Howard Smith Wharves designated inaugural Heritage Hero by The National Trust of Australia

The honour recognises preservation efforts that reimagine historical sites so that patrons can further enjoy them and appreciate their significance.  The Brisbane studio has created a sustainable masterplan for the 3.4-hectare site which includes using recycled timber, water harvesting, and public gardens. According to Associate Principal David Lee, all of the buildings will occupy less than 10 percent within the entire master plan.

Originally built in 1936 along the Brisbane River, the site is a symbol for the city’s role as Queensland’s premier port. The first structure was a two-story, reinforced concrete structure that included three new berths and five storage sheds that were later added in the early 1940s. However, World War II disrupted the final stages of this portion of the project. As a result, five air-raid shelters were constructed instead. In its later lives, it also acted as a site occupied by the Water Police and storage space for the Queensland Works Department. However, due to neglect, it was demolished in the 2000s when one of the original buildings collapsed into the nearby river.

The studio is also responsible for Howard’s Hall, the largest exhibition and events space for the precinct, which marked the soft opening of the multistage rollout of the entire site. The forms echo the same simple structure of the nearby wharf structures. Its exterior is a fully glazed exposed steel frame topped with a shed-like sawtooth roof. Its interiors include operable walls that can be manipulated for various purposes. Smaller, flexible spaces including rooftop terraces and rooms of varying sizes are also available for more intimate events and allow for multiple things to go on at once. Retail and service pods are located at either end.

The hall also pays homage to its location with both its materials and forms. Its deck is made of refurbished timber found on the site. To provide a connection to the nearby riverfront, the edifice has retractable floor-to-ceiling windows.

“The scheme is all about retaining views and celebrating heritage, with a generous and contemporary public realm environment knitting it all together,” David Lee said.