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John McAslan + Partners uplifts the passenger experience at Sydney Metro Waterloo Station

Architecture practice John McAslan + Partners (JMP) has expanded its global transport portfolio with the completion of the Sydney Metro Waterloo Station, due to open mid-year when the city section of Sydney Metro City & Southwest becomes operational.

JMP were engaged by construction company John Holland in 2019 to provide the architectural design services on the new Sydney Metro Waterloo Station.

JMP is a world leader in transport infrastructure design. Highly awarded projects include Kings Cross and Bond Street stations in London. The city-making Belfast Grand Central is under construction, whilst in New York City, JMP is transforming one of the world’s most iconic stations, delivering the Penn Station Reconstruction alongside WSP and FXC.

Sydney Metro Waterloo – an intuitive and uplifting station experience

The design of Waterloo Station draws on principles honed by JMP on its global projects. Lighting, embedded art, clear sightlines and the positioning of escalators combine to create intuitive wayfinding, ease of navigation and an uplifting user experience.

JMP director Troy Uleman leads the firm’s Sydney studio.

“Waterloo is a multicultural community with a rich Indigenous, social and industrial history. Our design takes passengers on a journey shaped by Waterloo’s layered heritage,” he said.

The station unfolds over three levels, unified by a consistent palette of local colours, textures and materials and a series of commissioned artworks.

At street-level, the entrance hall has a coffered aluminium ceiling that sits above granite flooring laid irregularly in the manner of timber blocks unearthed during the site’s excavation. Both reference the suburb’s built history.

Dramatic escalators carry passengers down to one of the deepest concourses on the Sydney public transport network, past walls embedded with Indigenous artist Nicole Monk’s work titled ‘Footprints on Gadigal Nura’.

Arriving on the soaring 73 metre by 21 metre concourse, users are greeted by the towering and joyful image of a young Indigenous dancer, another of Monk’s artworks. Glass-reinforced concrete wall panels echo the stratified Sydney sandstone that the station sits deep within. Perforated panelling has the imprint of the area’s endemic banksia scrub.

The concourse is top lit by continuous light panels and a skylight that delivers natural light as far as the platform at certain times of day. “Natural light is a trademark of our transport work around the globe,” notes Uleman, citing JMP’s recently completed Northern Concourse at Sydney Central station.

On the platform 25 metres below ground, more perforated panels feature abstracted imagery of a stone blade found on the site during archaeological excavation. Driverless trains will soon pass through every four minutes in the peak, revolutionising travel around the inner city.

Outside, Waterloo Station’s landmark southern station box features an abstracted image of Waterloo’s historic marshlands, once a food bowl for Indigenous communities. It links to tens of thousands of years of continuous human habitation and sits above a landscaped plaza that will become the civic heart of the new Waterloo Metro Quarter.

Uleman said, “The incorporation of Indigenous themes, in collaboration with artists and design consultants, aligns with the concept of ‘designing with Country’, grounding the station in the area’s deep history while symbolising a robust future for the nation’s first people.”

Quality, integrated station design unlocks value

Waterloo Station signals the beginning of a new era for the inner-city suburb.

“The value of transport-led infrastructure to cities can’t be overstated,” said Uleman. “Quality design is key to realising the full potential of transport hubs as community spaces that drive economic growth and make a positive impact socially, environmentally and culturally.” But what defines good station design?

Uleman says well-designed stations are easy to get in and out of. Entries and exits are located to be safe and accessible, and connect to parks, high streets and other services. They accommodate passenger numbers and movement with ease.

“Witness how the Sydney Metro upgrade at Central Station has opened up the station, easing congestion and creating new routes into surrounding green spaces and suburbs,” says Uleman.

Beyond this, Uleman says well integrated stations add amenity to what exists, support businesses in the wider area and create places full of activity and life. More than just a place to pass through on your way from A to B, transport hubs should be uplifting social spaces that welcome the people they serve and are central to community life.

“A well-designed station precinct is an enjoyable place to be – to pause, grab a coffee and perhaps pick up essential supplies. Spatial planning, good architecture and the right mix of retail and hospitality create a great station precinct experience.”