Stunning street trees shape the success of Sydney’s Darling Square
Darling Square is a new public domain on the former site of Sydney’s Entertainment Centre. Part of the NSW government’s $3.4 billion transformation of Darling Harbour, this mixed-use precinct provides residential, commercial and entertainment opportunities in the heart of Sydney.
The Square was imagined by ASPECT Studios, a leading landscape architecture company who won a design competition by developer, Lendlease. The centrepiece of Darling Square is The Exchange – a spiralling, hive-shaped building designed to house a library, market hall, childcare facility and rooftop bar. Citygreen was engaged by ASPECT Studios and landscape contractor Regal Innovations, to help bring Darling Square to life with large street trees in front of The Exchange.
Project goals and challenges
Darling Square is situated in one of Australia’s most visited public places. As such, the project goals centred firmly around people. As well as providing a ‘wow’ factor for first-time visitors, the project aimed to provide a strong sense of place for local workers and residents – particularly around The Exchange. Healthy street trees with large canopies were an important part of this vision.
Prior to the redevelopment and Citygreen’s involvement, previous tree installations had failed. The heavily hardscaped conditions proved too challenging for trees, which failed to grow to their full potential despite several attempts. For Citygreen, the project goal was simple – to succeed where other solutions had failed. This meant providing the required soil volume for early establishment of the trees and their continued long-term growth.
Despite working to a complex design, which included buried services, Citygreen worked with the design and installation team to deliver on the project goals.
Citygreen’s engineered Stratavault system was chosen for its ability to provide the required soil volume for healthy tree root growth. Compared to structural soil, which provides around 10% soil volume, Stratavault provides over 90% of uncompacted soil volume. This allows trees to develop deep root systems, which lead to large canopy growth.
As well as enhancing root growth, Stratavault cells have large apertures which enable service pipes, aeration and watering systems to be seamlessly incorporated. This was particularly important for this project, as it was critical to maintain aeration through the heavily paved surface slabs.
The fact that Stratavault is made from 100% recycled polymers is also appealing to builders and developers with a corporate culture centred on sustainability. In addition to the obvious sustainability benefits and green building contribution, the Citygreen structural vault systems are subjected to the highest QA control in the industry. Compared to other systems, which use virgin materials and/or steel components, Stratavault has an array of advantages.
A total of 31 Eucalyptus Saligna and Zelkova Serrata trees were installed around The Exchange using Citygreen’s Stratavault system. As well as contributing to the design process, Citygreen provided hands-on installation training and compliance support to the construction team.
The installation was completed efficiently, thanks to Stratavault’s smart modular system, where units snap together quickly to form an integrated matrix.
Since its completion in May 2019, Darling Square has been stunningly successful. It is frequented by thousands of residents, workers and visitors each week, providing a central link to popular locations like Ultimo, Haymarket and Chinatown. The trees are thriving in Stratavault, with lush green canopies adding colour and shade out the front of The Exchange.
The outstanding architecture and award-winning landscaping has done more than enhance the Darling Square precinct for locals and tourists. It has also contributed to a highly successful outcome for the developer, with The Exchange recently selling for a premium price of $70 million.