Howard Smith Wharves

Refurbished Heritage Site Catapults Brisbane as a World-Class Tourist Destination

This roughly three-hectare masterplan activates a prime, waterfront site in Brisbane and welcomes public accessibility to preserved World War II era, heritage-listed air raid shelters as well as a hybrid park that creates an entertainment and lifestyle precinct.

Four historical buildings have been meticulously restored and now include restaurants, a brewery and an events space. Additionally, three new buildings, which include a hotel set against the cliff, a new function and events facility on the riverbank, and a cocktail bar over the river, were constructed.

Read more

These buildings, however, occupy less than 10 percent of the site area, with the majority of the project dedicated to open space. Grassy areas and shady trees create a welcoming respite for the retail-inspired activity across the site. Careful urban and landscape design provides visitors with a direct link from the river’s edge and into the city.

Nearby cliffs and the lack of a direct pathway to the surrounding community previously created accessibility hurdles. In response, new lifts were integrated at each end of the site to improve access without interfering with the natural environment and existing built forms. The lifts have glass sides for optimal visibility for safety as well as views to the adjacent city and corten steel sides to reflect the industrial heritage of the site

An additional challenge was the task of rebuilding Howard’s Hall, the largest exhibition and events space in the precinct and make it function for the modern-day. Designers achieved this delicate balance by echoing the same simplicity of the nearby wharf structures with a similar sawtooth-shaped roof. The Hall’s exterior is a fully glazed exposed steel frame topped with a shed-like sawtooth roof. Refurbished timber found on the site has been used for its riverfront decks and retractable floor-to-ceiling windows provide a connection back to nature.


Howard Smith Wharves




Brisbane, Australia

Completion Date



Three hectares

Pedestrian links were integrated along the river’s edge and throughout the lifestyle precinct to create a link to the nearby downtown.

The redevelopment hosts over 21,000 guests per week and encapsulates the relaxed lifestyle apropos to the area.

Designers worked with the natural landscape, using the cliff face as a backdrop for the built form.

To improve access of the Riverwalk without interfering with the natural environment, designers integrated lifts at each end of the site.

The precinct houses multiple spaces to support the arts, such as an exhibition and events center, hotel, craft brewery and restaurants.

The new function and events facility within Howards Hall provides local organizations with a place to gather.