Key to the vision of the $60m White Bay Cruise Terminal, a new cruise facility located at Australia’s iconic Sydney Harbour, was the adaptive reuse of an existing crane gantry as the main support structure.

The solution, designed by engineers Taylor Thomson Whitting in collaboration with architects Johnson Pilton Walker architects (JPW), is a perfect example of marrying the old with the new.

The terminal site is located on the Balmain Peninsula, and was previously occupied by the world’s first dedicated international terminal. It was originally used to store shipping containers and had an overhead travelling crane running along a pair of deep crane rail girders on 35 sets of trussed stanchions.

The project involved the demolition of the cargo shed’s roof and wall cladding, leaving the pre-existing structure in its original condition to showcase the site’s historic nature.

The 1960s structure had been added to progressively as uses changed from storage to other functions, so there was already a strong story of adaptation. The concept proposed draping a new free form metal roof from the retained structure, anchoring the building back into the cliff with a series of amenities pods, and opening up to the harbour views with full height glass walls on three sides.

The team explored several options before settling on a roof structure of curved tubular steel trusses and purlins made from BlueScope steel. These span the gantry columns, with the roof sheeting suspended below them.

The new roof is 140 metres long by 55 metres wide and is clad with aluminium Aramax both externally and internally. The curved roof structure is hung from twin SHS/RHS trusses at 18m centres supported by the existing staunchions. The Aramax sheeting is supported via curved 457CHS purlins at approximately 11m centres. There are 2800 roof cleats, each of which is on a different angle.

Main Roof

The open interior

The development and coordination of the geometric roof shape was made possible through the use of advanced computer modelling technologies such as Rhino, Grasshopper and Strand7. The single parametric model was developed to allow the many aspects of the project to be assessed through the various iterations of the design. The computer model was used for structural analysis, checking roof drainage, detailing roof sheeting cleats and building a wind tunnel model.

The billowing wave roof fulfils several roles, including thermal, acoustic and fire safety functions. It provides an extremely flexible and large column-free space internally, with all of the building’s inner workings contained in the pod-like structures stacked along the northern edge. These shade the building in summer and reference the shipping containers that previously populated the site.

The project won the large building category at this year’s Association of Consulting Structural Engineers’ NSW Awards.