Finalist 2023

Queenscliff Ferry Terminal

F2 Architecture / Searoad Ferries

The Queenscliff Ferry terminal located in Wadawurrung Country creates a destination that celebrates the ferry passage between Queenscliff and Sorrento.

The Queenscliff Ferry terminal located in Wadawurrung Country, serves the ferry route that links the east and west sides of Port Phillip Bay. The design is the result of a 10 year Masterplan to create a landmark building that improves the passenger capacity and efficiency of the ferry operation, and the quality of the passenger experience.

The new Terminal creates a destination that celebrates the passage between Queenscliff and Sorrento. The design engages with the unique coastal setting and local history, resolving a complex functional program in a way that is specific to its prominent foreshore location.

Design Brief:

The Design Brief for the Queenscliff Ferry Terminal marries the functional requirements central to the operation of the ferry with broader social and economic objectives.

The brief recognized the potential and value in a landmark building that would celebrate the passage between Queenscliff and Sorrento, and the opportunity for the facility to be a catalyst for employment and an economic benefit to Queenscliff and the broader Surf coast region.

The efficiency of passenger flow and the range of facilities available to passengers underpins the commercial viability of this essential ferry service. The existing facilities had become degraded and unable to cope with the 10,000 people per day during peak season.

During the pre-design phase the brief was expanded to include a broader Public Realm agenda to engage the project with key aspects of the natural and built context, existing community paths and rituals, and the rich maritime history of Queenscliff.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

The central concepts that have guided the design methodology and response for the project have evolved from the celebration of journey and passage.

It became apparent at the beginning of the project that a sophisticated design methodology was required in order to realize the full potential of the project. A Masterplan process was adopted to draw out and tie together the distinct threads of the project;

  • The history of the historic passage dating back more than 6000 years.
  • The maritime history of Queenscliff including the nearby historic Lifeboat Shed and pier, circa 1923.
  • The Functional Brief incorporating operational requirements that are central to the viable operation of the ferry service.
  • A Public Realm agenda to engage the project with the local community.
  • Sustainable design principles, approach and opportunities.
  • The unique coastal landscape setting and site ecology.
  • Consideration of the project in terms of the regional social and economic benefits.

The resulting design response captures the functional brief requirements within a simple linear arrangement, anchored by arrival and departure spaces.

The design concept is an overarching sculptural roof form, a singular expression of shelter tailored to the specific requirements of each orientation;

  • Frames arrival and departure, public spaces and paths, views, and local rituals.
  • Provides shelter from the harsh maritime conditions and climate.
  • References the coastal landform character and historic boat shed.
  • Conceals rooftop plant equipment and screens the passenger gantry.
  • An efficient and cost-effective structure suitable for the harsh maritime conditions.
  • The arched structure provides an elegant and efficient way of achieving the large cantilevers.

In adopting a Masterplan approach, the path was opened to exceed the design brief requirements and engage the design process with a broader local and regional context, the significant history of the site, and the landscape character of the unique location.

Design Excellence

The project is Australia’s largest vehicle ferry service and sets a new benchmark for Ferry Terminal design in Australia and possibly internationally. The sculptural form provides a maritime gateway to Queenscliff and celebrates the historic passage between Queenscliff and Sorrento.

The design delivers a unique passenger experience and greatly improved efficiency of the operation and the flow of patrons. The two level facility doubles the ferry capacity as passengers board from the first floor while vehicles are loaded and unloaded at ground level. Complex operational and function programmatic relationships have been worked through to create a design with simple and clear access, allowing easy ferry passage to all patrons.

The architectural concept is an arched structure and roof form that has been unified into a single figure that houses the many complex functional requirements. The shell structure provides protection from solar gain and weather to all sides of the building. The structure also creates a series of sheltered public spaces around the perimeter of the building and has been tailored to frame the paths and views that engage the local rituals, paths, and historic structures. The most prominent of these gestures is a new boardwalk that flows through the length of the building. The boardwalk links the existing coastal walking path with a new lookout point located at the end of a previously inaccessible rock groyne, terminating in a commissioned public artwork and historical interpretation.

The coastal location has a number of environmental and climactic challenges with severe temperature fluctuation, wind and rain, and tidal movements. Materials were chosen for durability and low maintenance given the extreme marine conditions and heavy ferry terminal use.

The building has quickly become a local landmark, with a singular bold design that carefully stiches facilities that service both passing tourists and the local economy.

Design Innovation

The material used to clad the building 445 grade stainless steel, has not previously been used in this form or extent of application in Australia. While uncommon in an Australian context, the material is highly durable and perfectly suited to the harsh maritime environment commonly found on the southern coast of Australia. Implementing innovative materials that do not require continued replacement, significantly reduces the embodied energy when considered over an extended life cycle.

Through the use of multiple full scale physical prototypes, the building’s exterior has been tested and developed in order to ensure its longevity and suitability for purpose. The key elements have been designed, physically tested at scale, and refined to combine elegance with strength and economy.

The result is a building with a seamless material presence, whereby the fascias, soffits, facades, flashings, and buttresses are all constructed from stainless steel. The minimal number of visible breaks within the façade combined with the singularity of material fully expresses the concept of shelter in the sculptural form of the finished building.

This level of resolution is only possible through rigorous detailing, and a collaborative relationship with the suppliers, fabricators, and installers. The curving of the cladding and fabrication of the fascias and fixings was carried out by local contractors. Working with local contractors was highly important as it is crucial in being able to test and develop elements of a building to suit the specific conditions of the location.

The passenger gantry, typically an element that is separate to the building has instead been integrated architecturally. This has been achieved by working with a local manufacturer to integrate the gantry with the design through its siting, layout, lighting, and operation. The cantilevered end of the sculptural roof form provides weather protection to the gantry during passenger boarding.

Design Impact

The central concepts that have guided the project have evolved from our understanding of place to ensure that the design response is specific to its unique brief and location. The development of the design concept to ensure it integrates well into the unique Queenscliff coastal land form has not precluded the impact of the design being far reaching.

For the client, Searoad Ferries, the largest employer in Queenscliff, the new Terminal enables a substantial increase in passenger capacity to deal with the growing number of passengers, particularly during the summer peak.

For the Queenscliff Township and community, the success of the Terminal translates directly to an increase in the local tourism economy of Queenscliff and the region. In addition, the local community has gained a new focal point and meeting places, in particular the new boardwalk and lookout point that is an integral feature of the new Terminal building.

At the Victorian State level, the Ferry Terminal is a catalyst for employment and economic growth, bringing significant economic benefit to Geelong and the Surf Coast Region. The ferry service is central to the tourist trail between the Twelve Apostles and the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, carrying 10,000 passengers per day at peak season and one million passengers per year. The ferry service also connects businesses in Geelong and the west side of Port Phillip Bay to the Mornington Peninsula.

The project has also positively impacted the local ecology through revegetation and the reconstruction of coastal sand dunes on and around the site.

The less tangible but equally important impact of the project brings us back to the central concepts of place and passage that underpin the design. The project has created a destination that celebrates the passage between Queenscliff and Sorrento, highlighting a rich history that spans generations.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

The ferry terminal has been designed with a focus on long term sustainability underpinned by four key areas of sustainable design investigation.

Protection of Land and Ecological Systems.

  • A focus on the ecological systems due to the complexity and sensitivity of the location
  • The regeneration of coastal sand dunes and native vegetation.
  • The reconstructed rock groyne structure reduces sand movement and erosion of the beach and promotes new marine life.
  • An on-site sewerage treatment plant.

Siting and Urban Design.

  • Landscape treatment to the car park and reclaimed land has reduced the heat sink effect.
  • The shell structure provides protection from solar gain and creates a series of linked liveable areas around the perimeter of the building in a location that suffers extreme heat, cold, and wind.
  • The design considers and has made provision for rising flood levels.
  • Pedestrian traffic around the site has been improved by linking with existing coastal walking paths.
  • A new boardwalk has been built over the existing rock groyne, terminating in a lookout and historical interpretation.

Energy Efficiency and Consumption.

  • Passive thermal design principles have been adopted to prevent heat gain and loss and reduce the dependence on mechanical systems.
  • Dynamic thermal modelling has been carried out to ensure the roof, walls, and glazing work as an integrated high performance system.
  • Optimisation and selection of fittings and equipment.

Selection of Building Materials and Processes.

  • Due to the extreme site conditions, only materials that have proven long term durability and maintenance criteria have been considered. Consequently the embodied energy is able to be amortised over a long life cycle. This would not be possible with the materials most commonly selected for their sustainable and recyclable properties.
  • The involvement of local manufacturing and fabrication has contributed to a lowering of the carbon footprint generated in realising the project.

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