Elizabeth Quay is a new waterfront precinct that unites central Perth with the Swan River. Its focus is a 730m terraced promenade surrounding a newly formed inlet, and a completely new island created by excavating the land that joined it to the shore.
Our full landscape masterplan was completed in 2015 and the public spaces opened in 2016. Over time, new buildings including residential, retail, commercial and hotel developments will frame the inlet. There will be restaurants, bars and cafés, and venues for an arts festival.
The island is planted with indigenous species to encourage wildlife. It is a venue for large public events and, between events, a secluded place to relax. There is a children’s playground and the soft garden landscape is an oasis within the surrounding city. The island has a stone revetment and a sand ramp designed for small recreational craft and wild swans. There is a water-treatment facility for surface run off—a sustainability measure to preserve water quality.
ARM won a 2006 limited design competition to masterplan Elizabeth Quay. Landscape architects TCL were involved from 2012 to 2014.
Elizabeth Quay’s full landscape masterplan allows for others to develop the sites it establishes. It sets out locations and types of built forms for the future, areas for pedestrians, pedestrian and vehicle routes, and sight lines to and from other parts of Perth.
Elizabeth Quay is programmed for specific uses including festivals, Anzac Day celebrations, particular performance types and sports including volleyball. There are places for eating and drinking. There is public art with freestanding structures and a light installation by artist Stuart Green that illuminates the edge of the inlet. There is BHP Billiton Water Park, a paved water-play area inspired by Western Australia’s dry lakes. It produces mist and jets that create water rooms.
The masterplan works with the local ecological and social climate. It suits the unique character of Perth’s weather and natural environment: its salty winds, hot sunny summers and woody coastal plants.
We created a design motif that we dubbed the “ripple-wave pattern” to shape all the built edges for paving and terraces, for building and planting interfaces, for furniture locations, trees, stairs and water features. We generated the ripple-wave by dropping a virtual egg into virtual water and recording the water disturbance patterns. It was inspired by the Wagyl, or rainbow serpent, egg of the Noongar mythology. The pattern is built into the paving colours and responds to things like trees and buildings as if they were objects floating in water, creating swirls, ripples and whirlpools in the paving. This cohesive and structured theme unifies the Elizabeth Quay precinct.
“We wanted the island to be hilly and interesting, so the topography is designed as if it were a big bit of fabric. The walls are swoopy and curvy and bending in all directions.”
—Jenny Watson, Architect
When Perth was founded in the nineteenth century the waterfront was a centre of transportation and trade. But various twentieth-century developments (a strip of reclaimed waterside parkland; a road network upgrade) separated the river from the city. Until now, there were very few buildings on the river, just thirsty underused parkland needing an unsustainable level of irrigation. Perth has been trying to reconnect to its waterfront ever since.
In formulating our masterplan, we explored some fascinating heritage issues, and we consulted in depth with community and stakeholder groups. We have preserved many several significant trees on the site, and relocated others. The 1927 Florence Hummerston kiosk (which has had various incarnations as a nightclub, café, sporting club, day care centre and Cantonese restaurant) has moved to the island. The heritage-listed Talbot Hobbs Memorial, which is traditionally the end point of the annual Anzac Day parade, has a more fitting permanent home in the Supreme Court Gardens.