Darwin Waterfront Public Domain

It’s arguably the safest swim in Australia’s Northern Territory at Darwin Waterfront, the old industrial port on the fringes of Darwin’s city centre that’s now the place people gather ‘beachside’ year-round to beat the tropical heat.

Armed with body boards, kayaks and inflatables, people flock to this inclusive community space primarily to splash in the wave pool and lagoon – among the few city spots safe from marine stingers.

From market days to moonlight cinema and New Year’s Eve fireworks, a host of activities and cultural events draw people into the parklands, where public artworks and a heritage trail share the stories of Darwin and acknowledge the land’s significance to the indigenous Larrakia people.

Our design for the Darwin Waterfront public domain reinterprets the site’s historic headlands and celebrates the city’s natural and cultural heritage. By using native and locally-proven species, we regenerated habitat, enriched the environment and created a lush landscape and cooling palm canopy.

Importantly, we reconnected Darwin’s centre with its harbour by extending city streets to the water and installing a Sky Bridge over the escarpment and pedestrian pathways along the foreshore – giving the public uninterrupted access to a new waterfront lifestyle.

Client

Macmahon (Stage 2 Public Domain) / Northern Territory Government and ABN Amro (Stage 1 Master Plan)

Location

Darwin, Australia

Status

Completed

Year

2009

Scale

2.5 ha (public domain) 25 ha (master plan)

Collaborators

Northern Territory Government, Darwin Waterfront Corporation, Toga Group

Design team

Ken Maher, Julieanne Boustead, Sharon Wright, Mike Wood, Tony Grist

Photographer

Brett Boardman, David Silva

>1.2M visitors in 2017-2018
115k wave lagoon passes sold
276 public outdoor events & 142 conferences
  • Wave Lagoon – ‘the precinct’s coolest attraction’ turning out 20-mins of waves every half hour
  • Recreation Lagoon – a man-made, sea-water lagoon with sandy beach and patrolled paddling pools
  • Tropical parklands with natural amphitheatre – the perfect platforms for festivals and events
  • Boardwalk and sea wall – extending pedestrian access out over the water
  • Smith Street Sky Bridge – connecting the head of the escarpment to the waterfront’s main plaza
  • Smith Street East Walkway – a sheltered heritage trail, connecting the headland to the city’s mall
  • Public artworks – by artist with a connection to the region feature throughout the public domain
  • Darwin Convention Centre – a multi-award-winning collaboration with Crawford Architects
  • The Vibe and Medina hotels and Wharf One Residential buildings

We master planned the entire 25-hectare Darwin Waterfront development as a series of staged precincts. We also designed Stage 2, the Public Domain parklands and public spaces, as well as commercial, residential and public buildings – including the Darwin Convention Centre.

The plan’s diverse, yet complementary, mix of uses has helped create a vital public precinct that’s been a social and economic success for Darwin, and also improved the natural environment. It continues to grow and evolve every year – making Darwin a more desirable place to live and visit.

We used a series of sustainability initiatives and technologies suited to the tropical climate to transform the post-industrial site. By retaining the escarpment and re-establishing natural vegetation throughout the precinct, ecological health has been restored and the site’s microclimate moderated. Durable, locally-sourced and recycled materials make up the hardscaping, and opportunities for water conservation, passive ventilation and temperature control devices have been implemented throughout.

  • 2012 International Property Awards Asia Pacific – Best Landscape Architecture Asia Pacific
  • 2012 Asia Pacific Property Awards – Five Star Award – Best Landscape Architecture Australia
  • 2012 Asia Pacific Property Awards – Highly Commended – Leisure Development Australia
  • 2010 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National Awards – Landscape Architecture Award for Planning
  • 2009 Australian Institute of Architects (Northern Territory) Awards – Award for Urban Design
  • 2008 Urban Taskforce Awards – Development Excellence Award for Mixed Use Development

"This project demonstrates the value of development undertaken with vision, with good design quality and with environmental sensitivity. It demonstrates how a single development can have a major impact on the future of a whole city."

Professor Chris Johnson CEO Urban Taskforce Australia / 2010 AILA Awards jury chair

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