The Darling Harbour Live and Lend Lease consortium leading Sydney’s $1 billion Darling Harbour redevelopment has submitted design revisions to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure after public concerns about the bulk and ‘blandness’ of the original designs were raised.

The amendments extend to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) component of the precinct, and centre around three major buildings – the International Convention Centre (ICC), the Exhibition Centre and the Entertainment Theatre.

These changes include revisions to the ICC’s facade, which is now proposed to be divided into three distinct sections – a top, middle and ground level – to “reduce the visual bulk and perceived height” of the building.

A new pitched roof and balcony will form the top section, with the plant and exhaust ducts of this roof refined into a cleaner ‘fifth façade’ for overlooking buildings. The ICC’s ground floor façade is also to be built further back from the harbour.

ICC Sydney from Cockle Bay

At the same time, the cladding of the Exhibition Centre will be changed to “introduce light and shade, and a reduced sense of scale”, and “present a more thoughtful and engaging face to the public realm”. This is in addition to the refinement of terraced landscaping between the Exhibition Centre and Tumbalong Park, which will now include an outdoor gym.

Exhibition Centre from Tumbalong Park

The third major building, the theatre, is not excluded from these changes and faces a roofline reduction on its western side. To address concerns about the “blandness” of its original façade design, the consortium has proposed that more detailing be used and featured on the building.

Entertainment Theatre from Tumbalong Park

While feedback about the scale and design of public buildings in the precinct stood out, traffic, view sharing and public access issues were also raised in the 120 submissions received regarding the site’s overhaul.

In response, the new proposal includes some traffic changes, such as the relocation of the theatre's car park so its entry and exit faces onto Darling Drive. The exhibition centre's outdoor "event deck" has furthermore been re-aligned, and its operational hours reduced to accommodate concerns about noise emissions.  

However, the consortium dismissed other concerns raised by Transport for NSW and the City of Sydney about increased congestion, as well as the problem of overshadowing by neighbouring Ultimo apartments, adding the proposal achieved a "reasonable balance" between preserving public and private views.

It also rules out re-using the existing convention and award-winning exhibition centre, stating that the buildings "have a number of limitations which cannot be readily overcome without being redeveloped".

Stylised image of the master plan

Regardless, Chief Executive Officer of Darling Harbour Live, Malcolm Macintyre, says the team is pleased with the level of support surrounding the landmark’s revitalisation, which he notes will generate long-term economic benefits for NSW.

“We have listened, addressed key questions in relation to the visual impacts, activation of the precinct and the scale and mass of the buildings, and refined the project design where appropriate.”

The public feedback and comments were submitted following an exhibition of the Development Application between March and May earlier this year. The redevelopment, which is the O’Farrell government’s first public-private partnership, will begin in December and is due to be completed by 2016.

A spokesman for the Department of Planning and Infrastructure said it would seek feedback from other government agencies before making its recommendation about the proposal.

For more information, please visit To offer your comments and feedback on the project, click here.

Images: Artist impressions, from