International “laboratory for visionary architecture”, LAVA, has released their design vision for Garden Island in Sydney Harbour.

In the designs, a dense cluster of green-coated, organic-form buildings emerge from the headland, transforming the previously inaccessible navy centre into a community of cultural and residential offerings. According to LAVA, the buildings’ designs were inspired by the “sweeping curves of Sydney Harbour, with all its wonderful bays and beaches and headlands”. The renders themselves recall a series of large-form stones covered with moss.

As well as the natural context of the island, LAVA’s concept harks back to the original ideas for the island proposed by New South Wales’ first-ever government architect, Francis Greenway. In 1816, Greenway was given the task of transforming Sydney’s penal colony into a town of urban and architectural significance. Specifically, his proposal for Garden Island would’ve seen the headland transformed into a “pyramid”. His plans, drawn on a cenotaph, depicted “a pyramid upon a particular base… The outside of the pyramid was to have been formed in such a manner as to admit sculpture and hieroglyphics.”

In LAVA’s iteration of this idea, “nineteenth-century heritage buildings are reimagined as cultural facilities, colonial architect Francis Greenway’s vision for a pyramid is fulfilled, and new residential and recreational buildings are inspired by the natural forms of Sydney Harbour... The former dry-dock could be used for floating markets, harbour baths, theatre performances and boat shows.” The Greenway-inspired pyramid structure would be used to accommodate events and functions.

The traditional box-like apartment typology is abandoned in LAVA’s design, who have instead opted for slopes and airy tower landscapes that are punctuated with roof terraces, swimming pools, community facilities and a broad range of green technologies.

LAVA was commissioned by Urban Taskforce for the design following a statement made by former deputy NSW premier, Peter Collins, on the potential for Garden Island to become home to a cruise line terminal. Urban Taskforce has said the proposal afforded an opportunity to “rethink the future of this strategic part of Sydney Harbour”.

“Clearly the big growth in cruise liners using Sydney Harbour will need to be accommodated with a new terminal east of the harbour bridge,” says Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson.

“The NSW government has asked former deputy premier, Peter Collins, to see if a new cruise line terminal can be accommodated along with navy uses on Garden Island. To contribute to discussion on how Garden Island could evolve, the Urban Taskforce has commissioned international architects LAVA to look at how Garden Island could evolve over future decades as the navy uses were relocated.

“The evolution of Garden Island would follow a trend for Sydney Harbour where heavy shipping container uses relocate to Botany Bay and new resort-style development is planned to help accommodate Sydney’s growing population. Barangaroo is an example of this revitalisation where container shipping uses were relocated to Port Kembla and the site was redeveloped with commercial, retail and residential buildings. In a similar manner to Barangaroo, the northern part of the site at Garden Island would remain as parkland. Another example of the revitalisation of sites on Sydney Harbour is the Bays Precinct where most shipping uses have now relocated and redevelopment options are being proposed.

“The proposal we have produced is in the spirit of looking forward to the need to accommodate a growing population in Sydney where people want to live and clearly a location on Sydney Harbour would be a very popular location for many people.”

According to financial modellers, KWC Capital Partners, the estimated cost of the project would be $15 billion if it were to go ahead.