“225,000M² of vacant land could become the biggest asset to the suburbs east of Melbourne. This linear strip of land is due to be split into 3 sections running below the $1.6 billion Sky Rail. The vacant land created has the potential to become an opportunity of identity and activation for the communities it passes through.” Left Under.
Building off a thesis completed during his architecture degree at RMIT, Simon Robertson and co-collaborator, landscape architect Steve Mintern, have established Left Under as a platform to give community groups a voice in how the land released by the Sky Rail project can be used, managed and enjoyed.
The three sections of rail corridor that form part of the project
The online platform invites residents and community groups to visualise the possibilities of the space left under the rail beyond the broad categories of ‘bike paths’ and ‘green open space,’ by asking questions about what activities groups currently do and identifying the gaps in existing local amenities.
Between the three council boundaries of Glen Eira, Monash and Dandenong, permaculture groups came forward, there were schools that wanted to use the space for excursions rather than getting buses out to the same parks and there were sports clubs that required additional facilities.
In Noble Park, AMES, the group that supports new migrants and asylum seekers suggested using the space for markets whereby recent arrivals could meet and engage with the community whilst providing a platform to sell goods and celebrate their cultures.
The project has allowed Left Under to separate itself from the debate on the visual impact and just focus on the land the project is creating and releasing for public use and ensuring the money that’s getting put forward in the scheme for community use is directed to initiatives that will be valued by their residents.
The process uncovered a wide variety of needs between the diverse communities between Carnegie and Noble Park, offering a real opportunity to provide local groups with the attention and funding that is often lacking.
For Simon and Steve, it’s about “reading the situation and understanding the people there, giving people a voice and platform to say what they want, it will be their space after all.”
“The value of Left Under is going out and talking to people, seeing who should be talking to each other and really visualising the ideas that people have. We pose open questions, rather than prescriptive one propositioned during formal consultation processes of ‘do you want green open space?’ We take it one step further, absolutely green open space, but what do you want to do in it?”
Westway Football Pitches – London
“There are currently three activation nodes designed for the space underneath the rail, which have been planned out in succession across the entire project. There are so many possibilities that respond to specific locations and the specific needs of the community that go beyond a generic template.”
The next step is tabling the recommendations from their findings and presenting them to government. Selecting which ones which are the most valuable and achievable. “We’re looking at different business models similar to Testing Grounds. Whilst some of these initiatives may not be funded by the government there’s other ways for them to be realised.”
Testing Grounds Melbourne
Most importantly, Left Under is about ensuring the decisions about the space aren’t being made behind closed doors.”
Left Under is looking at this as a template for similar projects in future.