Paddington Reservoir Gardens
“…a magical place which continues to delight and surprise at every turn. The Paddington Reservoir Gardens have reclaimed a civic asset and opened it to the public for the first time in 140 years. This urban space is much needed in this dense part of the city, it is already loved by those who have discovered it and it will continue to enchant generations to come.` AILA Jury Citation. For every tonne of steel fixed into our buildings, five tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. Existing structures throughout the world store millions of tonnes of material available to be squandered in demolition – or kept and revitalised in the re-assigning of the building to contemporary use. Paddington Reservoir Gardens, the adaptive reuse of an old water reservoir in Sydney, is a celebration of civic ‘ruins’. In conserving precious building materials – both their embodied energy and the urban memory imbued within them – we sought to express the maturity of this modern city. When Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and JMD Design (Landscape) were commissioned to convert the Reservoir into an urban park, it was expected that the underground site would be capped off and a brand new arrangement built on top. Instead, we found ourselves captivated by the possibility of revealing the 19th century brick structure as a ruin through which the public could wander, 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. As architects, we explored the existing structure for a fresh expression of its new use as a contemporary park, seeking to bind past and present together. Evincing the memory of the city within the newly relevant use should not be underestimated. The erasure of built history locks a city down into eternal immaturity. Humans need to be able to read their history and their contemporary culture aggregated in their surroundings. The client, Sydney City Council, agreed to build the park in the ruin itself, to open and expose the old underground building and weave garden courtyards through the site below street level. This is unprecedented in Sydney. “The Gardens, like all good poetry, fills the heart and nourishes the soul. It is a ‘touchstone’ for urban design and place making – not just in its execution but in the creative process of the design collaboration.` AILA Jury Citation. Reinforcing the civic precinct formed by Paddington Town Hall, Juniper Hall and the Post Office, the Reservoir Gardens site is prominent, even though most of the structure is subterranean. The project has improved Oxford Street and offers a much-needed park in this dense urban district. Used for many years as a government storage utility and petrol station, the reservoir structure – brick vaults on cast iron beams supported on hardwood columns - had fallen into disrepair. In 1991, some of the reservoir’s original vaults caved in; the building was decommissioned, falling further into dereliction. Graffiti disfigured the building; rusting steel blew out its masonry vaults. Our strategy was to ‘build in’ as much historic interpretation as possible. A cast iron lid has been placed over the former valve chamber that depicts the original pipework. The petrol bowsers have been extruded to become seats in their original location. Mounted along the edge of the park, on the Oxford Street balustrade, is the timeline of the site to inform the public - many people had previously not known of the Reservoir’s existence. All materials from the historic structure were retained and minimal built forms connect remnants and signal entry to and access points around the site. A restricted pallet of three modern materials – steel, aluminium and concrete - was chosen to partner the historic brick, cast iron and timber, united in their raw industrial expression. This austerity, crucial to the memory of the original structure’s purpose, is softened by the importance given to the landscaping and also by the walkways inviting everyone to explore the whole park. Plants were chosen that were typical of the original building’s Victorian era, elevating landscape to the status of the ruin. The two new lightweight roofs that mark the entry points to the lower level and herald the new use are based on the shape of the brick vaults below – the aluminium screen is in a bond brick pattern. The upper level park incorporates salvaged brick inlays and cast iron and masonry seats in the lawn area to evoke the vaulted arches and beams below. Concrete up-stands contain the edges of the ruin, and amplify the distinctive curves of the original brick vaults. To re-stabilise the roof, a concealed complex slab was bonded to the existing vaults. Avoiding cross-bracing, we concealed a tensile structure in the old Eastern Chamber to support the elevated park above. Water is scarce in Australia, with the second lowest rate of rainfall of all continents and the highest consumption rate in the world. Therefore, TZG negotiated with the local authorities for rainwater to be collected off the neighbouring Paddington Town Hall, then stored underground to irrigate the gardens. “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.` Elizabeth Farrelly, Architecture Critic, Sydney Morning Herald, August 13 2009. The sunken gardens’ planted courts accommodate public performances, gatherings, relaxing with a book or just ‘hanging out’ – reflective passtimes that benefit from containment and protection from traffic or weather. Such public courtyards are uncommon in Australia where un-contained and often unwelcoming piazzas proliferate. Since opening last year, the park has been well-loved and full of people. TZG mounted a strong case for many skeptical stakeholders, persuading them to celebrate the history of their disused and poetic infrastructure. The multi-levelled nature of this project can solve the broader problem of finite land area in urban confines, while freeing up this and other fascinating industrial sites to all citizens.

Media

20 photos

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • Antonina Ilieva
    Antonina Ilieva updated 20 media, added 2 digital references and updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • Scott MacArthur
    Scott MacArthur updated
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • added a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings commented and added a digital reference
    Thanks Malu, project is indeed very nice. Unfortunately, project area is nowhere to be found on the web, however I am going to try to forward your query to the architects now. In the meantime, why not try measuring area from google maps and rescaling project drawing pics to get an idea.
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • Malu Ohira
    Malu Ohira commented
    One more question, do you happen to know the project area? I have looked at the site of the architect responsible for proejto, but not found.
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • Malu Ohira
    Malu Ohira commented
    Antonina, thanks for listening .. I'm a senior in College of Architecture and Urbanism in Londrina, Brazil, and my theme is about action in degraded sites, specifically in places consolidated ... then I found this project ... and very interested in the images .. and the result .... and I'm doing as a multipurpose space integrated with the design of Paddington squares fitted right in my theme ... But is it .. Thanks again ... Congratulations to the acquis.
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings commented
    Hi, thanks, you helped us spot a gallery bug here (which we are fixing now :)). However all authorship of photos and drawings is in fact there in the Media section when you go into Edit-Profile mode, only gallery doesn't show it. I will write you an email too in case you don't get to see this. Greetings and good-luck with college assignments!
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • Malu Ohira
    Malu Ohira commented
    I'm doing work for college and need to know the authorship of the photos in order to use as reference. I await response. grateful. My e-mail: maluohira@hotmail.com
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com