With a long history stretching back a century, Princes Pier was due for a large-scale restoration, and old met new when some of the latest technology was used to help in the revitalization.
The pier, adjacent to Station Pier in Port Phillip Bay, was originally known as ‘New Railway Pier’ but renamed Princes Pier in 1921 in honour of the royal visit by the Prince of Wales.
Built between 1912 and 1915 by the Melbourne Harbour Trust as a second railway pier in Port Melbourne, the pier was designed to handle both cargo and passengers, and also boasted office accommodation for customs officers and shipping companies as well as waiting room for passengers with movable gangways making it safer and more comfortable to board or disembark. The pier’s iconic two-level timber Gatehouse was added in 1935 to enable better monitoring of cargo and traffic on to and off of the pier.
Princes Pier was the departure point for Australian troops during the First and Second World Wars, and also the arrival point for American troops during the Second World War. In a significant peacetime role, it was the first landing point in Australia for post-war migrants with more than one million landing there between 1947 and 1969.
After the containerization boom and the last of the migrant ships in 1969, the pier fell into disrepair and eventually decommissioned in 1985. Following severe deterioration over the next two decades, the Victorian Government committed $34 million to its restoration. The works would involve construction of 196 metres of new deck, removal of the original decking beyond that point to create of a ‘forest of piles’ as an architectural centrepiece, and refurbishment and servicing of the gatehouse building to meet modern standards.
Norman Disney & Young (NDY) was appointed as services engineering consultants by Robert Bird Group (structural engineers) on behalf of Major Projects Victoria (MPV) in late 2009.
MPV appointed NDY to use Building Information Modelling (BIM) heirloom-fashion, capturing artefact and repair data for the more than 1,000 timber piles in a manner that can be accessed and examined by future generations. This was done in addition to the more ‘traditional’ BIM function of conveying detailed design data to the builder who can then augment the dataset with as-built information for the end user.
Restoring the dilapidated pier provided a number of unique obstacles.
“With the pier positioned over water, most of the services had to be designed to be installed, and maintained, from boats and barges,” says NDY project coordinator Joseph Steele. “The fact that the pier is almost one hundred years old and actually sways due to tidal movement, and that some existing structural elements didn’t allow us to support infrastructure from the deck, made for some quite complex solutions.”
Steele adds that there was some heat rejection to the bay as the gatehouse uses sea water as a cooling medium.
“We had to engage with the EPA on this matter, but were able to demonstrate that any heating effects were extremely localised and minor. However we felt that sea-water cooling was vastly preferable to exposed plant on or around the historic gatehouse, particularly given the risks of corrosion,” he says.
Project architects Lovell Chen clearly relished the challenge of recreating a landmark, re-imagined for the 21st century. The project was entered in the Heritage category of the 2012 Victorian Architecture Awards.
NDYLIGHT designed the lighting scheme for the new pier, including the dual-output Cosmopolis lighting system which allows for different intensities for normal and event uses, and the marine navigation lighting system.