One of the most polarising development proposals in recent Sydney history has undergone a pre-construction facelift that could appease the attitudes of at least some of its critics.

‘The Ribbon’ at Sydney’s Darling Harbour by Hassell architects was approved by planning back in July 2014 much to the dismay of some Architecture & Design readers. Hassell’s bold and sculptural design was conceived with the help of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and was so called The Ribbon its form emerged like ribbons from its urban context – the expressways, the Harbour, as well as surrounding public spaces. 

At the time, the 20 storey development, which rises through two elevated roadways, was criticised by some for its form, height and monolithic façade.

“The renderings probably show it at its best, an obese whale that has somehow jumped out of the harbour,” said one commentator at the time of approval.  

“Wouldn’t like to clean the windows on it,” said another.

 Others however did like it:

“This is a great design, Sydney needs all the bold design it can get, not boring boxes,” said one reader.

“A great design, unusual and original, a real statement,” said another.

IMAX redevelopment gets redesign
Another Darling Harbour project approved: The Ribbon by Hassell

The design was approved with conditions from planning; one was that its façade reflectivity be revisited and addressed so that the building does not impact on the safety of vehicles using the Western Distributor.

Since then, new architectural plans and photomontages have been submitted in a new DA and show that Hassell has made changes to the old design, most notably the alteration of the building’s eastern, western and roof curtain wall.


A combination of louvers and panels in a metallic silver finish now replace the diagrid glazing panels that wrapped the building’s roof forming a profiled horizontal brise solei system. A fluted end or ‘Cut-Out’ has been added to the building’s eastern elevation to interrupt its large continuous surface.

The building’s southern and northern elevations and the eastern Cut-Out remain glass and are proposed to be a high performance triple glazed curtain wall system with cavity venetian blinds. A low reflectivity glass will be used on the building’s southern façade immediately facing the Western Distributor elevated roadway.


South eastern elevation

West_2-3.JPGWest_1-3.JPGEastern elevation

east_1.JPGeast_2.JPGWestern elevation


The proposed project comprises the following:

  • The demolition of the existing IMAX building and the construction of a new 23 storey building and a separate 2 storey building
  • A total Gross Floor Area of approximately 54,877sqm for hotel and serviced apartments, retail, recreation, function purposes and a new IMAX cinema
  • 170 car parking spaces, to be located within the podium levels
  • Upgrades to the surrounding public domain including new playground area, a prominent street address and activated edges

Images: Hassell