Sydney Biennale:
Cockatoo Island

by Philip Crowther


This hypothetical project resulted from investigations into the abandoned shipyards at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. The existing infrastructure and the site’s prominent location made it an ideal location for the temporary exhibitions of the Sydney Art Biennale. From this starting point the brief was developed for an integrated system of festival hardware and operating systems that would integrate with the existing spaces and facilities of the island. The overall festival system was based on floating structures and collapsible buildings; designed for disassembly. With this system the whole harbour could become the site for temporary exhibitions and events. Cultural activities would be free roaming in time and space.
The festival system would be assembled from three types of constructed elements: the floating barge, the shipping container, and the collapsible building. The barges would transport festival hardware to remote site in the harbour and support exhibitions and performances; either remaining there to support the event or returning to the island (home base) to re-stock. Standard shipping containers would take advantage of existing infrastructure and shipping systems and be used to both transport equipment and to house temporary activities. Collapsible temporary buildings would be integrated with permanent infrastructure on the island.

1. Cockatoo Island site plan with floating infrastructure | Philip Crowther

2. Temporary structures as spatial intrusions | Philip Crowther

3. Regeneration and reclamation of the harbour’s edge | Philip Crowther

This project offers a systemic way to stitch together the potential of the abandoned industrial sites with the vibrant harbour-side communities of Sydney. Though temporary in nature, the proposal offers a new life cycle that reuses waste sites and connects them with a permanent social and cultural structure. The proposal offers a future to the disused site while respecting its past through adaptive reuse.