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Attribution: McGregor Coxall

Client: City of Sydney

Location: Zetland, NSW

Program: Competition for Aquatic Centre, Community Space, Park

Year: 2014

The project addresses the dilemma of the contemporary urban condition where on the one hand, urban density and the activity of daily life is necessarily intensifying, while on the other, the need to have a counterpoint, a release or an escape, is increasingly important in finding balance.

Gunyama Park and Aquatic Centre lies within the burgeoning high density centre of Green Square as a counterpoint to the intensity of urban life.

Scale and landscape are pivotal in this objective.

To have a vastness for the eye to gaze and a restful space in which to take a breather from the urban surround are vital in satisfying this need. To have a nice place to start the day, a place with a seat in the sun, fresh air, and a park configured for promenading, playing, jogging, pramming and biking is equally important. Gunyama Park is all of this.

The park is structured as a rectangular field across the entire available area to give it vastness.

It is edged by a shaded promenade within a formal grove of trees to make an endlessly functional perimeter for walking, running, lingering and observing. The edge is anonymous yet familiar - a place for neighbourly exchanges and the strengthening of community ties. To walk here is to be immersed in the park giving everyday community users and passers-by the park experience while contributing activity and movement beyond just the destinational user.

The southern edge is fundamental in this scenario. Bathed in direct sunlight during winter and with the benefit of a car free zone edged by restaurants, shops and cafes, it will become a community hotspot, a place for markets, and a key secondary movement spine between destinations further afield. Providing both prospect & refuge, the edge sits between the everyday, and the perpetual pull of the park to come play and escape.

The park is an aberrant hybrid of artificial and natural habitats.

The main body of the park is like a rectangular transect through a native landscape terrain that is at one end a flat plane, but at the other, rolling dunes. This reinstated landscape is designed to exhibit the variety of native species that would have predominated pre-settlement with dunal characteristics of Eastern Surburb’s Banksia Shrub to the east transitioning to an integrated green roof wetland system to the west. The landscape is both resilient and functional with the wetlands filtering rejected water from the aquatic centre for greywater usages.

The sports facilities float within this fluid native landscape in contrast with the formal edges to the park. These are supported with activity spaces, barbecue areas and a playground to provide for leisure pursuits within a naturalistic setting. It’s not just a sports precinct, but an ecology of landscapes enriched by the seasons as change ebbs through the park.

A defined depression of synthetic turf cuts a crisp spectator edge against this landscape while a skateboard park is interwoven within the undulations of the dunes to the east.

The lowering of the aquatic centre within the park avoids complicating the appreciation of the landscape. There’s no fence or building, but rather a continuity of landscape and space. While the architecture and its visual presence might be recessive, the delight of swimming is amplified and celebrated.

Much like The Rink at the Rockefeller Center, the pool becomes a stage set, a spectacle within the park where the splash and joy of water activities lure passers-by to the edge.

Project partners

Architizer A+ Awards, Unbuilt Sports & Recreation - Gunyama Park & Aquatic Centre

Green Square Gunyama Park and Aquatic Centre

Project partners