Ballast Point Park | McGregor Coxall

• June 15, 2010

The Sydney-based landscape design studio Mcgregor Coxall as the lead designers designed the Ballast Point Park sited on the Birchgrove Peninsula in the inner reaches of Sydney harbour, Australia.

Ballast Point  Plan colour revC 595x410 Ballast Point Park | McGregor Coxall

Ballast Point Park, image © McGregor Coxall

+ Project description courtesy of Mcgregor Coxall

Ballast Point Park

This 2.8ha park is located on a contaminated former industrial lubricant production site on the Birchgrove Peninsula in the inner reaches of Sydney harbour. The site has had a rich history beginning with indigenous peoples, the ’Menevia’ marine villa in the 1860’s, a quarry for ship ballast and finally the Caltex occupation from the 1920’s until 2002. The design uses world leading sustainability principles to minimise the project’s carbon footprint and ecologically rehabilitate the site. The design reconciles the layers of history with forward looking new technologies to create a regionally significant urban park. The environmental approach is further underpinned by site-wide stormwater biofiltration, recycled materials, and wind turbines for on-site energy production. McGregor Coxall were the lead designers and project managers for the project.

Ballast Point Aerial Picture 055 595x396 Ballast Point Park | McGregor Coxall

Ballast Point Park, image © Landscape Solutions (Tim Buckle)

Design Approach

There is currently a strong discussion as to what is the appropriate response when we are working with strong post industrial sites, ranging from total removal of all industrial remnants and returning the site to it’s original natural state to retaining all human interventions as heritage. This design brings to life the principles established in the original master plan where there is a fine balance between what is removed and what is retained. The end product is a park that proudly communicates all the site’s past layers and human interventions in both, an innovative and informative manner. However, the true story line here is that ultimately the planting strategy will result in this headland being clothed in a green blanket.

The design challenges our perception of materials and their use. Dominant new terrace walls sit atop the sandstone cliffs but these walls are not made of precious sandstone excavated from another site, rather from the rubble of our past. What once was called rubbish is now called beautiful. It is the new ballast. But it is more than this at play: It is the total composition of these recycled rubber filled cages, off set with concrete coping panels topped with fine grain railing, that allow these walls to sit confidently at the portal to the inner harbour.

8 vertical axis wind turbines and an extract from a Les Murray poem, carved into recycled tank panels, forms a sculptural re-interpretation of the site’s former largest storage tank. The wind turbines symbolise the future, a step away from our fossil fuelled past towards more sustainable renewable energy forms.

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Ballast Point Park, image © Christian Borchert

Appropriateness to function

  • The function of the park is to provide picnic and harbour viewing areas for the enjoyment of locals and the general public. The success of the design has been underlined by the unanimously positive response from park users and the high use the park has experienced since opening.
  • The design challenges the concept of children’s play areas in parks of this nature. McGregor Coxall took the position that they did not want to provide of –the-shelf play facilities but rather see the entire park as an opportunity for adventure, exploration and playfulness. This approach has been confirmed by the positive response we have had by face to face communication and emails that we have received from park users.
Ballast Point IMG 4659 C.Borchert 595x893 Ballast Point Park | McGregor Coxall

Ballast Point Park, image © Christian Borchert

Environmental responsibility and sustainability

  • The design philosophy for the park is underpinned by environmental responsible design principles. These are;
  • The use of recycled materials wherever possible, this included recycled compacted site fill behind the rubble walls as engineered fill to form reinforced earth walls, recycled rubble as a facing material to these walls, recycled aggregates for drainage and edging, recycled soils and mulch, recycled timber for seats, decking and building walls, the use of eco concrete for paths and walls. This concrete uses recycled aggregate and slag as a substitute for aggregate and cement in the concrete composition.
  • The design employs low energy lighting from the grid. However the park contributes energy back to the grid via 8 vertical axis wind turbines installed within the sculptural element ‘Tank 101’.
  • All site stormwater is directed to planting areas for use, excess water is collected in subsurface drains where it is discharged into wetland areas for cleaning and filtering prior to being released to the harbour.
  • Temporary irrigation has been used for a three months establishment phase for the plants. Past this point the plants have been selected to allow for no long term irrigation. To assist in this strategy, only provenance stock has been used to revegetate the site. This approach also has the benefit of promoting the reinstatement of local biodiversity.


Choi Ropiha developed together with input from Mcgregor Coxall all building components of the site.

The architectural programme for the park redevelopment includes two amenities buildings and a cliff-top shade structure. These architectural interventions work within this overall philosophy by layering the site with contemporary structures that complement the remnant site features through their materiality and industrial sensibility.

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Ballast Point Park, image © Christian Borchert

A series of finely crafted shading devices were developed as the key architectural device to link the structures around the park, which in turn bring a fine-grain textural quality to this otherwise post industrial context. These structures provide for light-filled naturally ventilated spaces with an intriguing play of light and shadow for both the amenities blocks and the shade structure.

The shading canopy is formed with golden yellow seat belt webbing complimenting the richness and colour of the sandstone cliff faces and cuttings. The webbing is woven in an interlocking pattern to allow full shade in the middle of day and dappled light in the morning and late afternoon, offering an ever changing play of light and shadow animating the structures during the course of the day.

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Ballast Point Park, image © Agnese Sanvito

Close up, one can ‘hear’ the structures as wind blowing over the structures causes minor vibrations in the webbing. In addition, one is offered an understanding of the construction and structural forces at play expressed through the tensioning system developed to form the woven canopy, alluding to the mechanics and joy of nautical crafts on the harbour.

The amenities blocks are “umbrellaed” by the canopy structure. Below the canopy are open plan modules of recycled aggregate in-situ concrete and recycled hardwood. These materials form a seamless extension of the park materiality exploiting the robustness of the site as well as bringing finely crafted elements into the composition, such as the bespoke pre-cast wash basins.

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Ballast Point Park, image © Christian Borchert

The architectural expression sits finely between abstraction and tectonic expression allowing from a distance, the eye to appreciate the shade structures as delicate textured ‘kites’ playing in the wind.

+ Project credits / data

Project: Ballast Point Park
Location: Birchgrove, NSW, Australia
Total site area: 2.50ha

Client: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
Landscape Architects: Mcgregor Coxall | Adrian McGregor [Project Director], Philip Coxall [Project Director], Christian Borchert [Project Manager], Kristin Sradbow, Jeremy Gill
Architects: Choi Ropiha | Tai Ropiha, John Choi, Steven Fighera
Structural, Civil, Hydraulic & Electrical Engineers: Northrop Engineers | Mathew Richards
Quantity Surveyors: WT Partnership | Mark Tebbatt
Graphic Designers: Deuce Design | Bruce Slorach
Lighting Consultants: Lighting, Art + Science | Peter McLean
Photo: © McGregor Coxall, Agnese Sanvito, Landscape Solutions [Tim Buckle]

+ About McGregor Coxall
McGregor Coxall Ballast Point Park | McGregor Coxall

Philip Coxall (left) and Adrian McGregor (right) | Company Directors, image courtes of McGregor Coxall

McGregor Coxall were established in 1998 with the specific aim of pursuing design innovation founded on environmental, social and economic principles. Our services cross the traditional boundaries of urbanism, landscape, culture, planning and the natural sciences to achieve innovative solutions that create value for our clients’ projects.

The design studio is directed by internationally experienced senior landscape architects and urban designers who are supported by a talented and committed team working in a collaborative environment. Since studying together in Canberra in the 1980’s, partners Adrian McGregor and Philip Coxall have worked on projects located across Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, The United Kingdom, Greece and China.

The firm has award winning experience working in a diverse range of natural and built environments in the Australasian region and has completed over 150 projects. We regularly collaborate with other firms and disciplines either as lead consultant or as a design team member.

In 2007 the company was selected as one of 22 finalists in the Telstra NSW small business awards from 4000 received entries. McGregor Coxall have just been awarded the Topos International Landscape Architecture practice of the Year 2009 for our projects and environmental philosophy. The German based Topos Award [] has been presented three times previously as a European Landscape Award and is now an international award.

The firm has been published in numerous Australian, European and Asian journals and awarded first prizes in three prestigious international design competitions including the Parramatta Road and Green Square Town Centre projects also receiving merit for the 530ha Hellenikon park competition in Athens and the Magok urban precinct in Korea. The Former BP Park project in North Sydney recently won five awards including the prestigious state award for excellence in landscape architecture in NSW.

Supporting our design services are efficient project management skills which have been demonstrated across a wide selection of project scales ranging from whole city regions to fine grain site designs.

+ All images and drawings courtesy of McGregor Coxall

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Category: Landscape, Selected

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