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Place Intelligence worked with leading design practice to measure the performance of the Darling Harbour public realm in Sydney, Australia.


The $3.4bn transformation of Darling Harbour, a 20-hectare waterfront precinct in central Sydney, was the city’s most significant urban renewal initiative in 20 years. Multidisciplinary architecture practice Hassell developed the urban design framework for the precinct, which included the redevelopment of three International Convention Centre buildings, 9000sqm of public space, new pedestrian networks and a 680m central boulevard.

Hassell approached Place Intelligence to develop a post-occupancy review framework to understand how people interacted with and moved through the site. Hassell’s design team was interested in benchmarking the Darling Harbour urban masterplan against the Green Building Council’s Sustainable Sites initiative a comprehensive global ratings system that assesses the sustainable design, development and maintenance of landscapes.


Our team combined de-identified mobile device data analysis with place and design assessment criteria, as well as data linked to visitor origins of the Sydney light rail transit network to deliver a comprehensive post-occupancy evaluation of the Darling Harbour precinct.

Place Intelligence activity analytics and trends data uncovered patterns of place use in the public realm and retail and hospitality locations. Our team’s modelling linked visitation to the Sydney light rail transit, revealing methods of transport and light rail user groups.

We combined an in-depth review of the public realm design strategy to identify which site elements have the most use and when allowing for a comprehensive post-occupancy evaluation of Hassell’s design solutions.

We wanted to assess how people were using the public realm was it working the way our designers intended? It’s a large, multi-layered project, so it made perfect sense to put our heads together with Place Intelligence to look for those answers. In fact, it was vital.

Angus Bruce, Principal, Hassell


  • Place demand and activity hot-spots
  • Place use, indexed for time of day, day of week, and visitor patterns
  • Dwell time analysis
  • Pedestrian movement patterns 
  • Site entry patterns
  • Visitor origin assessments 
  • Place sentiment analysis and social listening studies.

“Place Intelligence gave us the granular detail we wanted to see about how people interacted with and moved through the site—everything from their dwell time to their movement patterns all times of the day and year.”

— Angus Bruce, Principal, Hassell


  • Visitation and dwell time against trading hours revealed place use baselines and identified opportunities to shift demand profiles to increase economic and place performance
  • Footfall analysis mapped variances between days of the week, improving operational performance and the management of event, place and community activations
  • Place Intelligence social listening, analysing more than 180,000 reviews, revealed 88% of posts were overwhelmingly positive and [evoked] a response of joy, anticipation or surprise
  • The most frequented spaces in the public realm were the north and south entrances, the circular foundation and primary water features, main promenade and its seating elements, Tumbalong Park green spaces and the plaza adjacent to the south entrance
  • The index and public realm analysis provided Hassell with a baseline to benchmark against other projects and urban masterplanning work
  • Hassell was able to validate the design intent of the masterplan and share evidence-based results with their client, Infrastructure NSW, and other stakeholders.

Place Intelligence data gives us powerful information we can share with our clients, demonstrating that our design work is backed by evidence and proper analytics.

Angus Bruce, Principal, Hassell

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