The Cairns Foreshore Development incorporates the conservation and adaptive re-use of the No.2 Wharf Sheds and revitalisation of the surrounding site of the Cairns Wharf Complex listed on the Queensland Heritage Register (Place ID 601790).
Construction of the wharves and sheds began in 1910, and key heritage features located within the complex include reinforced concrete wharves, wharf sheds, railway tracks, sugar shed, clock tower, cargo crane and entrance gates as well as green square open public spaces.
The Cairns Foreshore development focused on the adaptive reuse of No. 2 Wharf Shed, the adjacent Wharf 1 and a large section of the surrounding site for open public space, boardwalk areas and future commercial developments – including the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal operating in No.3 Wharf Shed immediately adjacent (which was awarded the John Herbert Award Memorial Award and Queensland Heritage Council Gold Award in 2011 for work undertaken in 2008-10).
Its aim was to provide facilities to enhance port operations by providing an operating tourism and retail precinct which integrates with the recently upgraded Cruise Liner Terminal, whilst remaining sympathetic to the existing heritage values associated with the site. The project also required a substantial interpretation strategy to communicate the heritage values of the site to a range of visitors, including overseas and domestic tourists and local residents. The Cairns South Waterfront Public Space was officially completed and opened in November 2012.
This development project was also recipient of two major design awards:
- 2013 Australian Institute of Architects Queensland Don Roderick Award for Heritage Architecture
- 2013 Australian Institute for Architects Far North Queensland Edit Oribin Award for Building of the Year
Heritage Advice that demonstrated a best practice approach to conservation planning and works in accordance with Burra Charter principles
Particular examples include:
- A substantial amount of existing fabric and features was retained in the redevelopment
- The railway tracks that serviced the sheds remain in situ and the spatial relationship between the tracks and the shed cargo doors, noted in the Conservation Management Plan for the Complex, have been retained;
- A conservation strategy was also developed for the conservation treatment of specific elements, including the timber posts and trusses, internal historical signage, cargo doors and associated hardware. This strategy ensured that these significant elements will remain functioning well into the future;
- The project team sought to do only what was necessary to adapt the shed and broader site for a new use. New work was distinct, but sympathetic to existing fabric. New timber elements were date-stamped;
- The interpretation strategy developed for the project conveys the significance of the wharves and historic port activities to Cairns and the region in a manner that informs, educates and challenges.
Long-term conservation outcomes, particularly ensuring viable use
Much of the new work undertaken for the redevelopment is reversible and specific conservation work undertaken by professional material conservators ensures key features that reflect the significance of the Wharf 1, No.2 Wharf Sheds and its surrounding areas will remain in good condition for many years to come.
The works are also completely consistent with the recently upgraded Cruise Liner Terminal (Shed 3) adjacent, which has previously been awarded for this outcome also. The shed (Shed 2) is also ideally suited to its new use. The interior of the shed remains just as it has for the last 100 years; full of space.
High level technical skill in planning, building or other conservation activities
The principle challenge of the project from a heritage perspective was to design a modern, functional commercial and retail space whilst conserving the heritage values of No. 2 Wharf Shed and the broader site according to best practice conservation principles.
The project involved a lengthy and detailed planning process drawing on the skills of a range of disciplines, including:
- Heritage consultants (Converge),
- Building and landscape architects,
- Signage consultants,
- Engineers (built, marine and electrical) and
- Material conservation experts.
This process was reflected in a range of reports that required tailored heritage advice, including:
- A master plan report,
- Concept design report,
- Heritage interpretation strategy and
- Statement of heritage impact to accompany the development application.
Innovative approach to overcoming logistic, technical and other problems
The primary technical issue that confronted the design team was the need to ensure a 100 year-old timber shed complied with contemporary building standards in an environment prone to cyclones.
Converge worked closely with the project engineers to find innovative solutions and change designs when a number of discoveries were made during construction.
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