01 Nov 23

Metro’s “jewel in the crown” at Sydney Central Station revealed

Travel is all about the excitement of arrival and the new Sydney Metro platforms at Central Station meet the brief with a spectacular subterranean design by Woods Bagot deep beneath Australia’s busiest rail hub.

It’s a grand space accessed by a dramatic descent down some of Sydney’s longest escalators, the journey framed by beautifully lit Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC) walls echoing the sandstone used in the original station above, built in 1906.

Principal and project leader John Prentice says the Sydney Metro platforms are the “jewel in the crown” of the redesigned and refurbished Central Station, connecting the nascent network to Sydney’s suburban, intercity and country trains.

“From the design angle it was always about customer experience,” says Prentice.

“Sydneysiders aren’t used to travelling underground. The city’s transport network is predominantly above ground: ferries, trains, buses, light rail.

“Going from station to station, we wanted to make sure when they arrived at Central Station, they knew they’d arrived.

“And part of that was the grandeur of the space, part of that was the design, and part of that was the materiality of walls, its connection to heritage, sandstone and tactility.”

Scale is crucial to achieving that grandeur – the ceiling is a lofty 17-metres above the actual platforms thanks to some clever engineering.

“One of our first moves, working with the engineers, was a structural solution that celebrates the volume by removing props going through the space to manage the structural forces of the excavation,” Prentice says.

“We were able to celebrate the volume of this cavernous space by removing those props and a flow-on effect was that the north-south concourse above could have a higher ceiling and skylights.”

The Sydney Metro platforms are wide and long with three separate banks of escalators from the north-south concourse, which like most new public areas of the station, is also lined with Central’s distinctive design motif – 3D GRC panels.

Under lights, the ridges of these rhomboid-shaped panels create shadows and intuitively help with wayfinding. Only four types were used but they create a complex visual interest that works particularly well on the escalators, says Prentice.

“We did neutral ceilings because our focus was on the walls. Our goal was really to accentuate the movement of people. The escalators are pitched at 30 degrees, and we matched that angle with the panels so moving through the space made sense.”

In a broader move, all GRC ridge angles in the newly built areas point to the top of Central Station’s iconic clocktower, designed by Walter Liberty Vernon in 1920.

It has been the major design reference and inspiration for Woods Bagot throughout this project, with design commencing in 2017 and passenger services scheduled to begin in 2024, when the city section of the Sydney Metro City & Southwest line opens.

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

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