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Glenn Scott is a Principal at HASSELL Studio, Sydney and was part of the HASSELL/Populous design leadership team for the Darling Harbour SICEEP bid. He will progress the project through development and delivery.
Michael Holt: Sydney has recently selected teams for a number of significant developments (Barangaroo South and Central and Darling Harbour), how did the partnership with Lend Lease come about?
Glenn Scott: Lend Lease invited Hassell to their consortia based on our previous, successful projects and working experiences together for large-scale public projects. We have also worked previously to design and deliver the Darwin Waterfront project, which was very successful as a design that included a new convention centre, extensive waterfront public realm and mixed-use developments. For Darling Harbour though, it was our preference to work with Populous [formerly known as HOK], as we believed they could bring their knowledge of the design of international standard convention and exhibition centres to the team. Only later did a joint venture come about for the project. Hassell is also the landscape architect for the precinct, an element that is an independent commission with Lend Lease outside of the joint venture.
Given the magnitude of the project, in both its city location and urban scale, how has the process engaged with the public?
During the bidding process an open, public two-day consultation and exhibition was held by Infrastructure NSW onsite. Representatives from the bidding consortiums were asked to be present as observers and to listen to interested parties’ comments. These parties included local residents, local businesses and any other interested groups. From this, we learnt that Darling Harbour – and more specifically Tumbalong Park – had become, in the mind of the local residents, their ‘backyard.’ This comment resonated within our team’s thinking about the possible future of the precinct, believing it was a key ingredient that should inform the design going forward.
What are your thoughts on the existing Darling Harbour precinct? What is the main focus for Hassell in redeveloping the area?
Darling Harbour was one of the first major urban renewal projects in the country, turning old rail and shipping sheds into a new public cultural precinct on the edge of the city. The precinct was originally designed as a destination for visitors, but this was reflective of the specific needs dating back some twenty-five years – and it was successful in servicing those needs – however Sydney was a very different place in the eighties, physically and culturally, than it is now. The city – specifically the Haymarket (Chinatown), Ultimo and Pyrmont – has changed dramatically in recent times with a significant increase in permanent residents moving to the inner city. Darling Harbour needs to better connect to and provide services for the residents as well as visitors. Key to our thinking was to provide a balance between providing a range of activities that service visitors, both local and international, as well as the local community to ensure it remains a vibrant and continually active precinct.
How did the partnership with OMA form and how will your relationship with Destination Sydney work, more broadly?
The Hassell/Populous relationship with OMA is through Lend Lease. The project is extensive and the Hassell/Populous focus is the core convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities, while our landscape architecture team worked across the entire precinct developing the public realm components. OMA was engaged by Lend Lease as the master plan architect to look at the precinct beyond the core facilities, including the new mixed-use developments at The Haymarket in the south, and the hotel in the north. The development of the final master plan, however, was very much an ‘all-in discussion’ and the design reached its final conclusion as a series of robust working sessions. The specific operational needs of the core components needed to be accommodated while ensuring that these needs did not ‘dominate’ the entire precinct; it was imperative that it remained very much a pedestrian focused recreational precinct open to all and well connected to the surrounding city.
If OMA is the designer of the hotel and masterplanner, what are the main design elements that Hassell are working on; and, what will the collaborative process be like with the Dutch architects? Will one be a design leader or will the site be more parcelled out?
Hassell/Populous will be working on the core convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities, which include: the ICC Sydney, the ICC Exhibition Centre and The Theatre, which is the new entertainment centre. Hassell Landscape Architecture will be working on the public realm and landscape components of the core facilities initially. OMA is designing the hotel which is a physically separate building from the core facilities but it will need to operationally interface with these buildings and connect to the public realm. Hassell/Populous is the design lead on the core facilities and OMA is the design lead on the hotel, while Hassell Landscape is the design lead on the public realm areas. All elements are interrelated and there needs to be an on-going, open discussion and collaboration between all architects and designers involved to ensure a great outcome for Sydney.