Snøhetta+Hassell win competition to transform Harbourside in Sydney

A design collaboration between Snøhetta and Hassell were recently announced as the winner of an international design excellence competition to transform Harbourside in Darling Harbour into a new, iconic and inviting destination at the heart of Sydney. Property developer Mirvac’s vision for Harbourside is to create one of Australia’s most sustainable precincts.

The Harbourside retail centre stretches over 240 meters of water frontage within Sydney’s iconic Darling Harbour area. The mixed-use redevelopment of the site will deliver a premium shopping, hospitality and entertainment destination and a 42-storey high-end residential tower, as well as upgrades to public spaces on the waterfront and a new public square connecting the development to Pyrmont Bridge.

Creating a sense of belonging
The winning Snøhetta+Hassell design will reimagine the Darling Harbour waterfront for the 21st century and was selected by the jury because it embraced a vision to create a place that brings people together.

The concept for Harbourside is defined by a network of welcoming public open spaces featuring natural materials and vegetation. At its heart, the Guardian Square will become the area of Pyrmont’s new neighbourhood park and community meeting place. Landscaping and moments of art and activation are planned to deliver an enlivened precinct that provides locals and visitors alike with a powerful sense of belonging, community and ownership.

Honouring traditions and the natural landscape
For thousands of years, Aboriginal people lived in and around this area which to them was an important gathering place known as Tumbalong, named after the harbour’s abundance of seafood. Elements of Sydney’s natural landscape have been weaved into the overall design, which includes water features flowing through sandstone, expansive terraces and productive gardens that invite ecology into the site through habitat creation.

“We are extremely proud of a design that acknowledges the historic sandstone escarpment landscape of Tumbalong, now known as Darling Harbour. This continues the tradition of shared public space, honouring the first nations Gadigal and Wangal people who saw this as shared country,” says Kaare Krokene, Managing Director of Snøhetta Australasia.

The diverse Snøhetta+Hassell design team brought together architects, landscape architects, interior designers, art curators, product, furniture, and graphic designers, and experts in social, financial, and environmentally sustainable design and research. Complementary and integral to this team is consultant Dr Daniele Hromek from Djinjama Indigenous Corporation, who has been involved through all aspects of the design and opened up the understanding of Connection to Country.

“The landmark Sydney site has a long, rich, and layered history, which provides a unique context for world-class architecture and place-making to inspire future story creation. The intention for Harbourside is to create a contextual and timeless design that is a place for all,” adds Hassell Principal Liz Westgarth.

Future-proof sustainability ambitions
Subject to approval from the NSW State Government, Harbourside is expected to deliver approximately 24,000 square metres of office space, 7,000 square metres of retail and 350 luxury apartments. The project will also deliver 10,000 square metres of public domain, including the proposed 3,500 square metre Guardian Square, as well as a widened waterfront promenade for the community to visit and enjoy.

As Australia’s first property company to achieve net carbon positive, Mirvac has ambitious plans for Harbourside to become one of Australia’s most sustainable precincts, targeting a combination of 5 and 6 Star Green Star and WELL ratings.

Apartments will be designed to meet the high standards of sustainability and liveability, enhancing health and wellbeing of its residents. Next-generation office space will feature smart technology to facilitate enhanced productivity and flexibility, while an array of shops, eateries and other attractions will appeal to the precinct’s diverse resident and visitor base.

Construction is expected to commence in 2023 once approvals are secured.

Image Credits: © Wax

About Damian Holmes 3339 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at