Parramatta Escarpment Boardwalk

  • 2022

  • Architectural
    Architectual Design

Commissioned By:

City of Parramatta Council

Designed In:


The Parramatta Escarpment Boardwalk is a city-shaping piece of infrastructure for Parramatta. The boardwalk resolves one of several missing links to create continuous foreshore access along the Parramatta River for pedestrians and cyclists from Western Sydney University at Rydalmere to Parramatta Park.

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Image: Jackie Chan
Image: Guthrie Project
Image: Guthrie Project
Image: Guthrie Project
Image: Jackie Chan
Image: Guthrie Project
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  • The project builds on the City of Parramatta’s ambition to refocus the city to the river, and will contribute to making the waterfront a place for celebrations, activation and recreation. The Boardwalk, in combination with the weir, ferry wharf reconstruction and future Charles Street Square, redefines the form and maritime arrival as Parramatta Quay – making the western complement to Circular Quay. The boardwalk’s sinuous alignment adds to the site’s inherent spatial drama, elevated on piles over the river waters and following the re-shaped shale escarpment to provide a memorable entry to Parramatta.

  • The boardwalk experience parallels that of the Rivercat Ferry. Slowing ferry speed signals entry into a part of the river foreshore that is strongly characterised by its ecology (mangroves, saltmarsh, tall eucalypts) and infrastructure works (bridges, weirs, wharves). At the final bend in the river, the towers of the Parramatta’s city centre appear, rapidly growing in size. The ferry arrives at the amphitheatre before the wharf, turning in a broad sweep to set down its passengers, with the boardwalk's cyclists and pedestrians arriving opposite. An instant popular success, the boardwalk already has double the projected numbers of pedestrians and cyclists.

  • The new boardwalk geometry is threaded between navigable waterway and the escarpment. Its distinctive geometry seamlessly resolves the site’s technical challenges, reconciling tide levels and riverside ecology, public safety and ferry impact, friable shale and stairways, with sensitivity to proximate heritage-listed weir and bridge. The path is episodic; longer and straighter in some sections, and more curving and sinuous in others. New staircases connect to two streets and a school, significantly improving accessibility to the riverfront and city centre. The night image is compelling, with inset low-level green lights augmenting the navigational markers and the rhythm of the pole lighting.

  • The project evolved through the intense scrutiny of successive risk workshops. At the community meeting the main question was – “when will it be finished?”. However in order to be constructed within a tight budget, the project went to tender three times, with on-going rationalisation of the structure, landscape, public art and various connections to Stewart Street. Some of these elements have been deferred to a future time. The boardwalk’s robust structure is designed to withstand the intermittent floods, some extreme. Path widths, materials, alignments and lighting are configured to subtly adjust the atmosphere along the path. In this way, the path will gently diminish in intensity as it leaves the city and travels eastwards; conversely, when arriving from the east, the path will progressively build a sense of anticipation as people approach the city centre and its expansive urban riverfront.