Aqueous Landscapes

by Ainslie Murray and Helen Lochhead


Aqueous Landscapes traces the development of public space along the Sydney Harbour foreshore. Through 26 sites that are widely recognised for their contribution to the character and quality of Sydney’s waterfront, we show how the terrain vague of the Sydney Harbour intertidal zone has been spatially and ecologically transformed through architectural design. This collection of original works reveals how modest projects can collectively transform contaminated, compromised, and overlooked sites to create coherent and connected spaces in the urban realm.
Over the last 30 years the waterfront has been reshaped, reclaimed, remediated, restored and radically transformed in various ways through different projects. This recent greening of Sydney Harbour has transformed it from a controlled industrial working waterfront to a series of public spaces accessible to all. The prevailing language of these constructed waterfront places is contextual, open-ended, and responsive to a wide array of uses and users. Landscape prevails through careful consideration and regard for human experience and multi-species engagement. Some places require careful observation to detect, such as secluded walking tracks and swimming spots around the harbour, while others demand attention such as the lively urban places around the city centre and recently renewed waterfronts at Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, and Pyrmont. Together, these places reveal the unique and intrinsic character of Sydney and, importantly, reflect a sustained commitment to publicly accessible foreshore designed to accommodate a diverse range of conditions and activities.

1. Balls Head, Drawing by Aqueous Landscapes Team

2. Bradleys Head, Drawing by Aqueous Landscapes Team


3. Circular Quay, Drawing by Aqueous Landscapes Team

4. Crater Cove, Drawing by Joshua Sleight

5. Sydney Opera House, Drawing by Joshua Sleight

6. Unravelled Foreshore #1 Installation Detail, Photograph by Tian Fang Fang

7. Unravelled Foreshore #1, Installation detail, Photograph by Tian Fang Fang

8. Unravelled Foreshore #1, Installation detail, Photograph by Tian Fang Fang

9. Crater Cove, photograph by Billy Maynard

10. Illoura Reserve, photograph by Billy Maynard

The places in Aqueous Landscapes are explored primarily through an original 1:100 drawing that spans more than 12km of Sydney’s foreshore. This drawing is presented alongside a sequence of large-format plans, Ainslie Murray’s film ‘Intertidal Sections’, and photographs by Billy Maynard. In each work, different viewpoints and scales combine to offer an overarching sense of the constructed foreshore that illustrates the varied spatial, material, and programmatic approaches to waterfront development.

*Aqueous Landscapes was first shown in China in 2019 as part of the Shanghai Urban Space Art Season, and subsequently at the European Cultural Centre in Venice in 2021.

(The Intertidal Sections film is available here)


Ainslie Murray & Helen Lochhead
Project Management: Joshua Sleight
Photography: Billy Maynard & Tian Fang Fang
Film Production: Kuba Dorabialski
Research: Billy Maynard & Yishun Tang
Aboriginal Culture Consultant: Samantha Rich
Exhibition Design: Gregory Anderson / Trigger Design
Drawing Team: Joshua Sleight, Rebecca Fray, Valentina Kusova, Sasha Lesiuk, Shuyang Liang, Alice Mao, Lamisa Salma, Geremy Yip & Li Li Chan
Project contributions from Aspect, ASPECT|OCULUS, Bruce Mackenzie & Associates, CAB Consulting, HASSELL, Hill Thalis, JPW, Lendlease, McGregor Coxall, Neeson Murcutt, New South Wales Government Architect’s Office, North Sydney Council, Peter Walker & Partners, Sydney Institute of Marine Science & Taylor Brammer