Set within the UNESCO World Heritage curtilage of the Sydney Opera House, the upgrade to Campbells Cove reinvigorates a crucial link along the waterfront of Sydney Harbour and its Cultural Ribbon – a nature and culture walk that celebrates and connects some of Sydney’s most significant cultural landmarks, places, and landscapes along the Harbour.
Campbells Cove—and the adjacent Campbells Stores, a rare surviving example of mid-nineteenth century warehousing—chart the changing nature of activities around Sydney Harbour. Since 1788, the site has evolved from the hub of commerce and shipping transport during the nineteenth century to its role today as an internationally recognised cultural landmark.
Building on the State Significant Development Application of JPW for the Campbells Stores and Cove Precinct, the objectives for the project included creating a greater sense of arrival, converting the old vehicle turning circle into a new public square, providing equitable access and establishing a distinctive curtilage to Campbell’s Stores and The Rocks Heritage Precinct.
The Central Plaza creates a multi-use shared zone, which plays a pivotal role in Sydney’s cultural programme, including New Year’s Eve, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and Vivid Sydney. The Plaza supports these major events while complying with strict security requirements and a high frequency of service vehicles associated with the adjacent Overseas Passenger Terminal.
The sculptural stair and amphitheatre negotiates the level change between Hickson Road and the waterfront promenade, providing a vantage point down to the water and access to Campbell’s Stores. Detailing the concrete stair required consideration of the existing bridge servicing the Overseas Passenger Terminal, integration of the heritage warehousing and provision of a roof over the public toilets and service area located underneath.
The Promenade itself was lowered to improve the visual and physical relationship between the Stores’ outdoor dining area and the waterfront. This intervention presented several design challenges, the most significant being the interface between the existing concrete and sandstone seawalls. Cantilevering the boardwalk structure over the heritage seawall ensured it was left untouched and allowed for the inclusion of lighting that illuminates the seawall and floating precast boardwalk.
The existing significant Port Jackson Fig became an integral part of the design, and innovative measures were taken to ensure its survival. Thousands of holes drilled into the surrounding paving permitted the installation of a no-fines concrete sub-base to allow gas exchange and water infiltration. Underneath the spreading canopy of the tree, a hardwood deck and bespoke bench seat invite passers-by to rest and watch.
Materials were carefully considered to respect the history of the site and feature a selection of Australian granites with subtle variation of hues, tones, and finishes. The paving design uses incremental dimensions, creating a seamless transition between the larger format pavers and smaller setts. This approach was used to delineate vehicle and pedestrian areas while creating a public square for events and informal gatherings. The expression of history in the landscape is also fundamental to the design. Archaeological finds are woven into the promenade, as is the pre-1788 shoreline in the form of pixelated granite setts. The material selection also speaks to the present, in the form of precast concrete stairs, walls, and boardwalk.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape (architects and landscape architects): JPW
Project location: Campbells Cove, Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2019
Photos: Brett Boardman