River Bend in South Bank, Brisbane, is one of the last key publicly accessible riverfront sites left with uninterrupted views of the river and city. It re-imagines the public realm and creates an iconic river edge destination for the city. The Client, South Bank Corporation, sought to create a ‘must see' destination which activated an under-utilised part of South Bank. The client's vision was for a built form which embodied an experience and expression unique to Queensland. It was essential that it contribute to a sense of address for the precinct, as well as engage with the river by providing active edges, improved connectivity and access to the river's edge.
The reimagining of the site at South Bank delivers significant green infrastructure for the changing demographics of Brisbane. The urban design approach for this project responds to both South Bank's role as the main tourist destination for the city of Brisbane as well as the increasing open space needs of the burgeoning inner city population.
The key urban design response to these objectives was to extend and peel away from the river's edge to create a new public River Green. The river and the River Green take centre stage with the restaurant buildings providing a relatively quiet yet complimentary backdrop. The river is given back to the public and together with the newly created city views, forms the centrepiece and focus for this precinct.
This project also explores unique models for retail dining experiences. An hierarchy and progression of abstracted vernacular roofs provide shelter and enclosure along the Promenade, from a smaller scale, respectful and low key interface with the Arbour, out toward a bolder, more sculptural built form at the river edge. A rich, layered edge with the Promenade is created by bending and stepping the building footprint, providing a variety of outdoor dining areas and courtyard retreat spaces. Whilst not uncommon in housing, the outdoor room is less commonly explored in the retail environment which favours more of a veranda or street edge approach.
In this project, legibility and identity for each restaurant is defined with a discrete outdoor room for each tenancy. Each restaurant and outdoor room has a unique focus and experience with the landscape beyond - the River Green, the Promenade, the internal frangipani garden, the new Sidon Street Plaza and the Promenade lookout, and finally the river, mangroves and city.
This approach captures uniquely subtropical lifestyle of Brisbane and a sense of place whilst promoting a varied engagement with the public realm. The materials palette has been kept deliberately simple and bold to reinforce the clarity of the landscape and built forms. The simplicity of this palette is none-the-less sophisticated. A very high standard of finish with quality materials supports the iconic aspirations of the project. River Bend has updated the benchmark of the community's expectations of the place of our River in our city. The precinct captures a uniquely subtropical lifestyle and sense of place whilst promoting a variety of activities and experiences that engage the river.