Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sydney Transforms Waterworks Ruins into Urban Public Park

Sydney has infused the ruins of a public waterworks with new life by transforming the antiquated infrastructure into a vibrant public park. Designed by TZG Architects and JMD Designs, Paddington Reservoir Gardens is the reincarnation of a defunct reservoir from the 1800’s. Situated a full story below street grade, the park has preserved the original barrel vault roofs and trusses with a subtle weave of new materials and a dynamic design that frames the history of Sydney’s growth into a metropolis.

The original water works was completed in 1878, but it was decommissioned after only 20 years due to low pressure and brackish water. And there it sat (occasionally changing hands until a service station had to abandon the building in 1993 after the roof collapsed), leaving the site derelict but for feral cats and a shadowy graffiti movement who under the cover of night filled the walls of the 1023-square-metre site with stunning frescoes and murals.

Now, with almost $10 million worth of restoration work complete, the old ruins have been tranformed into a stunning Romanesque sunken garden with a lake of contemplation at its centre and a hanging garden canopy around the perimeter and an eastern chamber left empty but for the wall art. This blank canvas 'cultural precinct' will host markets, art and film festivals.

The park collects water from the neighbouring Paddington Town Hall, and from on-site rainwater storage tanks located beneath the walkways and planters. Australia is a leader in water efficiency, so the waterworks’ approach to water preservation is as symbolic as it is functional. The park has a dense layer of subtropical plantings laced with raw materials like wood beams, concrete, iron, and brick. The supporting materials were placed discretely in order to enhance the preserved structures.

This sensitive approach of designing heritage sites can be compared to The High Line in New York - with preserving the integrity of its history, while creating a new useable urban space for people to enjoy and benefit from.

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