28 Sep 22

Central Station artwork on right track

Central Station brick artwork by Bronwyn Bancroft

Woods Bagot overcame a major design challenge during the reinvention of Central Station in Sydney with an innovative, artistic solution rooted in the aesthetic of Australia’s busiest rail hub.

Art is a key, unexpected feature of the $955 million renewal of Australia’s largest rail hub, Central Station in Sydney.

As part of the Central Station Metro project, Sydney Metro recently unveiled a substantial brick artwork by Bundjalung artist Dr Bronwyn Bancroft connecting the past and present.

“My vision is to honour the fallen who have returned to the earth, and the layers of ancestors that lie under the contemporary world of Sydney,” Dr Bancroft explained in her artwork statement.

“To visualise tribes and clans of people from the Gadigal area paddling their canoes across the corridors of time is an epic image. Acknowledgement of that time in our shared history has been paramount to me in creating this work.”

The global architecture and design firm Woods Bagot is playing a significant role in the transformation of Central Station in partnership with international engineering and construction company Laing O’Rourke.

Laing O’Rourke is delivering the Sydney Metro underground platforms at Central Station as well as the landmark Central Walk. The work includes:

  • Excavation and construction of the new underground Sydney Metro platforms at Central beneath Platforms 13, 14 and 15.
  • Construction of Central Walk – a new 19-metre wide 80-metre-long underground concourse from Chalmers Street, connecting customers to suburban rail platforms, Sydney Metro platforms, the new CBD & South East Light Rail and buses.
  • An upgrade to the Northern Concourse, with transformed pedestrian thoroughfares and a new landmark roof canopy
  • Installation of new escalators and lifts directly to Platforms 12 to 23 for the first time.
Central Station artwork on right track
Central Station artwork on right track

It has been a huge job – still underway – with numerous challenges.

Among them was the challenge of what to do with the mechanical ventilation structures on Platform 14 of the bustling terminal.

Another was meaningfully incorporating Aboriginal heritage into the site, a project initiative by Sydney Metro.

“The existing structures are prominent on the site, and we wanted to give Aboriginal heritage a voice through a creative installation,” said John Prentice, Woods Bagot Principal and project leader.

“We also had an ambition to integrate artwork into the fabric of architecture on the site and had been interested in brick texture techniques to create fluid textures, imagery and impressions in design.”

Dr Bancroft explained her concept emerged from a “lifetime of investigating the layers of human existence and the molecular component of the DNA of ancient Aboriginal Australia”.

“The corridors and platforms of Central Railway Station are shared spaces, amongst many different people, from many different countries,” she wrote.

“The spiritual concept for Time Travellers is that I believe our old people are our guides and will offer smooth transitions when respect is acknowledged.

“The tunnelling and excavation of the country needs to celebrate the unseen of the city, which is Aboriginal Australia.”

After Dr Bancroft had finished painting Time Travellers as an acrylic on canvas, the next challenge was to transfer it onto the brickwork, which includes vents, or “gills” to allow the railway tunnels deep underground to breathe.

Central Station artwork on right track

Enter 21st century technology and Nathaniel Steward, a Graduate at Woods Bagot, who had the tech skills to code the artwork using Grasshopper, a visual programming software, and make it transferable to alternate mediums such as a brick wall.

PGH Bricks then collaborated with pre-cast concrete specialists Waeger Constructions to apply the design, brick by brick, colour by colour, across the two structures at the southern and northern ends of Platform 14.

Work on the buildings, under the direction of Laing O’Rourke, is now complete. The 216 panels have been lifted and rotated into place with a single 135 tonne crane, using a dual lift method due to safety requirements for lifting and rotating precast panels.

“We are very proud of the work being delivered at Australia’s busiest commuter hub, and it is a privilege to work with renowned indigenous artist, Dr Bronwyn Bancroft artist and all the people involved with assembling her artwork onsite,” said Sebastien Alvarez, Laing O’Rourke Technical Lead.

“It is an excellent example of how we are using the power of experience to deliver a complex project in a live rail environment, while enhancing the journey of passengers going through Central Station.”

For Prentice, bringing the artwork to life has been extremely satisfying.

“With the unanimous support of Sydney Metro and the Heritage Working Group, it has been a pleasure collaborating with Dr Bronwyn Bancroft, passionate designers, suppliers and contractors who have all rallied together to innovate and build something special for the passengers of Sydney’s Central Station,” Prentice said.

He said the focus is now on delivering the remainder of the Central Station infrastructure.

Footnote: Lindsay Dynan, Aurecon, GHD and Freedon were all central to the project’s success, while Woods Bagot staff Andrew Tattersall, Meghan Nordeck, Hannah Thompson and Raflen Genovia played important roles.

Media enquiries
Martin Kelly
Content and Communications Leader (Australia & New Zealand)

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