As one of the busiest and most popular coastal trails in Australia, and due to significant erosion from a storm surge that slammed Sydney in June 2016, the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk was closed over concerns for the safety of its users. This granted an opportunity to rethink, redevelop and restore the famous track, also home to the heritage listed Waverley Cemetery, and allowed ASPECT Studios to design and document the new extension, building on the successful clifftop walk completed just over 10 years ago.
The cultural and heritage items impacted by the storm included a section of the cemetery terrace and severely rundown sandstone retaining walls that were partially collapsed or imminently in danger of collapsing.
The project involved constructing an elevated boardwalk that resolves complex geotechnical, structural and heritage conditions. The 515m long walkway is part of the nationally significant 9km coastal walk from South head to Maroubra, located above Sydney’s Eastern cliff tops. It is in equal parts a ribbon of movement though the sublime eastern cliff top landscape and a place to stop and embrace the experience of this unique cultural, environmental and heritage landscape asset.
A 3000m² area of the gully has been redeveloped in conjunction with necessary remediation works including extensive native endemic planting, erosion control, capturing and filtering stormwater through tiered biofiltration swales and hanging swamp which also helps naturally irrigate these areas.
The existing vegetation below the cemetery wall is a mixture of remnant indigenous coastal heath with high scientific value and degraded weed areas. The coastal walk was sited to avoid any significant vegetation, with weed areas being protected to prevent loss of surrogate habitat for native small birds. The project resolves these complex conditions and retains the significant cliff top heath community along the exposed sandstone platforms.
As the final resting place of more than 100,000 people, considered placement allows walkers to be positioned lower than the adjacent cemetery grounds to respect the sacredness of the place, eliminating any visual impact of the walk from the cemetery. Lookout points provide pedestrians a point to stop and contemplate, where they can absorb the stunning surrounds and spectacular views along the rigid sandstone all the way to North Bondi while still allowing space for joggers to pass by.
The walk has been designed with an underlying emphasis on sensitivity of place. The sandstone geology which has cranks and fissures is framed and expressed in the form of the lookouts and segmental track. The change in materials of the walkway shifts in micro-environments along the length of the walk and where areas of endemic vegetation occur.
The project has a clear design language, using simple materials. It shifts and slides along the movement path to reveal the story of the cliff top landscape – including the hanging swamps, exposed rock outcrops and habitat rich ecology. The walk has improved safety, accessibility, and amenity and has also created places of prospect, which create a richness in the journey.
The walkway achieves the ambition of heightening the beautiful experience of moving along the edge of Sydney’s coastal landscape – whilst creating a publicly accessible walk with panoramic views that attract over 800,000 visitors annually and removes the pressure on the heritage listed Waverley Cemetery.