Northshore Riverside Park

The psychology of imaginative play and the spirit of the river’s edge are explored in this new park in Brisbane.

As the Brisbane River twists and turns through the city there are many public places where the banks are contained by seawalls and adorned with boardwalks. While these places provide opportunities to be at the water’s edge, there are very few spots where you can actually feel the river sand between your toes. By removing 100 metres of seawall at Hamilton and reinstating a tidal river edge, Conics has created a place to reconnect with the river in a tactile way.

The Northshore Riverside Park is part of a new suburb being developed approximately six kilometres north-east of the CBD. It was once a river inlet rich with wildlife and an Aboriginal hunting and fishing area, but European settlement saw the banks restrained by a stone seawall. In the 1950s the inlet was filled and the area was privately utilized for wharves and industry, disconnecting the public from the water. The post-industrial site is now masterplanned as a high-density mixed-use development to house up to ten thousand residents. The 2.5-hectare park creates a landscaped threshold between the future built area and the river, and provides a place for residents and visitors to play.

A landscaped threshold between the future built area and the river has been created.

A landscaped threshold between the future built area and the river has been created.

Image: Port of Brisbane Corporation

With a portion of the seawall removed and the landform sculpted to more closely reflect a natural tidal river edge, the new park falls gently to the waterline. Topographical manipulations define and frame view corridors that will allow sightlines from the future development through the park to the water. The resulting moulded terrain offers a range of flat and undulating lawns, all accessed by a paved riverfront promenade that meanders through the park and demarcates the green space from the sandy beach fronting the river.

There is something about a sandy beach and a watery vista that engages the imagination. Children of all ages are drawn to the sand to run, walk and play at the water’s edge. There is an urge to get creative with the natural river sand, to build sandcastles and scribe names in giant letters. Large climbable shell sculptures rise out of the sand, their scale and form offering multiple modes of play. Wide, shallow steps connect the sandy beach to a sculpture-filled play area while also providing seating at the promenade’s edge. Sadly, the river’s resident bull sharks disallow swimming; however, the beach still facilitates aquatic play with boats, kayaks and canoes.

Rather than the conventional swings and slippery dips, the play area comprises a collection of large sculptural artworks inspired by the region’s flora and fauna. The sculptures are located among grassy mounds and grouped plantings. Timber “mangrove pod” posts salvaged from the demolished wharf stand atop a small hill like a grove of tall trees; giant cast aluminium “pandanus nuts” and carved timber “fishbones” beckon investigation. The elements promote creative play by providing places to climb up and on and offering places to explore. While the objects reference the flotsam and jetsam of the river they are somewhat unfamiliar, inviting exploration without dictating how they should be interacted with. Playful and beautiful, the sculptural elements belong to the place and engage the imagination of kids and adults alike.

Built elements such as picnic shelters are nestled into the sculpted landform.

Built elements such as picnic shelters are nestled into the sculpted landform.

Image: Nic Rounsefell

Large level areas for performances or kicking balls are defined by shade trees and mounded edges. The undulating lawns create hidden places of refuge and elevated places of prospect, allowing the individual to find comfort in both relaxation and play. As little kids run around and over, roll down and hide behind the green hills, big kids recline against the hills on the cool grass under the shade of advanced fig trees recycled from the old site. Built elements such as picnic shelters are nestled into the sculpted landform. They create an intimate relationship between built and natural environment and provide semi-private realms for groups to gather while still interacting with the greater landscape.

The paved promenade widens as it passes the copper-clad cafe building, providing a generous area for people to gather while cyclists and strollers continue to pass by. In front of the cafe a graphical timeline is sandblasted into the pavers. The text refers to the site’s history, the former seawall line is plotted, and the original site contours are marked. Kids intuitively interact with the graphic elements by following the linear markings like make-believe tightropes and jumping from word to word, while adults are drawn in by the historical story that the work reveals.

The Northshore Riverside Park demonstrates an understanding of both the spirit of the river’s edge and the psychology of imaginative play. The strength of the project is that there are no traditional designated spaces to play and yet it invites play anywhere and everywhere. By restricting the introduction of new elements and focusing on reconfiguring and reinstating forms and materials of the site, the park has a sense of belonging to the place. While the park is proving to be a popular destination for Brisbane families, the vibrant urban realm that it is intended to serve is yet to be developed. When the surrounding land is populated and residents spill out of their offices and apartments to play at the river’s edge the true potential of the park will be realized.


Landscape architect
Fortitude Valley , Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Architecture pdt. Architects
Artists, art curator and park furniture Urban Art Projects in collaboration with Fiona Foley and Jen Marchant
Civil and structural engineer Bornhorst and Ward
Irrigation Irrigation Design Australia
Landscape architecture assistance pdt. Architects
Landscape contractor Scape Shapes
Lighting Webb Australia Group
Signage consultant Dot Dash
Site details
Location Hamilton,  Brisbane,  Qld,  Australia
Category Landscape / urban design
Type Public / civic
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 9 months
Construction 12 months
Client Port of Brisbane Corporation



Published online: 28 Apr 2016
Words: Emily Wall
Images: Nic Rounsefell, Port of Brisbane Corporation, Scott Burrows


Landscape Architecture Australia, February 2010

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