A diverse design team, including indigenous, aims to reconnect and economically revitalize this iconic, historic urban harbor

Back in 2015, the Planning Institute of Australia brought me (Storm Cunningham) in to keynote two of their annual conferences: one in Sydney, New South Wales and the other on the other side of the country, in Perth, Western Australia.

Pyrmont Bridge.
Photo by Storm Cunningham.

When in Sydney, my wife and I stayed at a hotel on Darling Harbour, and absolutely loved the area.

The view from our window included the historic Pyrmont Bridge, which had wisely been repurposed from cars and trucks to pedestrians-only.

Now, in September of 2022, the global architecture firm of Snøhetta + Hassell has won a competition to redesign and revitalize a 240-meter stretch of Darling Harbour’s Harbourside retail area.

The landmark Sydney site has a long, rich, and layered history, which provides a unique context for world-class architecture and place-making to inspire future story creation,” said Hassell Principal Liz Westgarth.

Snøhetta + Hassell’s design concept aims to create an iconic, inviting destination and one of Australia’s most sustainable precincts, in line with property developer Mirvac’s vision for Harbourside.

The mixed-use redevelopment will combine premium shopping, hospitality and entertainment with a 42-story, high-end residential tower, along with upgrades to public spaces on the waterfront and a new public square connecting the precinct to the Pyrmont Bridge.

The competition’s jury said the Snøhetta + Hassell entry was selected for embracing a vision of Harbourside as a place that brings people together.

Snøhetta + Hassell’s concept is thus defined by a network of welcoming open spaces for public use featuring natural materials and vegetation.

At its heart is Guardian Square: a space that will become Pyrmont’s new neighborhood park and a vital community meeting place, just as it was for First Nations people living in and around the area for thousands of years.

The diverse Snøhetta + Hassell team brought together architects, landscape architects, interior designers, art curators, product, furniture, and graphic designers, and experts in social, financial, and environmentally sustainable design and research.

Dr. Daniele Hromek from Djinjama Indigenous Corporation was integral to the group, consulting on all aspects of the design and expanding the architects’ understanding of how to design for ​“Connection to Country” at Tumbalong, now known as Darling Harbour.

This concept continues the tradition of shared public space, honouring the First Nations’ Gadigal and Wangal people who saw this as shared country,” added Kaare Krokene, Managing Director of Snøhetta Australasia.

Construction of Harbourside is expected to start in 2023 once approvals are secured.

Unless otherwise credited, all images courtesy of Snøhetta + Hassell / WAX.

See Snøhetta + Hassell website.

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