Ground Control to Demolition Robots

10 Feb 16

Sydney Harbour Control Tower Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour's famous skyline is set to change with the demolition of the Sydney Harbour Control Tower. However the tower will be destroyed quietly rather than dramatically. In fact, no wrecking balls or dynamite will be used. Instead, two remote controlled robots will gnaw away at the structure over a period of 10 months. The 87m tall tower has cut an imposing outline into the Sydney sky for almost 40 years, however at the end of March it will be slowly and steadily wiped from Barangaroo's headland.

Built in 1974, the now-empty control centre provided maritime controllers with the ideal position for overseeing shipping movements in the harbour. In 2011 surveillance operations were moved to Port Botany and the tower has been disused ever since. However the question remained, what to do with the control tower which rewarded a 300 step trek to the top with panoramic views of the harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Ideas were put forward to keep the structure and use it as a restaurant, look out or even bungee jump. Heritage advocates were campaigning to preserve the tower as a marker of the harbour's commercial maritime past, however last July the state government approved demolition of the tower, with the Barangaroo Delivery Authority stating that their vision was to create a 'naturalistic' headland park - something they wanted to achieve without the control tower.

Two 1.6 tonne remote-controlled robots will literally 'eat away' at the tower, with residents advised they won't be able to see or hear the work underway. Using a specialised mast-climbing platform system, the excavators will force crushed material into the shaft of the tower, with a truck a day carting any rubble away. This will be the first time this method has been used in Australia, however it is widely used across Europe to dismantle industrial structures.

Aiming for low impact on the urban environment, the deconstruction company employed to complete the project was mindful of the parklands that surround the structure as well as nearby residents. They have assured Sydneysiders that the demolition robots are low impact with low dust, low vibration and very low noise. While locals may not notice the robots at work, they're sure to notice the imposing structure slowly disappearing.