UNSW Built Environment: Dean Alec Tzannes on Barangaroo – beauty or blunder?

28 04 2010

Every student in our many design studios grapples with the fundamental questions concerning what constitutes ‘good design,’ or specifically, what is good design?

Consider the question in the context of Barangaroo – a redevelopment project located at east Darling Harbour adjacent to Sydney’s central business district.

Leave out the selection criteria that included issues of implementation risk and the financial return to government for the sale of the land. Instead, examine the two finalists in the selection process – Lend Lease and Brookfield Multiplex.

Lend Lease Masterplan

Lend Lease Masterplan

Brookfield Multiplex proposed masterplan

Both companies are publicly listed and ultimately focused on delivering financial return to their shareholders. Both companies employed teams of designers across all the Built Environment disciplines and the outcome was two entirely different design concepts for the redevelopment of Barangaroo.

UNSW BE academic staff have significant differences of opinion on the two final submitted schemes from each side. Some believe the government made a sound decision – others have the opposite view. Some would say the process is flawed and that any outcome is fatally compromised from the process.

•    What are your views on the alternative approaches by the designers?
•    How would you compare the two schemes?
•    What would you say are the likely outcomes from each scheme?
•    Are they good design or what elements in each design are good and why?
•    What are the underlying values identified with each proposition?

Barangaroo is one of many case studies to consider in evaluating design questions. I chose this site and design process as it involves a major change to Sydney and in many ways resembles the student design experience except in a ‘live’ context.

I look forward to your responses on Barangaroo or if you prefer, let me know of other case studies that you think may allow these or similar questions to be discussed.

Alec Tzannes
Dean UNSW Built Environment




One response

28 04 2010
Imriyas Kamardeen

Great topic for a threaded discussion, Alec!

As you pointed out, investors/developers are more concerned about the financial yield that they can make. This short-sighted attitude has been one of the causes for many problems we face today. A simple example is climate change.

My view is that designers should place “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)” as the principle/driver, departing from the traditional trade-off between $ and space. There are many issues to be be considered under CSR. I would like to brielfy discuss just one – Safety.

Designers should ask these self reflective questions:

1. Are our designs safe for construction workers to build on site?

2. Are our designs safe and healthy workplaces for their occupants?

3. Are our designs safe workplaces for maintenance and facilities management employees?

4. Are our designs disposable in a safer way at the end of their lifespan?


Imriyas Kamardeen
Construction Management Discipline, BE

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