ICC Sydney

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Spread over 250,000 square metres in the heart of Sydney, ICC Sydney at Darling Harbour is a new global benchmark in exhibition and convention venues and an important city-shaping project transforming its inner city harbour location.

Joint venture partners HASSELL + Populous worked together to design the new convention, exhibition and entertainment venues for Sydney, with inspiration from the site’s spectacular city and harbour surrounds as well as Cockle Bay’s history.

CHALLENGE: Convention and exhibition buildings have a tendency to be introverted by their very nature, but the Hassell + Populous design team worked to ensure that the line between the outside and the inside was blurred.

Visitors coming to the three multi-use venues can engage with the natural and built beauty of Sydney and the harbour through a 5,000sqm rooftop Event Deck featuring spectacular city views, Exhibition meeting room pods and break-out spaces at the front of the building which connect and engage with the park, Australia’s largest ballroom with a stunning 270-degree view of the city skyline and harbor, and all three foyer levels and VIP areas of the Theatre boast city views over Tumbalong Park.

ICC Sydney includes three world-class venues which create a cohesive overall precinct, while at the same time giving each building its own personality and unique architectural character – from the cool reflective style of the convention centre, to the warm natural features of the exhibition centre, and the vibrant energy of the theatre.

This upgrade not only created jobs during the construction phase, but continues to boost the economy, create local jobs and give back to its surrounding community.

Melinda Pavey / NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing

INNOVATION: The precinct reflects the dynamism of Sydney’s cityscape, redefining Darling Harbour, while respecting the precinct’s parkland setting.

The ICC Exhibition creates Australia’s first multi-storey exhibition space and the largest exhibition space in Australia. The Exhibition Centre has 35,000m2 of indoor exhibition space over two levels, equivalent in size to 26 Olympic size pools. In order to stagger the two levels of hall back, and bury the loading dock under landscaped terracing we came up with the counter-intuitive idea of positioning the lower level exhibition hall loading dock on the edge of Tumbalong Park, feeding directly into the halls. This diminished the overall mass of the building, and houses what is a 24 hour a day, noisy operation essentially underground.

  • ICC Sydney is part of the socially and environmentally responsible Darling Harbour Regeneration Precinct which achieved a 6 Star Green Star Communities certification from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and LEED Gold Certification in June 2017, making it one of the largest LEED Gold projects outside of the US, recognising its all-encompassing approach to sustainability.

The International Convention Centre can accommodate three concurrent conventions and boasts Australia’s largest ballroom with an expansive view of the Sydney skyline across the harbour. While most ballrooms are in the basement, the grand ballroom sits at the top of the building with a stunning 270 degree view of the Sydney skyline across the harbour. It also includes more than 70 meeting rooms, two theatres, a multipurpose event space, a media centre, VIP area and business suite.

All the spaces can be operated simultaneously with massive back of house infrastructure which makes this possible including a commercial kitchen that serves both Convention and Exhibition buildings.

The theatre is designed to enrich the live experience. It brings audiences closer to performers by providing unobstructed views of the stage from every seat in the house. The ICC Theatre’s layered mesh facade wraps the entire volume of the auditorium to create a unique and memorable venue, with the vibrant red foyer areas glowing in the evening – signalling the exciting energy of the entertainment industry. Guests experience a world class welcome from the moment they enter the theatre through a 180m2 digital screen.

The figures speak for themselves – ICC Sydney is a big win for Sydney, providing visitors with world class events, and boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Victor Dominello / New South Wales Minister for Finance

IMPACT: Opened in December 2016, the on-time and on-budget project was awarded Australia’s Best Public Private Partnership Project and Best Infrastructure Project in 2017.  In 2018, ICC Sydney was also recognized by the both NSW Institute and the Australian Institute of Architects’ Awards for Urban Design.

Six months after opening, ICC Sydney had increased revenue by 22% when compared with the previous venue’s on the same site. It had booked its 1000th event and sold over 120,000 tickets to live events including Keith Urban, Chris Rock and Fast4 Tennis, all held in the Theatre spaces.

In its second year of operation, delegates attending events at ICC Sydney generated A$820 million in direct expenditure. New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian said “ICC Sydney is predicted to inject A$5 Billion into NSW’s economy over the next 25 years”.

As well as its success in attracting the lucrative convention and exhibition dollar to Sydney, the design of ICC Sydney has created stunning new venues which have renewed the harbour front precinct to create a vibrant new inner city quarter for visitors and locals alike.

Services Provided

Engagement is at the heart of the design – engagement with both the surrounding built and natural environments and engagement with Sydney’s residents and visitors. The needs of the meeting industry are changing and while Convention and Exhibition centres do retain a unique focus, it is now combined with a desire to contribute to the local neighbourhood.

Located on a historic part of Sydney Harbour, the crystalline glass facade of the ICC Convention Centre reflects the light and sparkle of the water. The venue can accommodate three concurrent conventions and boasts Australia’s largest ballroom, with a stunning 270-degree view of the Sydney skyline and harbor, as well as 70 meeting rooms, two theatres, a multipurpose event space, a media center, VIP areas and business suites.

The public face of the Exhibition building consists of a series of linear concourses which serve the exhibition halls and the unique meeting rooms, positioned as pods on the front of the building. Taking advantage of Sydney’s weather and natural beauty, the rooftop Event Deck is an outdoor extension of the ICC Exhibition, with paved and landscaped areas, and a large lounge and bar area which offers spectacular views of the city.

For ICC Theatre, the design celebrated its scale in an imaginative way. The large internal volume with its “black box” auditorium was embraced, wrapping the building in a layered mesh façade to provide visual depth through an ever-changing play of light through reflections and shadows. At night, the rest of the building recedes and the illuminated red interior public spaces project to the outside world. Just three months after opening ICC Sydney Theatre was listed in the prestigious Pollstar ‘World’s Top 50 Performing Theatres’. The flexible space has hosted a range of events including Fast4 Tennis, major rock concerts and TED Lectures.


Master Planning

The HASSELL + Populous team developed the master plan of the ICC Sydney site, which consists of the Exhibition Centre, International Convention Centre and Theatre.  The precinct reflects the dynamism of Sydney’s cityscape, redefining Darling Harbour, while respecting the precinct’s parkland setting.

The master plan takes full advantage of its location offering a 270-degree view of the Sydney skyline and harbour. The striking, angular shape of the three separate buildings exists cohesively within the surrounding folded landscape element which both minimizes the immense scale of the site and conceals back-of-house servicing areas.

New East to West links were integrated into the master planning of the site, allowing easy access to the precinct from Quarry Street, Ultimo and Tumbalong Park. Surrounding the three buildings are substantial paved and landscaped outdoor areas for the local community to use all year round.

Each of the three venues were designed uniquely yet are seamlessly unified by the continuous raised walkway and bridges between them. The 20m wide boulevard runs the length of the site connecting the three venues to Darling Square along the water’s edge.

In addition, one of the most important design outcomes was to provide more public open space than before, a better space with greater amenity for everyone.

Interior Design

The cool, reflective style of ICC Sydney Convention Centre mirrors the natural beauty of its waterfront setting. Silvers and whites along with cool grey and blue hues reference the colours of the harbour and reflected sunlight. The material palette is purposefully neutral to ensure any event is the focus but native Spotted Gum timber is used to balance this, providing warmth and richness. The Grand Ballroom embraces the cool reflective theme with a ceiling of sculpted mirror polished blades that reflect and distort what is happening below, referencing the water surfaces of Cockle Bay and the Woodward fountain.

The Exhibition Centre is inspired by Tumbalong Park as well as the heritage of the site, which once housed trading docks and warehouses. Its material palette uses timber greens and browns to draw the Parklands in, while whites, blacks and greys throughout the massive halls promote a strong graphical but minimal environment, allowing exhibition event branding to be the star.

ICC Theatre is informed by the gritty urbanity of surrounding suburbs combined with the vibrant energy of housing Sydney’s largest concert venue and the surrounding landscape of the Chinese Garden of Friendship. The interiors use strong reds, referencing the red carpets and curtains of yesteryear, but also symbolizing the vibrancy of the action inside. At night, the rest of the building recedes and the illuminated red interior public spaces project to the outside world.


Facts and Figures
ICC Sydney Theatre Total Capacity
9,000 Guests
Exhibition Theatre Open Air Event Deck
5,000 Sq. Metres
International Convention Centre
270° Views of Sydney
Australia's Largest Ballroom
3,500 Guests
Good Design Award
AIA Urban Design for Darling Harbour Precinct Transformation
INCON Global Digital Infrastructure Awards – Technology
Australia’s Best Conference Venue for the second year in the QANTAS Business Travel Awards
Project Team
Connect with the designers

Richard Breslin

Joshua Robson

Paul Henry

Belinda Goh

Paul Foskett

Nathan Tobeck

James Pearce

Andrew Crutcher

Michael Lockwood

Todd Voth

Christopher Lee

Dale Jennins

Garry Reeves

Nicholas Malyon

Julie Rinaldi