Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Future Domain

The Domain has significant natural and cultural heritage values and is in demand for a wide range of contemporary activities including leisure, sport, recreation, tourism and special events. Future Domain proposals promote environmental and personal health in the community by enhancing opportunities for walking and cycling, provide better facilities for Domain users, facilitate increased use of public transport and reduce the number of vehicles in the Domain and CBD.

Future Domain proposals are designed to meet Trust objectives, broader metropolitan planning objectives, and serve current and predict future community needs and uses. The implementation of the finalised projects will enable the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust to fulfil its objective of maintaining the Domain as one of the most outstanding public places in Sydney.

The proposed projects are:

These proposals were presented through a public consultation period in October 2006. The feedback obtained from this process will be used to guide the further development of recommended projects for funding and development. Successful recommendations may form part of a consolidated proposal leading up to the Garden's bicentenary in 2016, or may be pursued independently over the next 10 years.

The Trust engaged social research group Urbis JHD to facilitate the public consultation process for these projects. Consultation included public surveys on-site in the Domain, as well as information and feedback sessions during October 2006.

Click here to download the final Full report (without appendices) or

Improvements to the Domain carpark

The NSW Government’s 2005 City of Cities: A Plan for Sydney’s Future encourages sustainable transport options through improvements to city infrastructure, transport interchanges and metropolitan parking policies, as well as guidelines to encourage walking and cycling. There will be an increased need for car and bus parking on the edge of the city.

The Domain Carpark is in need of improvement to its amenities, functionality and aesthetic appearance, and could potentially be utilised more efficiently than at present. This renovation could be designed to accommodate features to complement State Government plans, such as an interim bus layover and increased city-fringe parking, while enhancing existing green space and incorporating sustainable design features.

The two options proposed to improve the Domain carpark are based on an analysis of current use, and opportunities to improve facilities and aesthetics on the eastern edge of the Domain.

Option 1
This proposition includes enhanced landscaping to the perimeters at Sir John Young Crescent and St Marys Road, and facelifts to the car park façade. Improved access between the carpark, the Art Gallery, the Botanic Gardens and Domain, and the CBD would also be built into plans, preferably including a covered or underground walkway and security lighting. Option 1 maintains the same capacity and general layout.

Option 2
Option 2 includes all of the changes to the amenity and aesthetics of the car park from Option 1. Further to this, Option 2 will also redesign the ground level and entrance/exit points to facilitate a bus/coach layover and may include limited retail amenities such as a fuel station or convenience store, or services deemed to be ancillary to the operation of the carpark.

This option also includes increasing the capacity of the carpark by one or two storeys, either on top of the existing carpark or by excavating to increase the floor space in the lower storeys. Parkland would be retained on the roof of the renovated structure.

An increase to the carpark height by one or two parking layers would allow redesigning and landscaping of the area above the carpark to improve this space as a green corridor between the Domain and other nearby parklands such as Cook & Phillip Park and Hyde Park. The following improvements would result:

  • a gentler slope and lighted pathways across the space between the carpark and Art Gallery Road
  • re-engineering of the roof to allow new garden plantings
  • improved sports facilities
  • sustainability features such as rainwater collection to reduce Trust use of drinking water for irrigation purposes
  • potentially covering the rail entrance.

Increased parking capacity and hence revenue may allow for reducing car access and parking in part of Mrs Macquaries Road, allowing better and safer pedestrian access without reducing revenue from this source.

Both options will consider sustainability factors such as water harvesting and the use of natural light and ventilation to reduce energy consumption.

The area above the car park has also been suggested as a venue for some events, either with stages facing away from Woolloomooloo or for those events with lower noise impacts such as garden shows. This would reduce pressure on access to the Phillip Precinct.

Any proposed redevelopment of the carpark to incorporate more spaces and/or bus lay-overs requires a formal feasibility study and business case, which will also consider closures of parking spaces in Mrs Macquaries Road.

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Better pedestrian access at the northern end of Mrs Macquaries Road

The Yurong Precinct is the north-eastern area of the Domain, enclosed by Farm Cove and Woolloomooloo Bay. This area is unique as the only location in the Sydney Central Business District where unaltered foreshore sandstone outcrops can still be readily seen. Curiously, together with a substantial part of the Woolloomooloo Precinct, this area also largely retains the character of a consciously modelled landscape that was established from the early 19th century to the early 20th century.

In an effort to conserve the distinctive character of this area, while still maintaining a safe and accessible public green space, the Trust is proposing four alternatives for the ‘northern loop’ of Mrs Macquaries Road. These are outlined below:

  1. The first traffic change proposal is to increase the area available for people and green space by altering the road to turn traffic short of Mrs Macquaries Point by approximately 100 m, closer to the Fleet Steps. Vehicular access for cars and buses would otherwise remain the same.
  2. The second alternative excludes all vehicles from the entire northern loop of Mrs Macquaries Road. The alignment of the road would be retained for its heritage significance; however, it would be changed to a pedestrian thoroughfare.
  3. The third alternative is to exclude buses only from the northern loop of Mrs Macquaries Road.
  4. The fourth alternative is to exclude cars only from the northern loop of Mrs Macquaries Road.

Where car and/or bus access to Mrs Macquaries Point is reduced, the Trust will consider arrangements for drop off zones and access for people with limited mobility, as well as school and tour groups. A shuttle bus or people mover from the Domain Carpark to various drop-off points along Mrs Macquaries Road may be an option in this regard. Any options to restrict vehicle access will retain a service road for emergency vehicles and maintenance.

All options require the Trust to offset lost parking spaces and associated revenue; for example, by increasing the capacity of the Domain Carpark. All options include complementary landscaping in the area, as described elsewhere. Ideally there should be no net loss of green space in any of the options considered. Landscaping options are considered further here.

Facilities within the Yurong Precinct, such as paths, toilets, interpretative signs and power generation for events, will also be assessed and upgraded as needed as part of this project.

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Beautification and landscaping of the Domain

Mrs Macquaries Point – Yurong Precinct

The Yurong Precinct is the north-eastern area of the Domain, enclosed by Farm Cove and Woolloomooloo Bay. This area is unique as the only location in the Sydney Central Business District where unaltered foreshore sandstone outcrops can still be readily seen. Curiously, together with a substantial part of the Woolloomooloo Precinct, this area also largely retains the character of a consciously modelled landscape that was established from the early 19th century to the early 20th century.

The Trust has already begun landscaping work to improve the area around Mrs Macquaries Point. This includes some basic bush regeneration and increased plantings of indigenous flora around the Woolloomooloo side of the Point. The Trust plans to continue landscaping the area in this way.

Considerations are also being given to ‘un-doing’ some of the intervention of the late 19th and early 20th century, such as revealing more of the natural sandstone terraces and shelves that are currently concealed beneath landfill. This was foreshadowed in the Domain Masterplan.

As well as these changes to landscape, the Trust is considering increasing the number of signs and other forms of interpretation to enhance visitor knowledge and appreciation of the European, Aboriginal and vegetation heritage of the Point.

Connecting to the Harbour (Yurong Precinct)

Aquatic plants such as the tiny microscopic phytoplankton of the oceans as well as the larger seaweeds that we see washed up on our beaches are not usual features in a botanic garden. However, in its mission to inspire the appreciation and conservation of plants, the Trust believes that this underwater ‘garden’ has much to offer.

The heritage seawall around Farm Cove effectively separates the Garden from the water. This also extends along the eastern side of the Yurong Precinct around Woolloomooloo Bay; however, this section is currently in a degraded condition and requires maintenance to improve public safety and amenity. This need for renovation provides an ideal opportunity to revitalise the natural vegetation landscape and the rock edge, and improve the connection with the Harbour.

This project proposes the construction of a small jetty or more ambitious underwater viewing structure through which to see and understand marine flora. Depending upon the position, this may also offer a scenic vantage for harbour photography.

Redesign intrusive elements in the Woolloomooloo Precinct

The history of other uses of the Domain has left relics that are both visually intrusive and unusable, such as the electricity substation and the disused naval oil tanks in the Woolloomooloo Precinct. Where possible, the redesign of these structures would improve the amenity of this area, while screening through appropriate landscaping and better utilisation of these spaces may be a suitable alternative.

The top of the disused naval oil tanks in the Woolloomooloo Precinct could be made more aesthetically appealing as well as better utilised. Suggested developments include providing new or enhanced sports facilities or developing the area into a venue for small events. These suggestions would take pressure off the Phillip Precinct. Any such project would consider the impact on local residents.

The tanks themselves could be used to store recycled or reclaimed water. This would help the Trust to meet its 2016 objective of using no Sydney drinking water for irrigation purposes across the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain estates. Such a development would also include appropriate landscaping to reduce impact on green space.

A formal entry to the Domain (Crescent & Phillip Precinct)

The area defined as ‘The Domain’ reaches further than most visitors would realise. When originally set aside for public enjoyment, the Domain was designed so that there was a sequential progression from Hyde Park and St Marys Cathedral through to Mrs Macquaries Point. The principal access ways — including Art Gallery Road and Hospital Road - were part of this landscape, rather than the car dominated roads that today divide the various precincts.

This project aims to better define the Domain as a place for people, by enhancing boundaries and formalising the entrance landscape east of the Land Titles Office, so creating a sense of arrival. Proposals stem from the existing Domain Masterplan, and include:

  • A directory for way finding and information dissemination
  • Landscaping of the area east of the Land Titles Office, with possible inclusion of a wrought iron fence like that used elsewhere around the Domain and Royal Botanic Garden, to unify the approach to the entry gates for the Domain
  • Conserving and interpreting the 1830s Gate Lodge, together with its related gate piers, fencing, kerbing and garden curtilage
  • Replanning plantings of appropriate large trees in an informal composition to achieve shade and shelter without the enforced regularity of an avenue.

As part of redeveloping this entrance, the Trust will review the use of temporary or permanent gates to assist in managing events in the Domain and in responding to emergency evacuations or closures of the area. Any entrance or gate at this point would be considered in the context of maintaining the heritage fabric of the Domain.

In addition to the above proposals, consideration is also being given to traffic management in the area, including the intersection between St Marys Road and Art Gallery Road, and the intersection between Art Gallery Road and Hospital Road.

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Shared cyclist/pedestrian path and facilities for cyclists

The NSW Government encourages walking and cycling as an important health initiative, which also help to reduce vehicle kilometres travelled and consequently reduce vehicle emissions. Support for cycling and walking is a key part of the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation’s 25 year air quality management plan, Action for Air, and of the National Greenhouse Strategy. The NSW Metropolitan Strategy, released in December 2005, also supports improved local and regional walking and cycling networks.

Cycle strategies proposed by the RTA and the City of Sydney refer to routes around the Domain as well as areas where the Trust can contribute to improved facilities for cyclists. The Trust is considering the most suitable route for cyclists through the Domain that best accommodate the needs of all Domain users. Three options are proposed:

  1. The first proposed route runs along Macquarie Street from the Cahill Expressway to Shakespeare Place in front of the State Library. A new path would then be constructed along the edge of the Eastern Distributor next to the Royal Botanic Gardens fence line, connecting to the Gardens’ access road leading to Mrs Macquaries Road. Cyclists then either join Mrs Macquaries Road to travel north or south, or cross the road to join existing paths, steps or elevators down to Woolloomooloo.
  2. The second proposed route runs along Macquarie Street from the Cahill Expressway and crosses Shakespeare Place. It then follows Hospital Road, crossing Art Gallery Road to join paths to St Marys Road and to the footbridge over the Eastern Distributor to access stairs and elevator down to Woolloomooloo. This may involve removing green space to widen the existing path on the Domain side of the road.
  3. The third proposed route runs along Macquarie Street from the Cahill Expressway and crosses Shakespeare Place in front of the State Library. It then follows the path along the northern boundary of the Domain’s Phillip Precinct, turns into Central Avenue and then crosses Art Gallery Road to access the footbridge over the Eastern Distributor to access stairs and elevator down to Woolloomooloo.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia states that the route between Woolloomooloo and the CBD through the Domain is one of Sydney’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares. Proposed City of Sydney cycle ways along this path need to consider the high pedestrian traffic of the pathway through the northern end of the Phillip Precinct, and how to accommodate pedestrian safety and other uses of this area.

Cyclists are more exposed to injury compared with occupants of vehicles; however, the City of Sydney suggests that keeping bikes on the road is safer than having cyclists on footpaths with pedestrians. The Trust will only consider shared paths where pedestrian safety is not adversely affected.

Where routes for cyclists are integrated with other road traffic, safety is enhanced through the use of bicycle logos and directional signage, with additional signs to inform drivers of the presence of cyclists as appropriate. Such safety considerations would need to be addressed in any planning along Art Gallery Rd or Mrs Macquaries Road.

To encourage commuter cycling, RTA and City of Sydney planning also requires facilities such as safe bicycle storage at key points such as recreation venues and other major community facilities. The Trust is considering whether such facilities can be installed within the Domain. Possible sites may include with a refurbished Domain carpark or near existing toilets at the southern end of the Phillip Precinct.

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Safe jogging route away from other pedestrians and vehicle traffic

The Domain has always been visited and used by a broad range of people. The multi-use of Trust sites is encouraged; however, a key objective for the Trust is to provide a safe and tranquil setting for the appreciation and conservation of plants.

In recent years, with the growing interest in healthy living and lifestyles, the impact of active recreation pursuits has increased and these groups now compete with other visitors and tourists for access and use of the site.

The Trust is proposing new jogging tracks to allow people to continue jogging in the Royal Botanic Garden/Domain area while minimising impacts on people who want to use the area in other ways. The provision of a safe jogging area away from vehicle traffic and other pedestrians is a priority for the Trust. This will help to reduce the number of joggers within the actual Garden where passive recreation is preferred, as well as lessen the number of people on existing footpaths around the Domain. New tracks are proposed alongside ongoing maintenance to pedestrian footpaths already in the Domain and Royal Botanic Garden.

A purpose built track may utilise a shock-absorbing material rather than bitumen, while exercise equipment could be included at strategic locations to further enhance the track’s amenity.

Two routes are proposed:

  1. The first proposed route remains outside the Royal Botanic Garden. A new synthetic running track is proposed to run along the central island between each side of the southern loop of Mrs Macquaries Road. There are limited routes available, but the idea is to keep runners away from the busy pedestrian areas near the Woolloomooloo Gate and Reception areas.
  2. The second route proposed includes a track through the Royal Botanic Garden alongside Farm Cove. This would require the addition of a synthetic running track alongside the existing path. Currently joggers prefer the grass verge but this is difficult to maintain.

Both options would also promote a route that followed a path around the back of the Art Gallery and the perimeter of the Domain carpark roofline. There are limited routes available, but the idea is to separate runners, pedestrians and traffic in the busy areas near the Woolloomooloo Gate and in front of the Art Gallery.

The design of specialised running tracks might allow for specific lengths (e.g. 3 km, 5 km, 10 km) so that runners are able to time themselves over a set distance. Selection of sites for exercise equipment will consider safety and impact on other Domain visitors. Areas suggested for these facilities include the Graveyard area of the Tarpeian Precinct and enhancing facilities in the current location at the southern end of the Phillip Precinct.

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New entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens opposite the State Library

Since the construction of the Cahill Expressway, Shakespeare Place has become an isolated wasteland between on and off ramps of the Cahill Expressway. Any link between the State Library building and the Royal Botanic Garden has been obliterated.

The entry to the Royal Botanic Garden opposite the State Library is particularly underwhelming. The Morshead Fountain has been out of use for many years now and there is little connection between this memorial to Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead and all who served with him in the two World Wars, and the surrounding landscape.

The Domain Masterplan recommends a redesign of this gate area, including negotiation with neighbours over the future of Shakespeare Place.

This proposal is at an early stage, with no actual designs proposed. If this project proceeds, a design competition could attract innovative ways to ‘fix’ this cluttered corner. Any design should include:

  • an entrance to the Royal Botanic Garden of significance to Sydney in the 21st century, and to a botanic garden of great age and stature;
  • a visual connection between the sandstone State Library (and other heritage buildings in Macquarie Street), and the landscape of the Royal Botanic Garden (including the glass Pyramid and Arc of the nearby Tropical Centre);
  • a link between the Domain on the south of the Cahill Expressway and the Royal Botanic Garden on the north side, including an improved pedestrian connection; and
  • incorporate Morshead Fountain and Desert Corps Horse Memorial in current positions, or propose new sites.

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Visitor information centre

When considering the redesign of the Royal Botanic Garden's entrance at Shakespeare Place, the Trust has also considered the need for an information/display centre to provide a welcome area to the Domain and Royal Botanic Garden. It is envisioned that such a centre would provide visitor information and wayfinding, as well as a ‘Living NSW Life Theatre’ to showcase the scientific and botanical information held by the Botanic Gardens Trust and the NSW Department of Environment & Conservation, and provide an inspiring introduction to science and evolution.

Alternatively, such a centre could be positioned closer to the main tourist routes somewhere between the Palace Gates and the Opera House, or on the eastern side of the Domain.

Wherever placed, the centre may also function as an introduction to Sydney’s cultural precinct, encompassing the Domain and Royal Botanic Garden, the Australian Museum, the NSW Art Gallery, the State Library, Sydney Museum and through to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Rocks.

Any visitor or cultural centre would have to have minimal impact on ‘green space’ in the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain; it could, for example, be predominantly underground.