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Peter Walker & Partners


Sydney, Australia

American Architecture Prize 2017 | 2015 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) Presidents Choice Award (NSW) | Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Project of the Year (2016) | WAN Waterfront 2015 Award.

Client: Peter Walker & Partners

Value: $8bn

Completion: 2015

Sector: Infrastructure, Land Development

Services: Soil Specification and Laboratory Testing

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Barangaroo 1929

At the heart of one of the worlds industrial capitals, we grew trees. Barangaroo holds an extremely important place in the story of Sydney, with a rich history and close ties to the natural world. The reserve was developed to recreate a headland that existed prior to European arrival. With complete restoration in mind, Barangaroo Reserve was developed using almost completely recycled resources.

Take a look at how this project came to be...

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Restoring History

The development of the reserve was created on the land of a former colonial shipyard. By retracing the original shoreline, plans began to restore this land to its former grandeur.

SESL was brought on to develop a soil profile that most accurately resembled the pre-industrial soil conditions. This was to ensure the most efficient native plant rehabilitation. The research performed by the BDA and its contractors resulted in two published scientific papers on the nutrition of native plants. This allowed the headland project to become not just an aesthetic reconstruction, but gave us the knowledge of how to restore and rebuild a vegetation type that is part of the character of Sydney and its harbour.


Researching the land

We then did some field research in areas of intact sandstone flora, looking at the natural "Kandosol" or "Yellow Earth" soil characteristic of sandstone country. We examined the profile and measured the levels of nutrients and general soil chemistry. In a series of pot trials, we calculated and determined different levels of green waste compost to be applied to the various sensitive locations (5% in sandstone areas, 10% in Eucalypt and forest areas, 20% for recreational).

After the soil profile concept and our nutrient calibrations were completed, SESL worked on the sandstone terrace cross-sections. An early diagram of the sandstone terrace facsimile illustrates how this was done so contractors tendering on the project could see how it was to be constructed.



Resource Recovery

The soil landscape at Barangaroo was carefully worked to support a vegetation type with unique requirements for healthy growth using almost 100% recycled resources sourced from in and around Sydney.

Resources were recycled from:

  • Crushed sandstone originating from building excavations in Barangaroo South commercial developments.

  • Recycled sand and crushed glass sand from building excavations.

  • Recycled green garden waste compost (produced from “green bin” and council drop-off garden waste collections).

  • Composted wood mulch screened from green garden waste collections.

These commonly available recycled resources could be used to make:

  • The mulch layer or “O” (for organic) horizon, analogous to the forest litter layer.

  • The topsoil or A horizon, a well-drained sandy soil containing nutrients, organic matter, and biological life.

  • The subsoil or B horizon, a well-drained water-holding layer for root anchorage and moisture reserve.


Retention Rate

The reserve, which opened in 2015, has continued to thrive spectacularly. The planting efforts have seen an extraordinary success rate. SESL recognised that Sydney's native sandstone belt flourishes in what might be considered very poor soils. This insight contributed to the Barangaroo Reserve project proudly achieving a 99% plant retention success rate.

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