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Elizabeth Quay Project
Elizabeth Quay

Elizabeth Quay


This project was entered into the LSAA 2016 Design Awards (Category 2, Entry 2063)

Entrant: Fabritecture (Designer and Installer)

Location: The Esplanade.   Completed: August 20 2015

Client: Leightons

Team: ARM Architects, Maffeis Engineering, Fabritecture, Seele, Fabritecture


A unique ferry terminal structure utilising custom ETFE cushion system paired with aluminium cladding as part of the Elizabeth Quay upgrade development in the Perth CBD.




Part of the Elizabeth Quay upgrade development was to create a new face for Perth CBD. The aim of the investment of Elizabeth Quay was to transform the promenade around the river inlet into an iconic area for the public. Retail, public transport, playground facilities and street vendors and performers were all part of the vision.

Our scope was to design and construct the ferry terminal canopy to provide shelter for passengers embarking on the Elizabeth Quay TransPerth ferry system.

The ferry canopy is located in the inlet itself at Elizabeth Quay, in the Perth CBD waterfront.

Design Brief

The project scope included the complete design and construct of the steel, aluminium cladding, ETFE cushions and custom artwork. Design of LED lighting, mechanical, electrical and hydraulic coordination was also included in the scope.

The client requested a unique architectural fabric structure that adapted harmoniously to the theme created during the Elizabeth Quay redevelopment. The structure was designed to be iconic, yet functional, and exciting to patrons entering and exiting the ferries.

Structural Systems

Complex fixing details: Combining steelwork / aluminium cladding panels / ETFE / gutters / drainage in this structure was very complex and from a coordination perspective. We 3D modelled all components parallel with the detailed design to ensure everything worked and did not create clashes - we had 3 different parties creating the final 3D workshop model. The model was divided into 3 disciplines (steelwork, cladding and ETFE) and then overlaid to ensure fit-up and build ability.

Services Coordination: The structural steelwork conceals internally - drainage / air supply system for ETFE / ETFE communications and sensors / electrical wiring and lighting drivers. Again 3D modelling was used to map and model all services reticulation within the structure.

Installation: The installation was compressed into a short amount of time which required a lot of equipment and labour to work concurrently on the different tasks. We were also racing the clock against the excavation and flooding of the inlet meaning if we didn't complete the work on-time we would be forced to stand down while they opened the flood gates to create the inlet and then completed the work from barges on the water.

The design points of the canopy were the large columns on wide centres (9M) supporting a large structural spine that the truss arms counter-levered from, these truss arms where hidden using aluminium cladding that was very complex to incorporate. The coordination of the plenum air handling/duct system was an intricate part of the ETFE cushioning system which was all contained within the structural spine.

The challenge with the Elizabeth Quay project was the combination of many different components into the structure that had to be delivered within a tight program. There was excavation occurring around the canopy which further emphasised staying on schedule. They were literally digging us out of our own workspace.

The was considerable risk associated with setting the air handling system up as a temporary measure while surrounding infrastructure was completed that would eventually house the BIM system to run and monitors the cushions.


Fabric: ETFE foil was the fabric of choice as it was a lightweight option over glass to reduce steel tonnage. The ETFE foil was a 2-layer cushion system with 250um micron thickness on the top and bottom layer.

Custom digital artwork was printed onto the ETFE. Local artist Penny Bovell’s services were engaged by the Perth MRA to create the custom artwork, which was then digitally printed onto the ETFE cushions. The final product was a painting that resembled the windswept waters of the Swan River. From this painting, the artwork was converted into a halftone image, using round dots of varying sizes to create an image from a distance, that fades into seemingly random dots the closer you view it. The spaced frit pattern provides shade & sight from underneath, and displays artwork from a distance.

To complicate it further, the structure comprised of 42 individual ETFE cushions each with a unique print that were then divided further into individual patterns which were to be printed separately then welded together. Mapping the artwork on the patterns was a very complicated process. Aligning the printing during fabrication was also very complicated and important. The final result was truly amazing with the artwork aligning perfectly and exceeding the client’s expectation.

Structural System: The original design by ARUP used built up plate work for the counter levered trusses - we value engineered these into trusses that provided significant savings in steelwork weight.

The structural system comprised of a large counter-lever system which was value engineered as a truss. This had dual-benefits as it reduced steel tonnage and added to the aesthetic finish of the canopy. 3mm thick aluminium PVDF2 panels coated in ‘Blue Pantone’ were used for the truss.

The final solution included a complete redesign of the truss systems. Originally, single counter levered structural I beam and plate arms were to be incorporated, however through value engineering, a new solution was developed which made the structure lighter and therefore more cost-effective. The solution was to switch to a truss system.

Aluminium Cladding: The aluminium cladding system is also incredibly complicated - The aluminium cladding was used to create the 23 different architectural fins that clad the trusses and also the central spine of the structure. The final design comprised of over 500 different aluminium panels that were documented on over 800 shop drawings.


ETFE: The custom artwork was printed on the rolls of ETFE foil. Patterns were then cut on cutter plot, and finally, welded using an ETFE Welder.

Steelwork: typical industry standard steel fabrication techniques were used for the steelwork.

Aluminium Cladding: The aluminium sheets were cut with CNC cutter, then folded using a folding machine with brackets welded.


Collaboration of electrical and plenum and drainage system within the structural steel to support to ETFE operation, LED lighting system and storm water runoff. 12-monthly inspections are planned to check and change filters.


The total cost of the project was AUD$2,150,000.

2016 2063 ETFE Connection