Paddington Reservoir Gardens — 2011 Global Award for Excellence Winner

Paddington Resevoir

About Paddington Reservoir Gardens

Developer/Owner: City of Sydney
Architect: Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (architect), JMD Design (landscape)
Location: Sydney, Australia

Why Paddington Reservoir Gardens

The water reservoir, with water chambers below street level and a grassed park above, opened to the public in the 1930’s. It’s operational life ceased in 1899 and it was used as a workshop and garage until 1990 when roof collapses forced its closure. 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.

When TZG Architects and JMD Design 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, the designers found themselves 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. An accessible sunken garden and pond, surrounded by a raised pre-cast concrete boardwalk, was inserted within the conserved ruin of the western chamber. The edges of the ruin are contained by concrete up-stands in such a way as to amplify the distinctive curved characteristics of the original brick vaults. A restricted palette of three materials – steel, aluminium and concrete were chosen as contemporary partners for the historic brick, cast iron and timber, united in raw industrial expression.

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 project has improved Oxford Street and offers a much-needed park in this dense urban district.

“The Paddington Reservoir 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.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens…

Paddington Resevoir

  • Is a celebration of ‘civic ruins’, preserving an item of heritage significance, while giving it a vibrant new use.
  • Conserves precious building materials – both their embodied energy and the urban memory imbued within them – expressing the maturity of this modern city.
  • Proposes a type of public space that does not readily exist in Sydney, that of a series of interconnected urban rooms.
  • Provides an alternative approach to heritage building.
  • Provides a viable model for Urban Adaptive Reuse within a relatively new city, eg. Sydney.

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