FROM THREAT TO COMMUNITY ASSET: Reviving a country town’s heart and linking it to the river Work has now completed on the Maitland Riverlink, a public project that will crystallise new value for the regional centre Maitland, both in terms of its identity and its assets. The project will support a revitalisation of the central business precinct, extending it beyond the main street to the river.
Location: Maitland NSW 2320, Australia
Project Year: 2018
Photographs: Simon Wood, Matt Abbott, Mark James
The space acts as a kind of ‘public living room’ for the community, reactivating an unused part of town and drawing locals back to the river that is a fundamental part of Maitland’s heritage, whilst bringing tourists and visitors to the town. In recent years, rural Maitland’s town centre had turned its back on the river, disconnecting it from its main commercial and community activities. A series of devastating floods meant locals no longer see the river as an asset, but as a threat to the community. Working with McGregor+Coxall, CHROFI identified an opportunity to help reframe that dynamic, then worked closely with Maitland City Council to find buildings which could be purchased and redeveloped to act as pivot for the revitalisation of the centre of town.
The building unites Maitland’s two key assets for the first time – its architecturally rich High Street and the environmental amenity of the Hunter River – providing a greater experience for tourists and locals. The building is expressed as a ‘sculptural gateway’ that frames views to and from the Hunter River and attracts people to pass through the space. The timber and brick arch frames a covered space for the community use, reactivating an underused part of town. The building also houses a café and restaurant as well as public amenities.
The architecture has a strong civic presence in a street full of historic buildings and is a landmark when viewed from the river. The precise angles of the walls, ceiling and ground plane frame a ‘public living room’ that offers a comfortable place to sit, a mobile library, high quality public amenities and a café/restaurant all of which can be transformed into an outdoor cinema or theatre for special events. Handmade brick was chosen as the primary building finish to complement the heritage brick and sandstone textures of the town. The warmth and texture of clay bricks works at the urban scale and at the interior human scale to provide an enduring finish. Unique brick corners help the monolithic brick walls bend at unlikely angles giving the material a razor-sharp, abstract quality.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald MLC says ‘It is important that we continue to invest in community infrastructure such as The Riverlink to enrich our regional cities. It is an inspiring space that I’m sure will see many opportunities for people to utilise, whether for events or spending time in the city’s heart.’
Maitland Mayor, Cr Loretta Baker said ‘The Riverlink Building is a wonderful addition to The Levee and it will really strengthen the city’s historic relationship with the Hunter River, whilst adding to The Levee’s development as Maitland’s premier lifestyle precinct. It’s a beautiful building that we are very proud of and that our community will use for generations to come’.
Five years in the making Maitland’s Riverlink Building is the work of award-winning Architectural firm CHROFI and extends a legacy of place-making public architecture including New York City’s celebrated TKTS, Times Square, The Goods Line in Ultimo and the forthcoming Ian Potter National Conservatory in Canberra. “As a practice, we have always been focused on high impact public projects that resonate with the local culture and community”, said CHROFI Director, Tai Ropiha. “We are thrilled that the building has been well received and is changing how the Maitland community engage with the river.”