Territory and the Archaeosphere: Surface Disruptions at Barangaroo

Dr Andrea Connor1, Professor Donald McNeill1

1Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia


Whilst the ground we stand and build on is often conceptualised as a ‘natural’ terrestrial plane, recent theoretical work across a range of disciplines has begun to re-think this surface ontology.  New concepts such as the “archaeosphere” bring together geology; archaeology and geography in ways that speak to the hybrid and deeply entangled materiality of surface and subsurface. Rather than stable and foundational – ground itself is seen as dynamic and in many cases “manufactured” through human agency, and in the urban context through the intense cycles of destruction and reconstruction that transform cities and create new material stratigraphy. This paper considers the significance of this theoretical shift in the context of one of the largest redevelopment projects in Sydney’s CBD, Barangaroo, a 22 hectare site in East Darling Harbour.  A former container wharf, parts of the site have been extensively excavated and filled in on numerous occasions in the recent past. The legacy of this industrial past now sits uneasily with a post-industrial data-driven ‘green’ future, exemplified by rhetoric around the International Towers in Barangaroo South, and an indigenous ethic of care and custodianship of “Country” now part of the reconfiguration of Barangaroo North.


Dr Andrea Connor is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Western Sydney currently working on the Australian Research Council Discovery Project – Volumetric Urbanism. The project investigates processes of urbanisation and the dimensionality of urban space through the concept of ‘volume’ and its calculative metrics. The Chief Investigator on the project and co-presenter of this paper is Professor Donald McNeill, from Western Sydney University.



The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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