Pitt St Mall Refurbishment,...

Transformation of Pitt Street Mall, CBD, Sydney

The Pitt Street Mall is the busiest retail pedestrian precinct in Sydney, located in the heart of the Sydney CBD. Used each day by more than 65,000 pedestrians, the City of Sydney undertook a major refurbishment of the Mall during the second half of 2010. Adjacent shopping centres were undergoing major private re-development making this the ideal time, while businesses were closed, to refurbish the Mall also. Westfield Design and Constructions undertook the Mall renovations.

Pitt St Mall Refurbishment, Sydney CBD NSW AustraliaNo major work had been carried on the Mall in years and it seemed to have been forgotten in comparison with other iconic areas such as Circular Quay and Martin Place. The Mall still had the features of a paved street, rather than a purpose built public place. The surface was in a bad state with cracked and moving pavers and may have been becoming dangerous.

The City of Sydney engaged architect and urban design firm Tony Caro Architecture to design a complete refurbishment working in conjunction with the City’s landscape architects.

The design for the refurbishment included a regrade of the road surface to remove the still visible road crown and footpath line, central drainage, new stone paving, additional seating for resting and socialising and additional trees. The design was environmentally sustainable including the diversion of stormwater off awnings to tree pits, energy efficient lighting and the use of sustainable and recycled materials.

Pitt St Mall Refurbishment, Sydney CBD NSW AustraliaPitt Street roughly follows the Tank Stream, the first fresh water source discovered in the area which persuaded Captain Arthur Phillip to establish a colony. Elements of the Mall redesign, particularly the central drain, reference the Tank Stream’s proximity.

An important design decision was to retain the mall’s twenty Chinese Elm trees in their existing locations. New seating would be grouped around the trees, where their beautiful mature canopies provide dappled shade.

Retaining the trees however led to a set of challenges. Firstly, the trees had been planted, or had sunk, below ground level necessitating some kind of bridge over the gaps between the level of the paving and the tree bases. The existing tree positions were also varied and not centred in the concrete box sections in which they had been planted originally. Finally four new trees, as large as possible but still with much thinner trunks than the existing trees, were also planted.

Pitt St Mall Refurbishment, Sydney CBD NSW AustraliaAfter some research the landscape architects discovered the Bradford, a sleek high grade stainless steel tree grate produced by Citygreen® and distributed in Australia by Arborgreen. The clean lines and high quality finish of this grate complemented the uncluttered design of the Mall, which incorporated natural stone paving and benches, and custom designed bronze and timber furniture.

Arborgreen worked closely with the landscape architects to customise the grate to meet this project’s unique requirements and design standards. Non-standard grate sizes had to be manufactured to fit in with paving, the random positioning of the trees and the offset position of the trunks. In addition the ovoid shape of the root buttresses at the base of the trunks dictated an enlargement to the planned opening size to provide for tree growth. Each of the 24 grates had to be customized to fit the requirements of each tree.

Pitt St Mall Refurbishment, Sydney CBD NSW AustraliaUsing a robust support frame, the grate is suspended over the sunken trees. To enable maintenance and rubbish removal, the grate can be split for removal and is light enough to lift. When in place, a locking system and tamper proof fasteners deter vandalism. The trees can be watered through the grate via a removable disc which allows a hose to be inserted and attached to the agricultural pipes surrounding the tree roots.

The grate had to meet some onerous slip resistance ratings and heel safe requirements. Once again, Arborgreen worked closely with the landscape architects and the grate manufacturers to achieve this. Developing an aesthetic finish which still met these requirements required repeated testing. The result was an attractive high-class matt silver finish with a tough non-slip surface and narrow 5 mm apertures complying with current safety standards. The grates were fitted by a contractor who installed the stonework, bronze and timber furniture.

Citygreen’s design team relished the challenges thrown up by this project while the landscape architects were impressed by the lengths Citygreen was willing to go to, to find solutions for the Mall refurbishment.

Pitt St Mall Refurbishment, Sydney CBD NSW AustraliaOne challenge remains arising from planting new trees with relatively thin trunks – how to provide sufficient clearance not to damage the trunks, through the action of wind and natural leaning habit, while keeping the apertures in the grates small enough to prevent a trip hazard. The architectural designers are continuing to work with Arborgreen on the Citygreen Bradford tree grates, to develop an insert that can reduce aperture size and be removed as the tree grows.

The refurbishment sought to create an uncluttered public space with high quality, durable finishes that would help create a vibrant city centre and highlight the experience of outdoor city life.

All parties are very pleased with the results of the refurbishment. As stated by the City of Sydney landscape architect:

“Overall when you go out there and see the way people use the Mall, it speaks for itself – a very successful project. Even at 9pm at night people are still there, and a busker, despite the cool evenings.”

High quality finishes, beautiful proportions and fantastic attention to detail have created a wonderful atmosphere which is already drawing people into the Mall. While the design appears simple, it is clear that a great deal of thought has gone into it The refurbishment is reinvigorating the Mall as a premier retail destination in the City centre.

The overall effect created in the Mall was captured by a comment in the street: ‘how did they make the Mall bigger without moving the buildings?’

Rosalind King

24 May 2011

“Great customer service, quick response times and a very in depth QA system with constant support.”

- Laura Wiesenekker, Project Engineer, Densford Civil -

“Citygreen is a very professional  business, and I found everything was great in terms of deliveries, product supply and information. It was all forthcoming and helped us to complete the project.”

- Keith Burns, Architect/Designer, Keith Burns Architect -

“Citygreen offered training and invaluable technical assistance during the works.”

- James Callan, Estimating Manager, Complex Co Pty Ltd -

“Our experience, in working with a Citygreen Design Studio was second to none. We found responses from the design studio to be very timely, and technically thorough. We went backwards and forwards a number of times, looking at different iterations of the design and, nothing was too much trouble to examine and explore different possibilities. I would highly recommend the Citygreen Design Studio to any future client considering using your services.”

- Sandra Smith, Principal Landscape Architect, City Of Monash -

“We are big on compliance on all projects, and the fact that their SmartCertify cloud platform covers all bases, and supports their 20 year warranties, is critical – especially that these pits are being installed under roadways and footpaths.”

- Johny Purkaystha, Civil Program Engineer, Central Coast Council -

"I reviewed all the previous projects that we have installed in the past couple years using your product and I can happily report back that we have 0% mortality in the soil cells, which is incredible!"

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