Esperance Waterfront | Drawing the Past to Future
By Niriti Porwal – A Review of Esperance Waterfront, by HASSELL, in Esperance, Australia.
The town of Esperance — located 720 kilometers southeast of Perth in Western Australia — is experiencing a rapid urbanization, with the state’s population expected to more than double by 2050.
Esperance Waterfront, a 1.1-kilometer-long site, was recently developed along the coast to meet the new infrastructural needs of the town.
This project is an addition to the worldwide portfolio of landscape architecture that connects the landscape with the context for a sustainable urban environment.
Designated as a “Super Town” by the government, Esperance is earmarked for strategic development to support the growth of its town.
HASSELL was chosen as the principal consultant for this waterfront renewal project. The prime expectation was a development that would keep the essence of the city alive while accommodating the future development the town is expected to experience.
The Design – Esperance Waterfront
Wedding the Past to the Future
The design for the project draws its concept from the history of Esperance. To implement it properly, HASSELL’S design team worked with the Shire to understand the relationship of the people with the waterfront and how they see the development in the future.
The constructive conversations resulted in a few major interventions, including a reclaimed headland, a continuous revetment along the promenade, pavilions, and play space for family gatherings.
Designs that Serve All
Programmatically rich, the design includes a plethora of activities that take into account people of all age groups and interests. Reorienting the park as a family destination was an important consideration, which has made the project lively.
The entrance to the site is marked by a whale tail sculpture located at the beachside plaza at James Street. The intervention allows improved access to the waterfront and connects the site with the historic town.
Following the plaza, the reclaimed land around the historic tanker jetty was planned to provide a vast area of 11,000 square meters for public events and sports.
The improved infrastructure and tourist attractions also support new business ventures and invite private entrepreneurs and pop-up events.
Along the stretch of park, larger spaces are connected through meandering pathways and amenities such as playgrounds, seating areas, barbecue stations, bike racks, picnic shelters, shade sails, and public art.
“We are really proud of our new waterfront, which has truly enhanced the vibrancy of our town. On any given day, you can see people strolling along it, walking their dogs or simply enjoying the view.
It is very satisfying to see the waterfront being used so well and enjoyed by the community,” Malcolm Heasman, president of the Shire of Esperance, said at the waterfront’s opening.
The completion of the Esperance Waterfront Project has proved beneficial in two ways: First, it has provided the Esperance foreshore a protection from coastal erosion; second, it has enhanced the site for recreational and commercial development.
Creating a Sense of Belonging
What makes the project unique is the connection between the site and people. To create a sense of place, design decisions were made by involving historians, local artists, and graphic designers.
When one walks through the site, it narrates stories about the indigenous, natural, and early settler history of the town. The experience is enhanced by nodal points along the pathways, integrated with artistic signage.
Public art combined with distinctive flora and fauna at important places highlight significant elements such as Sammy, the adored resident seal.
The material palette is one of the creative inputs that give the project its identity and sense of belonging to Esperance. Pink granite, which is native to Esperance, was used for walls, paving, and the reclaimed jetty. Timber from the original railway line that once served the jetty is also used for benches, walkways, and playground features.
Foundation for the Future
The choice of plants for a landscape project is a crucial decision that brings inclusiveness in varied design elements. However, the specification and management of plantings, particularly ground cover and tree stock, becomes challenging in a coastline environment, explains Anthony Brookfield, principal at HASSELL.
To overcome that challenge, the existing dunal system was integrated with the revetment sea wall that runs along the site. The new wall follows the natural contour to allow extensive planting areas, thereby reducing soil erosion. More than 63,000 new plants — 70 percent of which are endemic — accentuate the landscape design of this waterfront.
More than 1,000 new trees have been planted, including Norfolk Pines, Swamp Sheoak, and Coastal Moort. The trees have been positioned prudently to strengthen the foreshore structure and also become an attractive shelter.
A New Lifeline
Esperance Waterfront has become one of the most conscious design solutions speaking to context, accommodating the future needs of a growing population, and at the same time being ecologically sensitive.
According to the Shire of Esperance’s 2015 waterfront community and tourist satisfaction survey, more than 85 percent of locals said the waterfront redevelopment met their expectations. Ninety percent of locals use the foreshore every week.
Esperance Waterfront is truly a cultural and environmental restoration for a central foreshore community.
What do you think? How can landscape projects remain true to their context and yet fulfill the needs for future development?
Full Project Credits For Esperance Waterfront :
Project Name: Esperance Waterfront
Location: Esperance, Australia
Client: Shire of Esperance
Landscape Architect: HASSELL
Scale: 8 hectares
Project Consultants: JDSi Consulting (Civil Engineer), 3E Consulting Engineers (Lighting Design), Harriot Mair Landscape Architect (Local Landscape Architect), CADSult (Irrigation), Beverley Iles (Artsource), Paperbark Technologies (Arborist), Cartman Designs/HASSELL (Architect), Scott Smalley Partnership (Structural Engineer), Griffiths Architects (Heritage Consultant), Sime Building and Construction (Construction)
Photography: Peter Bennetts
Site Plan: HASSELL
Awards: 2016 Australian Urban Design Awards – Commendation for Delivered Outcome – Large Scale
2016 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (Western Australia) Awards – People’s Choice Award
2016 Australian Institute of Architects (Western Australia) Awards – State Commendation for Urban Design
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