International Convention Centre Sydney opens

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The International Convention Centre Sydney by Hassell and Populous.

The International Convention Centre Sydney by Hassell and Populous. Image: Guy Wilkinson Photography

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The ICC Sydney Theatre by Hassell and Populous.

The ICC Sydney Theatre by Hassell and Populous. Image: Guy Wilkinson Photography

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The ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre by Hassell and Populous.

The ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre by Hassell and Populous. Image: Guy Wilkinson Photography

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The International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney, designed by Hassell and Populous, has opened at Darling Harbour in Sydney.

The $1.5-billion, 250,000-square-metre development comprises a theatre, an exhibition centre and a convention centre.

Ken Maher, project design director and fellow at Hassell, said, “The three new venues […] are all connected yet each [has been] given an independent identity related to their location: the theatre in the south [has a] robust urban character; the exhibition centre in the centre draws on the parkland landscape character of Tumbalong Park; and the International Convention Centre in the north takes its inspiration from the delight of the harbour.”

The ICC Sydney Theatre by Hassell and Populous. Image:  Guy Wilkinson Photography

The ICC Sydney Theatre features a fan-shaped vertical seating layout with 8,000 seats and standing room for an additional 1,000 people. “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,” reads Hassell and Populous’s design statement.

The ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre is now the largest exhibition space in Australia, with a total of 35,000 square metres of floor-space, equivalent in size to 26 Olympic swimming pools. It houses seven exhibition halls and a gallery.

“The immense scale of the venue is dramatically reduced by being integrated into its terraced park surrounds, which cleverly conceals a substantial proportion of the building,” the design statement reads.

The Convention Centre features a crystalline glass facade that has been designed to reflect light and the sparkle of the water of Cockle Bay, east of the building. 

“Sydney was very much our driver: the natural beauty, the built beauty, but also the people and culture of Sydney,” said Richard Breslin, senior principal and joint architecture director at Populous.

“Convention and exhibition buildings have a tendency to be introverted by their very nature, but we worked to ensure that the line between the outside and the inside was blurred – so visitors coming to any of the venues could engage with the natural and built beauty of this city,” Breslin said.

The five-storey centre is home to Australia’s largest ballroom, which can accommodate 3,500 guests, and comprises 70 meeting rooms, two plenary theatres, a multi-purpose event space, a media centre, VIP areas and business suites. 

Destination Sydney Consortium, which originally included Hassell, Populous, OMA and Denton Corker Marshall, won an international design competition to design the precinct in 2012. However, OMA backed out of the project, with OMA’s managing partner and director David Gianotten stating this was due to “a clash of two cultural approaches.” Denton Corker Marshall is also no longer involved with the project.

The consortium that delivered the project is Darling Harbour Live, and comprises Hassell, Populous, Lend Lease, Hostplus, First State Super, Capella Capital, AEG Ogden and Spotless. The consortium has partnered with the NSW government to create ICC Sydney.

The ICC Sydney replaced the Sydney Convention Centre, designed by 1980 Gold Medallist John Andrews, and the Sydney Exhibition Centre, designed by Cox Richardson and Taylor and Partners, which received the Sir John Sulman Medal for Public Architecture in 1989.

In 2012, the NSW government announced that both buildings, less than 30 years old at the time, would be demolished to make way for the new centre.


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