The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust has produced a 25-year plan with many good points and some which raise unrest. There is a question, nonetheless, whether the plan is sufficiently visionary.
While recognising that the RGB master plan reflects current pressure for CEOs managing public lands to make them self-sufficient, I would argue that institutions like the Royal Botanic Gardens face great risks, potentially compromising heritage, scientific and aesthetic integrity, if they carry out too many unnecessary interventions for the sake of increased revenue.
Some of the master plan interventions are positive in relation to the long term integration within the Sydney network (after all, any major institution must refresh and reinvent itself to be relevant and keep up with the changing times). A ferry terminal and railway station would bring some strength and would improve accessibility and connections to the place. Unfortunately, some of the smaller projects just seem to be gloss to accompany the proposals to introduce the Botanic Hotel which has some genuine merit in creating an attractive and active edge along this otherwise lost frontage.
With a plan pitched so far into the future it seems a perfect opportunity for the Trust to put forward a proposal to entirely lower the Cahill Expressway and reconnect the Domain and the Gardens in an heroic landscape gesture, uniting the area in the way it once was and at the same time putting a different complexion on the way it is viewed, and perhaps the way it might be planned.
Of course this prospect has been considered before and would not be without its difficulty nor cost. But cities around the world are recognizing the need to correct some of the past mistakes and here is one that would be seen as a grand gesture and achievement. This city is about to embark upon many major infrastructure projects, so why wouldn’t the RGB put this lasting vision on the agenda. Maybe by 2040 it will become entirely feasible – let’s plan for it now.