A World Class Experience

ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour Live

  • Sydney
  • 2016

CHALLENGE: ICC Sydney has provided a rare opportunity to transform one of Sydney’s key precincts and best known landmark areas into a world class convention, exhibition and entertainment centre precinct. Joint venture partners HASSELL + Populous are design consultants to ICC Sydney (comprising Lend Lease, HostPlus, Capella Capital, AEG Ogden and Spotless), selected by the New South Wales Government to deliver the circa AUD $1.1 billion facility, due for completion in 2016. The biggest challenge is the greatest opportunity – transforming a key Sydney precinct through the design of three major public buildings and the unifying public realm. It is not often there is a chance to design 175,000 m² of building, to create something entirely new within the inner city fabric of a major world city.

A further challenge has also been to fit the programme requirements of such significant public venues within such an important urban precinct in the centre of Sydney. The existing convention centre on the site is being demolished and the new precinct built in its place. The former exhibition halls were 25,000m², and the space has been redesigned to achieve 35,000m² of exhibition hall, a 5,000m² open air event deck, plus an 8,000 seat Theatre.

Darling Harbour hosts 27 million visitors every year, and is one of the most popular precincts in Sydney. The design team has strived to create a precinct that has also improved the quality of public open space and park amenity.

INNOVATION: Given the scale of the programme requirements it was important to provide an architecturally cohesive design, but in fact, the three buildings service very different functions, and this needed to be reflected in how they engage with their surroundings and the people of Sydney.

The landmark International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney, deliberately clad in materials which reflect its spectacular harbour outlook, will be complemented by the rest of the precinct which looks onto parkland. The boundaries of the rest of the buildings are designed so the landscape becomes part of the building, with circulation and meeting spaces open to a park, terraces functioning as meeting spaces, with the large 5000m2 open deck on top of the building providing a platform to be used for major events. The ICC Sydney is the iconic representation of Sydney as a modern global city, a state- of- the-art building, active and alive 24 hours a day.

The ICC Exhibition, on the other hand, contains 35,000m² of Exhibition Halls. It was not spatially possible to have a continuous single level hall and so some of the space has been double stacked, consistent with facilities in other parts of the world. These buildings tend to be introverted by the nature of their function, and the design team has worked to step the building back, reducing its presence and overshadowing.

The third building, The Theatre, is based around a fan shaped bowl to provide a premium viewing experience for patrons. Traditionally large multipurpose arenas have been designed to suit sport, but as the demand for music and the live event continues to grow especially in Asia, the buildings which house these events are changing too. The re-emergence of the LIVE music industry, with artists back on the road, along with social media, entertainment on demand and smart technology has meant an evolution in arena design with big demands on both physical and infrastructure requirements. The Theatre at Darling Harbour is responding to these demands with innovative solutions.

IMPACT: The precinct will not be completed until 2016. But Darling Harbour Live is designed to reflect the dynamism of Sydney’s cityscape; redefine Darling Harbour economically and culturally providing a revitalised and enhanced urban precinct, while respecting the precinct’s parkland setting that is identifiably Sydney.