department of Planning (who remains the land owner during the development phase of the projects) in the 1980s. The Rouse Hill land was tendered to the private sector in 2003 by Government which appointed Landcom to manage Government’s interest in the development. The development of the ‘town centre’ concept was created within the context of a master plan prepared by Civitas Urban Design and Planning in partnership with LLGPT, Department of Planning, Landcom and the architectural design was delivered by a consortium of three architectural firms - Rice Daubney, Allen Jack+Cottier and Group GSA. DESIGN STATEMENT In towns and cities, public space has traditionally served as a meeting place, marketplace and traffic way. Enjoyable towns and cities find a comfortable balance between these three demands, without forfeiting their links with the environment. Government, The GPT Group and LLGPT had a desire to achieve an appropriate balance between these competing demands, responding at the same time to the climatic environment of Rouse Hill and the principles of ecologically sustainable design. These principles did not result in a series of add-ons, but were embedded in the design of the building forms and public spaces themselves. Whilst maximising a feeling of openness within the public realm, the building forms are positioned to control solar penetration of the spaces between them, reduce shop front heat loadings and minimising energy loadings. At the same time, pedestrian amenity is ensured – there is always a shady route and the architecture responds directly to the climate. Awnings and canopies are attached to buildings to provide weather protection and solar comfort but generally do not extend fully across roads and laneways so that these areas are open to natural ventilation. This has the added environmental benefit of reducing the demand for artificial heating and cooling. The town centre has all the facilities of a small town, including shopping precincts, commercial space, a nine-screen cinema complex, education and community facilities, a health and medical centre, 3,000 car spaces at basement level and excellent transport links. The New Rouse Hill LLGPT joint venture has also delivered 104 apartments on Main Street, with future provision of a total of 504 apartments in the town centre core and perimeter, a library and learning facilities. These uses result in a vibrant mixed use development where people live, work, shop, learn and enjoy the many recreational opportunities. The town centre contains a substantial amount of retail space that has attracted strong retail tenant mix, coupled with civic, residential and commercial uses and required the design to deliver the functionality of the best retail centres but in a largely untested format on this scale in the Australian marketplace. This required an understanding of not only the fundamental aspects of retailing but also an understanding of what makes a successful and vibrant town. How does one create a town almost instantly and in isolation from existing development? Clearly this was a project that from the outset required thinking about mixed use retail development and design in an entirely different way. A key aspect considered was the ultimate connectivity and permeability with The New Rouse Hill, which will eventually become a significant residential community with up to 1800 dwellings, substantial tracts of passive and active recreational land, a sensitive creek waterway, schools and existing items of heritage significance. This master plan ensured that the town centre was firmly embedded into the structure of the suburb, supporting and complementing existing and proposed infrastructure. This study started to set up a series of permeable edges which in future will engage with the residential periphery and recreational zones. In subsequent stages of development, a ring of residential buildings will surround and mask the major retail forms on the perimeter of the town centre, forming the outer visual face of the town centre and establishing a fine grain human scale and character. The master plan promotes the community to engage with the town centre as part of their daily activities, challenging the notion of ‘my home is my castle’ sentiment. This deeply challenges the traditional shopping centre typology which has made a whole art form out of creating complete, internalised self-sufficient worlds. What evolved was a series of streets, gallerias and laneways punctuated by courts, squares and market places, which serve to orientate and organise the journeys. Town Square provides a central reference point and allows access to the primary public functions of library, community and learning as well as cafés and a fountain play area. Rouse Hill Town Centre is formed within lanes and streets open to the environment. Market Square, which anchors the transit end of the town; the backyard, sunroom, the belvedere adjacent to a surrounding future leisure square precinct, library lane and the grand hall - all are connected by the spine formed by Main Street. The form of the streets was also considered from colonnades and generous streets to tight urban laneways, all adding to the experience of the town, its diversity of space and shelter. The streets become the network which connects a sequence of experiences in a dynamic and unexpected way, eschewing the ‘gun barrel’ form so favoured by traditional shopping centres.


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