Since the release of the Sydney Botanical Gardens and Domain redevelopment master plan on April, 6 a healthy debate has ignited in the public domain.

Conflicting views from the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) will be of particular interest to the industry.

In a statement released on April 10, the AILA have come to the support of Paul Keating—who labelled the plans “a bloody disgrace,”—by lamenting the redevelopment plans as autocratic and far too architecture focussed.

 “As one of Sydney’s most recognised landscapes, the Botanic Gardens and Domain demand the expertise of landscape architects who are uniquely qualified, bringing a deep understanding of the environment as a whole in balance with natural and cultural systems”, National President, Mark Frisby said.

 “Failure to specify master planning led by landscape architects in the original brief has diluted the outcome.”

“The AILA is concerned that an architecture led master plan for the Botanic Garden has resulted in buildings as solutions.”

Above: An artists impression of the new "Botanic Hotel". Image: 

The AIA however has publicly applauded and supported the Royal Botanical Gardens and Domain Trust for the transparent public process they have adopted in the release of the draft master plan.

“Public debate is healthy and even more paramount for major public precincts. By releasing the draft master plan, the Trust has followed best practice planning processes including genuine public consultation unlike what we've seen recently in some other developments,” David Parken, CEO, Australian Institute of Architects, said.

The AIA have also emphasised that “contrary to recent claims,” the plans were a result of close consultancy between architects Cox Richardson and British landscape architecture firm Grant Associates.


Above: the "orientation centre" at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens, near the foot of the Opera House, Image:

“The consultant team consists of local firm Cox Richardson Architects and internationally-awarded British Landscape Architecture firm Grant Associates working together, along with seven other specialists covering horticultural planning, soil evaluation, water sensitive urban design, sustainability, lighting, wayfinding, signage and conservation. This team has worked collaboratively fostering an integrated approach to the protection and improvement of the Botanic Gardens and the Domain.”

Both the AIA and AILA are in agreement that the value of the Botanic Gardens and Domain is immeasurable and that a feedback process involving the public is appropriate and democratic.

Whilst the AILA has announced it is “supporting many of the recommendations in the draft master plan” they, like the AIA, haven’t specifed which elements of the plans they favour. 

The AIA have suggested that they will not comment on the project specifics until the master plan has been sufficiently examined.

Key Master Plan concepts:

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

  • Improved and modernised pathways and signage
  • New thematic displays through innovative horticulture
  • Engaging plant interpretation (with app)
  • Creation of at least three gardens especially for children to explore different aspects of plants and nature
  • New visitor/orientation centre inside the QEII Gates near the Opera House
  • Place-specific themed gardens at key entry points
  • An upgrade of the Garden and Domain's historic landscape and living collections
  • Reinvigoration of the scientific heart of the Garden
  • Production of botanical displays to promote innovative horticulture, biodiversity and habitat protection

The Domain

  • Improve visitor amenity of the Domain by developing infrastructure to support year round visitation including concepts for:
  • Domain Hotel
  • Permanent Domain Sound Shell where Carols by Candlelight and other events are held
  • Mrs Macquaries Point Orientation Centre
  • Domain sports facilities
  • Botanic Plaza Cultural Precinct. 

The plans are available for public viewing at the Lion Gate Lodge in the gardens until May 4 or online at