Urban design is an important part of any infrastructure project – it influences how new structures will look, feel and function within existing and built natural environments.

The Western Distributor urban design guidance has been developed following consultation with communities, councils and the Office of the Victorian Government Architect.

Melbourne is well known for its excellence in urban design – from open space, innovative buildings, attractive structures and landmark bridges to the clever use of public spaces. The Western Distributor will build on and extend the reputation of high-quality urban infrastructure in Victoria.

Urban design has the potential to create elegant, durable, functional, safe and sustainable places along the route of the Western Distributor. The consideration of aesthetic, historical, cultural and physical aspects of places that help give communities their identity and sense of place will be an integral part of the project design, in addition to achieving safety and technical requirements as key priorities.

The existing urban environment

The Western Distributor will pass through and alongside different urban landscapes and precincts, from industrial and commercial areas to residential areas and open spaces.

Industrial and maritime history has given way, in many areas, to growing communities containing residential and mixed use developments. There are also significant areas of existing or proposed urban renewal within close proximity to the project which must be considered.

A review of the existing urban environment has found that:

  • there will be significant change to the scale and density of the urban environment next to the motorway in key locations, such as the Dynon Road precinct, E-Gate, and the Maribyrnong River corridor. A well-considered and consistent approach to urban integration is required
  • the Western Distributor and upgrades to the West Gate Freeway provide an opportunity to frame Melbourne’s gateways from the West and the ongoing development of this region to create a long standing legacy for metropolitan Melbourne
  • the road will have regional and local significance which must be referenced in the design identity of the road. Local area considerations must be well described as the project affects a variety of public realm and future urban renewal locations
  • simple wayfinding and identity marking elements are required to assist drivers in finding their destination, improve decision making and limit reliance on signage.

Urban design guidance

The urban design guidance provides an overall urban design vision and strategy for the future development of the Western Distributor. The urban design vision for the project is to enhance the urban environments through which the project passes.

The project requirements provides guidance to designers and decision-makers and set requirements for the construction tenderers bidding to design and build the road. It also provides a basis for evaluating the quality and effectiveness of the tenderer’s design responses, which must achieve a high standard of urban design.

The Western Distributor will be a significant infrastructure asset with a life of more than 100 years. The urban design guidance will help ensure the people of Victoria get the best possible outcome from the project – both for Melbourne’s transport network and its users, and the communities and places adjacent to the project.

Principles to guide design

The project includes a series of urban design principles and objectives that have been developed to ensure that future works in the Western Distributor corridor achieve a uniformly high standard of urban design quality and integration.

Design excellence, identity, legibility, integration, consistency and support of future local area development underpin the urban design principles and objectives.

The eight urban design principles

Urban integration

Urban integration

Consider the motorway corridor concurrently with the surrounding urban and open space fabric to provide a better integrated environment serving both the community and road users.



Provide a distinctive identity that creates an engaging and memorable experience for local communities and road users through application of appropriate urban design and landscape treatments.

Connectivity and wayfaring

Connectivity and wayfinding

Provide a legible and distinctive set of motorway elements that assists with navigation, orientation and wayfinding.

Resilience and sustainability

Resilience and sustainability

Support measures to assist the project to become sustainable, enduring and resilient.



Provide improved amenity for local communities, places and environs through which the motorway passes.



Support and integrate with future and existing key civic spaces that support prosperous and healthy experiences.



Create safe environments that assist in the development of a series of connected and resilient communities.



Support accessible and inclusive environments so that positive activation and contribution to prosperity, well-being and the perception of care within communities is developed.

Urban design and the Western Distributor

The Western Distributor will create new urban infrastructure in a way that establishes a legacy for the future development of the fast growing communities of western Melbourne.

The project components have the potential to elevate the design benchmark in the west and become a hallmark urban regeneration project for Melbourne.

Drawing on government urban design policy and frameworks, including the Commonwealth’s Creating Places for People, inputs from the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, and targeted guidance from local councils, an urban design guidance recognises high community expectations regarding the design treatment and amenity of the new road and its surrounds.

What we've heard so far

Through consultation earlier this year, some of the feedback we received included:

  • comments about the visual impact of new structures, and recognition that sensitive urban design presents opportunities to enhance the structures and surrounding area
  • opportunities for improvements to, or the creation of new public spaces
  • a need for better urban design outcomes in the west, with high-quality outcomes and ongoing maintenance and care to be considered in the design
  • topics such as safety, accessibility, connectivity and amenity are important
  • a desire to incorporate ‘green’ elements in the design – be it future proofing for climate change to landscaping and sensitive road design
  • connectivity and the ability to move freely and easily between communities is of great importance, with connections by foot, bike and vehicle to employment, recreation and people seen as essential to the wellbeing of communities.

Assessing the urban design outcomes

Urban design will be assessed in the project’s Environment Effects Statement (EES) through various studies including the landscape and visual and social impact assessments.

The assessments will include a study of the existing urban conditions along the project corridor and a comprehensive assessment of the project’s urban design.

Download the Urban design discussion paper (PDF 1mb)

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