The River Link is an unsolicited proposal by CHROFI that brings together Maitland’s two key assets - its architecturally rich High Street and the environmental amenity of the Hunter River - into a synergetic relationship to provide a richer experience of the town centre for both tourists and locals.
We were initially engaged with McGregor Coxall to create a masterplan for the main street of Maitland, a town in the Lower Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia, on the Hunter River, 166 kilometres north of Sydney. Maitland is, like many country towns in Australia, struggling to find an identity post mining boom, to draw people to the area as residents and visitors.
The town’s history since European settlement in 1820 has been interwoven with the river. Maitland was the point at which goods were unloaded for, and distributed to, the prosperous riverland of the Hunter Valley. Large warehouses (some of which still exist) built, which faced onto the main High Street and backed onto the Hunter River. For almost 20 years until the Victorian gold rush, Maitland was the second largest town in Australia.
In recent years, Maitland’s town centre had turned its back on the river, disconnecting it from the main activity centre. A series of devastating floods meant locals no longer see the river as an asset, but as a threat to the community. Our objective was to reframe that dynamic, to reconnect the town’s two great assets, both in terms of their identity, and their value as community assets.
During our review process for the main street brief we identified a second, transformational opportunity to reconnect the main street to the river behind, by buying this building and reworking it. We took that idea to Council, who purchased the building and asked us to redesign it.
The new River Pavilion is an unsolicited, unexpected and highly beneficial bonus of CHROFI’s design process. It came about as the result of CHROFI’s way of approaching briefs, thinking always about what can be the most valuable outcome of any given situation for all stakeholders involved.