From Civic Ruin to Urban Park


World Architecture News
writes that Sydney’s city government turned a 100-year-old abandoned water reservoir into a compelling urban park through reuse of the reservoir’s original structure and materials. Paddington Reservoir Gardens park, designed by Australian architecture firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) Architects and landscape architecture firm JMD Design, highlights the old reservoir’s structures and water chambers and conserves old building materials, preserving both “their embodied energy and the urban memory imbued within them.” The Paddington Reservoir Gardens park won the 2009 Australian Award for Urban Design.

The City of Sydney says the project, which features open space and cultural facilities, also restored the civic precinct linking Paddington Town Hall, the Post Office, and historic Juniper Hall. The park on the roof of the reservoir water chambers has been reconstructed, and a new “sunken garden” (see above) added to the reservoir’s western chamber. 

A prime example of sustainable park development, the original materials from the structure were carefully preserved. Only “minimal built forms connect remnants and signal entry to and access points around the site,” writes World Architecture News. Limited amounts of modern steel, aluminium, and concrete were coupled with the historic brick, cast iron, and wood, creating a “raw industrial expression.” The industrial feel of the site is “softened” though the addition of plants and walkways — the landscape architecture. 


The designers decided not to cap-off and fill-in the underground water chambers, but convert them into spaces through which the public could wander. Graffiti was preserved in the eastern chamber, which is now a community space. Lighting design highlights the stone and wood of the reservoir, and new stairs provide access to the underground chambers. “The architects were captivated by the possibility of revealing the 19th century structure as a ruin […], taking in the dramatic spaces and play of light across the remnants of historic walls and vaults. The concept for the new use lurked within the artefact.”

The architecture critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, Elizabeth Farrelly, told World Architecture News: “Everyone loves it. People hang out just for the pleasure of it, which is seriously unusual in Sydney… this is a world-class weave of ancient and modern and I love it too.”

The original reservoir has a history as a public space. The original reservoir was completed in the late 1800’s but a park above the water chambers opened in the 1930’s. The water chambers were transformed from a reservoir into a workshop or garage at the turn of the 20th century.  

Read the article and see more images.

Also, watch a brief video of the opening and see detailed briefs on the project.

Image credits: (1) Brett Boardman / Inhabitat, (2) Eric Sierins / Inhabitat

2 thoughts on “From Civic Ruin to Urban Park

  1. oehmevansweden 08/04/2010 / 11:02 am

    A beautiful transformation! Thanks for profiling…

  2. Sally Williams 08/04/2010 / 4:09 pm

    I hope it will inspire other communities to do the same with their local potentials. Thanks for bringing it our attention.

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