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It was six years in the making and the subject of mixed public opinion, but Sydney’s Barangaroo Reserve by US-based landscape architect Peter Walker and Australia’s Johnson Pilton Walker (JPW) has been recognised with their first design award.

Peter Walker and JPW’s complete transformation of a six-hectare disused shipping container yard into one of Sydney’s most stunning green headlands has taken out the 2015 World Architecture News (WAN) Waterfront Award ahead of projects by renowned landscape architect Taylor Cullity Lethlean and the UK’s acclaimed Foster + Partners.

The award was decided upon by a jury comprising a host of international architects and landscape architects who commended the architects for their vigorous, sensitive and humanising approach to the design.

“It’s a complicated project, that’s been approached with vigour and sensitivity,” notes one jury member.

“It’s not regimented…it has a humanity to it - setting an example to all of us,” says another.

The team’s design juxtaposes a rugged sandstone topography inspired by the naturalistic pre-1836 shoreline of the historic Port Jackson area, against the new modern west CBD, which will include building designs from the likes of Wilkinson Eyre architects, Renzo Piano, Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, Rogers Stirk and Collins and Turner.

The $250 million Barangaroo Reserve project saw 10,000 Hawkesbury sandstone blocks mined from the site and used for to create the park’s naturalistic landforms. 75,000 native plants and trees (around 83 species), including Angophoras, Banksias, and Port Jackson and Moreton Bay figs, were also shipped in and planted by a massive team of landscapers and Tafe students.

Buried beneath Barangaroo reserve, under the undulating mounds of dirt, grass and sandstone, is the largest cultural space Sydney has seen. It's longer than the SCG, taller than a six-storey building and will have enough space to accommodate 5,000 people. The space has been called the ‘Cutaway’ as it features a 14.5 metre tall sandstone wall that shows where the sandstone for the site was mined.

Perhaps one of the biggest feats was the reconfiguring of the rectangular-shaped shipping yard into a new harbour cove with tidal pools which reconnects the city directly to the water. After a two-and-a-half-year construction process the naturalistic form of the headland now visually links nearby Balls Head, Goat Island and Ballast Point headland archipelagos.

The project was placed first by WAN in the Waterfront category ahead of the Canary Wharf Crossrail project by Foster + Partners (London, UK),  Hasle Harbour Bath by White Arkitekter (Bornholm, Denmark),  Rowing center Bled / Sport pavilion by Multiplan Architekti d.o.o. (Bled, Slovenia), Waterfront Park of Aiyi River by BLVD International (Yinchuan, China)and the Auckland Waterfront – North Wharf Promenade and Silo Park (Auckland, New Zealand) by by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Wraight + Associates.

Barangaroo Reserve Quick Facts:

  • 10,000 sandstone blocks were excavated from the sandstone on site
  • 6,500 sandstone blocks were used to create the foreshore
  • 75,000 native plants were planted
  • 84 species of native plants were chosen, most native to the Sydney region
  • The 18,000sqm cultural facility is as long as the SCG and six storeys tall

Images: Barangaroo Delivery Authority