Sydney Fish Market has been a New South Wales (NSW) institution since 1966, drawing more than 2M visitors a year. The market is currently housed in an adapted paper mill, and as its appeal has grown, questions have been raised about its suitability as a cultural landmark. In 2016, the NSW state government announced redevelopment plans, with the goal of turning Sydney Fish Market into a world class attraction, and the catalyst of a multimillion-dollar revitalisation of the Blackwattle Bay precinct.
We provided initial support to the government’s delivery agency, Infrastructure New South Wales (INSW) helping run an international architectural design competition for the new market, won by Danish firm 3XN, with local architects BVN. We then worked with 3XN and BVN to provide structural, civil and marine engineering and now sit client-side, assuring the design as technical advisor.
Finding the right location for the new market was critical. Options that complied with design constraints, zoning laws and location factors such as existing transport links and the need to reinvigorate the bay area were slim. We led extensive stakeholder engagement, immersing ourselves in market operations to observe and interact with the wholesalers and retailers who call the market home to ensure they could see the benefit of locating to a new facility, and that the new market would meet their needs.
The result was the decision to locate the market extending into the water of Blackwattle Bay, next door to the existing market. It enabled a building large enough to comfortably accommodate the workings of the market and visitors, with excellent access for commercial vehicles and pedestrians, and wonderful views across the bay itself.
Our role spanned flood risk assessments and the use of construction methodologies, including design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA), which allowed many construction elements to be manufactured offsite, making it easier to assemble onsite and limiting disruption to the local community.
We pushed for use of DfMA for both the basement and roof. The basement has been designed to be constructed from eight prefabricated precast concrete elements which will be floated or lifted into place to reduce construction time and dramatically increase safety onsite. For the roof, we were the driving force behind timber being adopted as the primary material. Because trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere, incorporating large volumes of timber into the building helps to reduce its carbon footprint overall. The roof itself is a timber grid shell structure, comprised of over 400 preassembled modules. Individual modules are made up of eight beams meeting at a star-shaped junction; junctions will be 3D-printed.
The roof supports a 10,000m2 array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, as well as a rainwater capture system that channels it into large sumps to irrigate planting along the market’s promenade.
The new development will cement Sydney Fish market’s position as Australia’s home of seafood, while also serving as the focal point of a multi-billion-dollar restoration of the Blackwattle Bay precinct. The new facility is expected to bring in millions of tourist dollars into the city while driving urban regeneration and safeguarding the operations of a national cultural institution for another 50-100 years.
On completion, Sydney Fish Market will feature the largest timber roof, by mass, in the southern hemisphere, embodying more than 1000t of carbon. The roof design will provide ventilation, allow daylight into the building interior, collect rainwater and meet a sizeable share of the market’s energy needs.
The fish market will also play a part in regenerating the marine environment. 3D printed coral elements will be attached to the parts of the building in the sea to provide new sea life habitats.