Port Botany Expansion

Twelve kilometres south of the Sydney CBD, Port Botany has experienced a transformation by AECOM that aims to unify the site.

The Port Botany Foreshore Beach is the public face of the Port Botany Expansion project and it was important to get it right,” says Marika Calfas, general manager of planning at Sydney Ports Corporation, about the $1 billion Port Botany expansion project. EDAW and Maunsell (now both part of AECOM) were part of the Sydney Ports design team for the project. The main construction contract was awarded to Baulderstone Hornibrook/Jan De Nul (BHJDN) consortium. BHJDN is responsible for constructing a new container terminal and related environmental and community works to handle long-term container trade growth, as well as the Port Botany Foreshore environmental and community works.

Foreshore Beach stabilization works adjacent to the new boat ramp.

Foreshore Beach stabilization works adjacent to the new boat ramp.

Image: David Lloyd, AECOM

The recreational, visual and ecological enhancement of Foreshore Beach and adjacent areas and Penrhyn Estuary ecological enhancement are the two main components of the works for Port Botany – a site about twelve kilometres south of the Sydney CBD and adjacent to Sydney Airport. Sydney Ports Corporation obtained government approval for the expansion of the existing port through reclamation of sixty hectares of land in 2005.

EDAW was commissioned to “undertake the design of the Foreshore Beach/public realm component of the project,” as noted in the visual amenity management plan, with architectural elements by Choi Ropiha Fighera and signage by Deuce Design. The scope of the public realm package included schematic design through to detail design and documentation.

Stephen Callaghan, director of design and planning at AECOM, says that they are “responsible for providing the project’s port, civil and structural engineering design as the technical adviser to Sydney Ports Corporation.” Foreshore Beach is New South Wales maritime land and there is an agreement between the two authorities. “Sydney Ports is funding the works and will be responsible for long-term management and maintenance of the area,” adds Calfas.

The site prior to the works was a heavily eroded, half-kilometre-long beach. It was unsafe and uninviting, although it is just across Foreshore Road from Sir Joseph Banks Park, with Botany Road beyond that. The highly polluted Mill Stream discharges at the northern end of the beach and is affected by sewage overflows.

Mill Stream Lookout.

Mill Stream Lookout.

Image: David Lloyd, AECOM

At the beginning of the project there was an extensive community consultation/workshop process completed by Manidis Roberts for Sydney Ports during the preparation of the environmental impact statement. As part of that process, stakeholders were asked whether they were looking for a more formal character with boardwalks and cafes or a naturalistic character. The desire of the community was for a low-key, natural environment where they could walk their dogs. This set the tone, character and vocabulary for the project.

The overall project is “a simple design that links into the broader context,” says Callaghan. This has been achieved by constructing the pedestrian bridge into Sir Joseph Banks Park. To ensure a consistency of design approach with the park, designed by Bruce Mackenzie in the 1970s, the team engaged Mackenzie as an adviser. “The AECOM team consulted early on in the project with Bruce Mackenzie to better understand the experiences that he had gained from the construction of Sir Joseph Banks Park in the seventies. The aim of this was to help unify the upgraded foreshore as an extension of the park and the public realm,” writes Callaghan. Paul Jerogin, manager of strategic environmental services at Bovis Lend Lease, adds that there are three layers to the vegetation profiles that will stabilize the fore dunes, blend in with Sir Joseph Banks Park and create a noise buffer to Foreshore Road.

The other key elements of the Port Botany Foreshore design are: Mill Stream Lookout and amenities block (both by Choi Ropiha Fighera), shared and pedestrian paths, rest areas, expansion and rehabilitation of the inter-tidal sand flats and salt-marsh zone of Penrhyn Estuary, the interface between Foreshore Beach and the Port Botany boat ramp, a new foreshore configuration and rock wall west of the boat ramp, and the Penrhyn Estuary lookout. Botany Bay is an enormously popular fishing area and one of the more particular requirements of the site design was designing site-specific structures to conform to airport requirements for minimizing bird hazards when cleaning fish.

Foreshore beach rehabilitation work includes extensive revegetation and shared path networks.

Foreshore beach rehabilitation work includes extensive revegetation and shared path networks.

Image: David Lloyd, AECOM

The scale of the structures by Choi Ropiha Fighera and the Penrhyn Estuary Lookout designed by AECOM (with input from Avifauna Research and Services) along with furniture, solar lighting, signage and other elements, are pitched to play on the industrial vocabulary of the port, in contrast to the vegetation, dunes and wilderness of the beach. The elegant, abbreviated forms of the Choi Ropiha Fighera Mill Stream Lookout juxtaposed against the natural environment and the simple arc of the amenities block, show how the project team went about getting it right.

The amenities, lighting and other elements are also largely self-sustaining, except that they use potable water for primary contact activities. They create a balance between all the demands on the area, especially on the delicate ecological interface between the public realm and the new infrastructure of the port.

Sophie Tatlow on the Port Botany expansion

Way finding signage sits at the entry to the pedestrian overpass.

Way finding signage sits at the entry to the pedestrian overpass.

Image: Sarah Nguyen

“In the past ten years, Deuce Design has designed and managed an extensive portfolio of way finding and interpretive signage projects for many public spaces, including parks, beach walks, suburban malls, shopping centres and internal building environments. Every system requires design expertise and a sense of collaboration with a multitude of consultants including artists, engineers, architects, planners, stakeholders, writers and opinion from every direction (pardon the pun). It’s an exercise in organization, editing, movement and sociability.

“The Port Botany Expansion project is a case in point. The studio undertook an extensive interpretive and way finding signage program that detailed the site’s trade history, natural fauna and flora attractions and a comprehensive wayfinding system. The design program included more than thirty-five brightly coloured vitreous enamel signs featuring laser-cut lettering, custom-designed structures and a beautiful series of local bird illustrations. The beauty of the system lies not only in its finessed design detail and structure, but in the use of vitreous enamel, a hardy, weather-resistant application that has withstood the elements since the Ptolemaic dynasty. Its credentials as a vandal-proof and weather-resistant product make it ideal for its bayside location. The bright colours of the enamel work perfectly within the context of the primary-coloured industrial shipping containers in the background.

“Overall, the signage addresses and complements a transformed multifunctional place, formerly a neglected stretch of beach. The new signage system communicates the story of ‘Ports,’ a complex narrative talking about trade, shipping, bird estuaries, ecology and history, all within the background of Port Botany’s community of plane spotters, recreational fishers, joggers, bike riders and birdwatchers.”

Sophie Tatlow is the director of Deuce Design.


Landscape architect
AECOM Sydney
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Project Team
Sydney Ports, Bovis Lend Lease, AECOM, Baulderstone Hornibrook, Jan De Nul Consortium, Parsons Brinckerhoff
Architect Choi Ropiha Fighera
Benthos consultants Cardno Ecology Lab
Designers Avifauna Research and Services
Hydraulic engineer Manly Hydraulics Laboratory
Marine mammal management AECOM Sydney, Maunsell
Salt marsh consultants Sainty and Associates, Bioanalysis
Signage and wayfinding Deuce Design
Technical writing Ep Consulting
Water quality/flushing channel consultants Cardno Lawson Treloar
Site Details
Location Port Botany,  Sydney,  NSW,  Australia
Site type Urban
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 24 months
Construction 24 months
Category Landscape / urban
Client name Sydney Ports Corporation
Website Sydney Ports



Published online: 16 Dec 2011
Words: Tempe MacGowan
Images: Bruce Slorach, Choi Ropiha Fighera, David Lloyd, AECOM, Sarah Nguyen, Sydney Ports Corporation


Landscape Architecture Australia, August 2011

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