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Sydney’s iconic Circular Quay wharves are set to receive a $200 million upgrade to make them more befitting of their premier city location, and Woods Bagot have delivered the concept design. 

NSW Premier, Mike Baird announced Monday 28 September that his government would be selling up to $200 million worth of state-owned buildings in order to fund the major redevelopment which could see the ageing wharves transformed into modern ferry terminals with new retail and public facilities.

A fly-through video shows five brand new two-storey ferry terminals that are canvassed by large sculptural canopies. The canopies feature irregular light holes and also cover the terminals second storey restaurant facilities which are housed within glass boxes.

Speaking with Architecture & Design, a spokeswoman for Transport for NSW says the design is only in concept stage and was developed just to show what is possible.

“The NSW Government will consider a range of options for Circular Quay, including upgrades to the ferry wharves to make them modern and accessible, all the way through to a complete revamp that could include double-storey wharves with new retail facilities,” she says.

“To start the conversation and to capture Sydney’s imagination, Architect, Woods Bagot, developed some high level concept visualisations to show what could be possible.”

The Woods Bagot concept design comes following concerns from Brian Zulaikha of Tonkin Zulaikha Greer architects, who was involved in the bicentennial refurbishment of Circular Quay in 1988, that the wharves were seriously ageing and reminiscent of post-war Germany.

"I go to the Opera House and walk through there and you are suddenly in a very tired area,” says the Past President of the Australian Institute of Architects in an interview with Fairfax Media back in January.

“It is like post-war Germany. Compare it to the Galleria in Milan in Italy which has dignity, meaning and is a wonderful space. We should think about doing something beautiful."

The Baird Government’s idea of a beautiful Circular Quay will come at a cost however, and will involve the divestment of a number of “non-core” government buildings including the Shangri-La and Four Seasons hotels in the Sydney CBD, the Novotel and Mercure hotels at Darling Harbour and commercial offices at Darling Quarter.

The plans also coincide with the abolition of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, following a review of the agency, news welcomed by the Urban Taskforce, an organisation made up of property developers and equity financiers.

“The end of SHFA is appropriate with the decision to sell the hotel assets but it will be important that other agencies in the government continue [their] management role," says Chris Johnson, head of the Urban Taskforce.