Pirrama Park
Pirrama Park
Pirrama Park

Transforming a modest Water Police site on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour into an exciting new public parkland

A City of Sydney project, Pirrama Park captured the imagination of architects globally and in 2010 went on to win ASPECT Studios + Hill Thalis the coveted AILA NSW Award. Among the park’s more notable features are its boardwalks, jetty, picnic shelters and cliff access stairs.

The challenge with this project included a number of tricky and complex structures on the site. These were mainly the architectural pieces which meant there was no room for mistakes, budget blowouts or missed deadlines. Because multiple contractors were involved, great project management, clear communications and open collaboration were important.

DesignExecute2 Process at Pirrama Park
01 Discover
02 Develop
03 Detail
04 Deliver

01 Discover

ASPECT Studios + Hill Thalis knew that its designs would present a considerable manufacturing and installation challenge to most construction firms. So they chose to work with us because they had confidence our inhouse team would be able to deliver a coordinate, end-to-end service.

02 Develop

  • Our approach is unique because it places the needs of landscape architects, developers, contractors and local councils at the hub of everything we do. Through our design-led engineering process, we give our partners the breadth of vision to transform their ideas into iconic structures.
  • Working closely with the project consultants from start to finish, we were responsible for bringing the architects’ inspired vision to life. Elements included the cliff access stairs, to the stylish implementation of the boardwalks, decking and shelters, right through to the fine detail of the custom seating.

03 Detail

  • The cliff stairs were an entirely different geometrical challenge. After taking precise cliff face surveys, we were able to detail the stairs for manufacture.
  • We completed all works on time, on budget and to the highest level of fine detailing. Exactly what the project required.

04 Deliver

  • It was in the delivery phase that our Onsite Crew and Structural Specialists really delivered value. For the jetty and part of the boardwalk, we manufactured a steel sub-frame treated with marine-grade paint and then used Australian Class 1 hardwoods for the decking. The remainder of the boardwalk used the same hardwood, but was installed on the site’s existing retaining walls. We also fabricated an aluminium boardwalk for the floating pontoon, transported it to the site and installed it by crane. Plus, we manufactured structural steel support frames for the precast concrete walkways and coordinated all aspects of the concrete installation.
  • We detailed the stairs for manufacture, fabricated and craned-in a steel frame and stainless steel mesh landings, then fabricated, painted and craned-in steel stair frames, installed stainless steel mesh stair treads and painted steel balustrade. The final stage was the installation of the stainless steel handrail. For the three picnic shelters, we fabricated the steel posts and roof frame off-site, then assembled by crane and applied protective paint on-site. Finally we installed and dressed the timber purlins.

The solution

We developed our Design Execute methodology into DE2 to enable us to work even more collaboratively and seamlessly with our partners. Pirrama Park is the winner of multiple awards including the highest awards from the Australian Institute of Architects in Urban Design – ‘The Walter Burley Griffin Award’, and ‘The Medal’ from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. We’re very proud of the role we played in bringing ASPECT Studio’s vision to life and creating a landmark location that everyone can enjoy.

Seats made of recycled timber

Timber seats were crafted by recycling the timber from the wharf adjacent. The wharf was the relic of the Water Police years, and was removed to make way for the inner pool. The timber was re-used on the site wherever possible.

The cliff stair is a significant engineered structure

The stair is held to the cliff using engineered rock-bolts, sunk a number of metres into the stone face of the cliff.

Honed concrete

The use of honed concrete, Australian hardwood and steel coated with micaceous iron oxide provides a very nice blend of materials on the shelter closest to the water’s edge.

Fleetwood were central to the success of Pirrama Park, the whole material language of the park is one which is a re-purposing of industrial materials; Hardwood timber, concrete, robust planting… all of these things have a kind of an industrial aesthetic. Fleetwood delivered all of the timber work for us from the play-space to their linear deck to the shade canopies, to great effect.

Sacha Coles Design and Innovation Director, ASPECT Studios

Project Details


City of Sydney

Design Partners

ASPECT Studios | Hill Thalis Architecture