A massive urban renewal project along the Brisbane River involving the restoration of Howard Smith Wharves has been named a Heritage Hero by the National Trust of Australia.

A first for Queensland, the honour acknowledges preservation efforts that reimagine historical sites for patrons to enjoy and appreciate their significance.

A culturally important precinct on the Brisbane River, Howard Smith Wharves was originally built in 1936. The precinct regeneration plan by the Brisbane studio of global architectural practice Woods Bagot focused on creating a high-quality public space that celebrated its history and dramatic waterfront location.

The masterplan for the 3.4-hectare historic wharf has new buildings occupying less than 10 percent of the site, with their design complementing the industrial language of the existing structures.

Woods Bagot director and project design leader, Mark Damant says, “The scheme is all about retaining views and celebrating heritage, with a generous and contemporary public realm environment knitting it all together.”

One of the major highlights of the precinct is Howard’s Hall, designed by Woods Bagot as a large event space. Inspired by the simple functionality of the nearby wharf structures, the building features a fully glazed exposed steel frame, a light, shed-like saw tooth roof and operable walls that can be manipulated for various purposes.

The timber decked arrival space, rooftop terraces made from reclaimed wood, lofty ceilings to create a sense of airiness and light, retractable floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise the prime riverfront views, and flexible space-in-spaces that allow multiple events to be hosted at once are some of the more prominent features at Howard’s Hall.

Damant is confident the precinct will become one of the city’s most memorable spaces, set against one of its most heroic views.

Scott Bayne, general manager of events at Howard Smith Wharves, described Woods Bagot’s design ethos as instrumental to the space

“Woods Bagot understood, from the outset, that the space had incredible potential to be a first-class venue,” Bayne says.

Photographer credits: David Millar and Jad Sylla