Marina Point

download PDF

Key Facts

• Part of the final stages of revitalising the Cairns CBD waterfront
• Inspired by the former yacht club which helped evolve, rather than neglect, the historic evolution of the place
• Forms a courtyard precinct that helps formulate new architectural typologies expressive of the tropics

Project Data

Location: Pier Point Road, Cairns
Client: Far North Queensland Ports Corporation Limited, trading as Ports North, a company Queensland Government Owned Corporation
Year Completed: 2011
Gross Floor Area: 1500 m2


Seeing Cairns as a city of edges rather than spaces, our aim was to culminate the city’s main axis in a new public space, rather than (as originally briefed) single edifice. This aim was accomplished by translating the brief into three pavilions defining the new space:
• the Cairns Yacht Club
• a pavilion of bars and restaurants and
• a boat shed

The Club and dining pavilions form an L-shaped plan of activities addressing the space and waterfront, the latter extending out over the sea wall to engage the water. The character of the pavilions is inspired by the former Yacht Club near the site and the undulating topography surrounding Cairns, generating continuity of tilted roof forms linking the pavilions. These forms extend out and recede to create varying indoor / outdoor spatial relationships, enriched by crafted openable screens and inbuilt furnishings. The pavilion’s verandah and breezeway edges generate pathways to adjoining precincts such as Cairns Esplanade and the Reef Fleet Square building designed earlier by the same team of architects. Through these connections and architectural typology, Marina Point assumes the character of a small maritime village in its context of large scale tourism facilities.


Recently, much of Cairns waterfront architectural typology has been borrowed from elsewhere. The aim of this project was to create a new epitome of tropical lifestyle through spatial interaction, architectural form and materiality. Rather than forming an individual building, the concept was to set the pavilions around a garden, with pavilions linked by – and expressed in – undulating roofscapes. The nature of the design as it evolved as a maritime courtyard precinct entailed collaborative design with the landscape designers, and the incorporation of focal artwork.


Marina Point is part of the final stages of revitalising the Cairns CBD waterfront. The revitalisation encompassed three commissions: Cairns Esplanade and its lagoons; the Reef Fleet Square and garden; and Marina Point which houses the Cairns Yacht Club. These components combine to create a multifaceted waterfront integrating working port and recreational activities, engaging the waterfront to public experience.

The sequential revitalisation of the former part of Cairns adjoining its CBD began in 1995 with the overall Master Plan for what is called Cairns Cityport. It was proposed that the first stage of Cairns Convention Centre (which is at the farthest end of the precinct from the CBD), act as a ‘magnet’ for revitalisation projects along the wharf.

The first public space project was the creation of a swimming lagoon and parkland at the northern city end. It was conceived to fill in mudflats that accumulated at an ‘elbow’ in the shoreline, with a new sea wall curving around to facilitate tidal flushing. The architect’s idea was to stretch the lagoon in a triangular plan so that it reached from the city edge to the sea wall, forming an apron that visually and physically connects the city to the harbour. The edges are mainly geometrically hard, to impart urban character, and the shade canopies minimal in impact and spaced to accentuate perspective.

The lagoon project established a pedestrian promenade out to a point that reaches into the harbour. Initially, the authorities wanted to create an ‘iconic’ marker like an observation tower there. The architects argued instead for a public space framed by restaurants and bars of low scale, together with a yacht club to replace an ageing one being demolished further along the waterfront.


The architecture of this courtyard precinct was inspired by that of the former yacht club in two ways – its direct engagement with the water and its rambling roof planes. By recalling its character, the architects were eager to preserve memory and to imbue the waterfront with architecture intrinsic to Cairns. The buildings cantilever out over the sea wall, their edges opening and closing via sliding screens and casement baffles to respond to prevailing climatic conditions. In addition to the clubhouse, bars and dining pavilions, a boatshed forms one side of the courtyard, enabling the precinct to function as a launching place for sailing regattas and the like.

As is evident in these projects, the focus has been on community rather than commercial revitalisation of the urban waterfront. There are several setback sites for hotels and apartments to be developed. The projects have also afforded opportunities to formulate new architectural typologies which are expressive of the tropics and which evolve, rather than neglect, historic evolution of the place.


The Club and dining pavilions form an L-shaped plan of activities addressing the space and waterfront. Material choice had to be durable as well as suitable and elegant for the precinct’s prime waterfront location. Locally sourced timbers were specified for walls, floors and structure, and combined with large well shaded glazed areas.

The pavilions are comprised of as much external canopied space as internal, the interface being blurred in varying ways: by sliding screens, tilting panels and other types of operable wall.


Marina Point is designed to sound environmental principles encompassing orientation, roof protection, natural ventilation and adjustability to differing climatic conditions, as distinct from sophisticated technologies. The orientations and roof plans are devised to induce breezes, the canopies to optimise shade and driving rain protection. The use of the space captures the essence of our tropical environment: open spaces, filtered light through battened screens, large over hangs and lush planting and close proximity to water.


Water efficient devices are used throughout. Runoff from the roofs and new paved surfaces is directed toward the landscape for additional irrigation take-up.


Base building architect/ designer: Cox Rayner Architects and CA Architects
Interior designer: Dreamtime (fit-out)
Civil engineer/Structural engineer: ARUP
Services engineer: (mechanical electrical, hydraulic, fire):
Mech/ Elec - WSP
Hydraulics: Gilboy Hydraulics
Other Consultants:
Landscape Architect: Tract Consulting
Signage: Dot Dash
Art Curator: Jacqueline Armitstead
Artist: Adrian Davis and Lubi Thomas
Base structure: Laing O’Rourke
Additional structure: Richard Field Construction (fit-out)

Photographs courtesy of Christopher Frederick Jones