Case study: Leura to Katoomba

The completed Great Western Highway upgrade between Leura and Katoomba won the 2010 Australian Landscape Architects NSW/Roads and Maritime Services Award for Excellence in Landscape Architecture on Road Transport Infrastructure Projects.

The award is for demonstrating the positive contribution urban designers and landscape architects can make to the planning and conceptualisation and design of major road infrastructure. The design was produced by Spackman Mossop Michaels in a collaborative partnership with Roads and Maritime Services in-house design and project management teams, to achieve the best possible outcome for the community.

The integrated concept design Masterplan of the Great Western Highway upgrade between Leura and Katoomba won the Australian Landscape Architects NSW Award for Excellence 2002 and the NSW Project Award – Planning 2002. Roads and Maritime Services and Spackman Mossop Michaels worked in a collaborative partnership throughout the project.

The collaborative and holistic design approach has seen landscape architecture and urban design (including landscape architecture) fully integrated with engineering design, providing successful operational and built outcomes.


The community were engaged at every stage of development, design and construction. The completed project has been well received by the community.


The project was required to provide a four-lane dual carriageway highway alignment, allowing travel speeds of up to 80km/h between Leura and Katoomba.

The major landscape and urban design challenge was to reconcile the large-scale infrastructure required with the subtle and small-scale qualities of the existing natural and cultural landscape.

The existing landscape character was preserved as much as possible to ensure the final outcome would make a positive contribution to the overall landscape experience for locals and regional users.

Every available opportunity was taken to minimise the physical and visual scale of the new infrastructure, to preserve the considerable natural, historical and cultural values of the site, while providing a driving experience that is intimately connected to those values.


The design approach recognised the importance and significance of the location of the upgrade in the Upper Blue Mountains at the Leura Mall- ridge and the east Katoomba ridge and plateau.

Significant benefits for the local community have been achieved by lowering the highway into a new underpass at Leura Mall, which has enabled it to become the primary connection between north and south Leura. A significant local benefit of the design has been to Leura Mall and the local community, by making Leura Mall the primary connection between north and south Leura. The access to Katoomba hospital has also been significantly improved whilst retaining landmark Blue Mountains Aash trees. The design has successfully separated Leura Primary School from the highway, using a  through the creation of new local roads network and grade separated upgrading of the pedestrian bridge upgrade across the highway.

The highway upgrade past in Leura required some innovative design approaches including a wide land bridge, preserving the ridgeline and safeguarding the historic Chateau Napier hotel site. The design has also incorporated other road heritage items such as convict walls and pavement and the reuse of some heritage stonework. These design parameters were integrated with operational and engineering requirements throughout the design and construction.

More information

View or download the award submission for more information about this project.

Share this page: