Industry sectors,

Shaping the Gold Coast’s iconic skyline

Nick Nichols | October 3, 2019

The Gold Coast’s skyline is recognised around the world, arguably more so than some of Australia’s capital cities.  There is more to this stunning skyline, and it can be found in the unique collection of urban ‘villages’ each with their own identities.

The Gold Coast skyline speaks volumes about a city that is proud to be noticed.

However, the impressive backdrop masks the essence of what makes the Gold Coast as diverse as it is united under the umbrella of a laid-back beach culture that keeps people coming back for more.

Urbis Gold Coast Director Matt Schneider describes textural differences between each beachside suburb as a key source of this diversity. They are differences that drive a healthy rivalry between the suburban ‘villages’ dotted along the city’s coastline.

Schneider is passionate about keeping that rivalry alive by ensuring the Gold Coast celebrates the unique identity of its neighbourhoods through architecture.

“There are three fundamental components of the DNA of the Gold Coast and the skyline is one of them, but it’s number three on my list,” says Schneider.

“Number one is water, the lifeblood of the city. This includes our rivers and canals because it’s the water that actually ties together these neighbourhoods and what people deeply relate to.

“From a city planning perspective, the Gold Coast started as a series of coastal villages and what you’re seeing now is a reimagination of those coastal villages into urban neighbourhoods.

“That’s why Palm Beach, Burleigh, Mudgeeraba, Main Beach and Southport are all interesting. It’s what makes our city really distinctive because that network of neighbourhoods has intrinsic value and it goes right back to our genesis as a city.”

Cafe culture, Main Beach

Urban art, Southport

Borough Cafe, Burleigh Heads

Schneider is excited about a renewed focus on planning and design and, in particular, on the emergence of a subtropical city.

“We’re designing and planning parts of our city to be distinctive in their place,” he says.

“You want things in Coolangatta to be different from Surfers Paradise. It’s that sense of place and that deep root in place that we’re designing for.”

Schneider sees good development as essential for the Gold Coast to maintain its prized reputation for liveability.

Through the award-winning Building Height Study released by the City of Gold Coast in 2017, the Urbis team distilled the essence of how building height contributes to the Gold Coast’s identity as a guide to future planning.

“The study is about striking the right balance to make sure we don’t stop good development from happening by being too prescriptive,” he says.

The Building Height Study is about striking the right balance to make sure we don’t stop good development from happening by being too prescriptive

Matt Schneider Director, Urbis



It is this idea, known as ‘performance based planning’ in the industry, that the City Plan is built on.

Visionary developer Soheil Abedian, the founder and chairman of Sunland Group, has been pivotal in defining the shape of the Gold Coast over the past four decades.

From Palazzo Versace, the world’s first fashion-branded hotel, to Q1, the world’s tallest residential building of its time, his background as an architect has delivered a suite of world-renowned legacy projects for the Gold Coast.

Sunland’s founding philosophy of ‘architecture as art’ is evident across its portfolio, which currently stands at more than $3 billion – with $2.3 billion of that on the Gold Coast.

“I believe the city should be an exhibition of beautiful architecture,” says Abedian.

“That is true community-building because people will have a connection to that. If you see architecture only as a means for economic purpose that is the problem we may find in many projects.”

It is this vision that has influenced Sunland’s residential-lifestyle precinct, The Lanes, which adds to the Gold Coast’s unique experiences by merging residential living with a new entertainment precinct alongside green spaces and an amphitheatre to host outdoor events.

The development complements Abedian’s global perspective of the Gold Coast that it offers more of what other cities can only partly deliver.

“The Gold Coast is very unique and we have to be grateful and thankful for our achievements,” he says.

Interested in learning about how the City of Gold Coast is shaping the future of our city? Watch our video or visit