A view of the proposal looking back towards the city from the newly created public square
Cahill Expressway Circular QuayEdit profile
The Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay is to be given a second chance at life under new plans to
radically transform it into a multi-function events and recreation space with an integrated transport hub.
Long time calls for the Cahill Expressway to be demolished to remove this so-called scar from the city has
prompted young design firm IRISstudio to envisage the existing structure in a new way by tapping into the
hidden potential and structural integrity of the existing Cahill Expressway.
The reconfigured Cahill Expressway will see the upper tier handed over to pedestrian use, creating
elevated parklands with spectacular views of the Harbour whilst providing a strong link across the city.
A public square floats over the Harbour servicing events and festivals in addition to providing people
with a greater connection to the waters edge. Trams will replace buses on Alfred Street building upon
the City of Sydney’s plans to extend the light rail network to the northern end of the CBD and creating a
pedestrian friendly zone. The vehicle link will be transferred to the central tier, pushing the trains to a new
underground railway station whilst the ferry terminals are reconstructed to create a direct link with the new
elevated parklands, forming a natural amphitheatre with Sydney Harbour set as the stage.
The proposed a ‘green’ link across the city, will seamlessly connect the botanic gardens to observatory
hill. Immediately creating a dynamic walking and recreational route, in turn revitalising the perimeter edges
of the city. In the long term, the Cahill Expressway will become the primary pedestrian and bike route
between the City North, Circular Quay and Barangaroo. The ‘green’ link has been designed to facilitate
temporary and semi-permanent pavilions that would be installed in conjunction with one of the many
festivals, events, or exhibitions that Sydney hosts.
IRISstudio’s most significant design decision is to relocate cars from the upper tier to the central tier. This
will allow for the success of the ‘green’ link to occur as well as retaining the importance that this road has
in relation to providing drivers with the opportunity to travel across one of the most spectacular roadways
in the world. To remove vehicle access completely would create traffic problems on the already busy city
streets and Harbour tunnel.
By relocating the railway line and Circular Quay station underground provided IRISstudio with the
opportunity to create an integrated transport hub. The proposed hub will seamlessly link ferry, tram, rail,
and bus passengers. As a result of this new transport interchange, it is possible to then substantially clear
the ground plane of excessive and unnecessary buildings are currently situated beneath the Expressway,
thus improving pedestrian flows and minimising the ‘barrier’ effect that the Cahill Expressway boasts in its
present form. The removal of this barrier at the ground plane immediately opens up the Customs House
forecourt to a direct visual connection to Sydney Harbour significantly improving the quality and size of the
The redesigned ferry terminals will provide a multitude of functions in addition to servicing commuter
ferry requirements. The form of the terminals allow for direct pedestrian access to the upper tier of the
Expressway via a vegetated pathway. Terraced seating in amphitheatre form has been designed as a
place for city workers to stop for lunch and will allow the public to have prime viewing opportunities for
events that occur on Sydney Harbour such as Vivid Festival and new years eve fireworks displays in
addition to events that would take place on the new public square. The designed square is large enough
to cater for a vast array of events that would attract thousands of additional visitors to Sydney every year.
Within the new ferry terminals are function spaces that cantilever out over the Harbour in addition to new
restaurants and cafes that will enhance the usability of this incredible site on the Harbour.
The fact is, something needs to be done and something is going to be done to the Cahill Expressway and
IRISstudio’s proposal demonstrates the ability to be sensitive to existing structures whilst satisfying the
city’s needs through making design decisions that consider both short and long term strategies for the city
whilst providing the greatest benefit the greatest number of people.