New rail project puts Melbourne's Clifton Hill on track

The Clifton Hill Rail Project demanded the building of a second railway track between Clifton Hill and Westgarth stations while retaining daily commuter services. This complex project required an elegant solution camouflaging an economical reinforced concrete structure that satisfied community expectations of minimal disruption to the neighbourhood and the natural creek environs.

The architects designed to communicate a story that expresses the culture of the gritty urban conditions they encountered, infusing it with humour and invention. The structure acknowledges the existing 1890s single-track rail bridge, giving apparent slenderness to the bulkier form accommodating the deeper rail deck super-structure. This deck caters for the longer spans chosen to lessen the disruption to the creek bed environs and satisfy modern structural codes.

A large steel beam spanning between supports is painted roadside yellow to signify ‘infrastructure’ works and is patterned with holes to distort the rationality of the structural design and communicate the project’s ambition to deliver public art (fig. 1). The holes on the beam’s flange also give greater ‘transparency’ to what would otherwise be a heavily engineered solution. The architects applied a brick skin suggesting the existing pylons over the new concrete pylons and scattered them with stainless steel discs to continue the theme established in the overhead beam (fig. 2).

The project also includes a ‘3D-graffiti’ bridge structure (fig. 3) posing as a park gate to deliver the project’s public benefit, plus Welcome to Country, indigenous storytelling and local history texts in English and in the Woi wurrung language as art components.

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