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Project: Gunyama Park and Aquatic Center

Project Type: Competition

Client: City of Sydney

Location: Green Square, Sydney NSW

Value: $50,000,000

Size: Aquatic Center; 10000 m2. Public Park; 20000 m2.



Urban life, for all its density, variety and richness of experience, has the effect of removing the presence of the natural.

One response to this was the garden suburb that surrounded buildings with green space. But the plentiful land and energy that this design solution required are gone. The trend is towards denser, urban living of which green square is one example.

In this dense, urban context a park and an aquatic centre become a precious opportunity. To interweave natural textures and rhythms within the urban fabric. To allow moving water, growing plants, native vegetation & animals to create a restorative place, a reflective enclave that is part of the city it serves and yet the primacy it gives to life make it truly a place of re-creation.

This interweaving of community and landscape starts by re-using all stormwater discharged from the park, pool and surrounding buildings. Here on site the landscape rises up into two wings, allowing the formation of 'rice paddy' like terraced gardens & pools with north facing slopes, a large retention system located in the center of the site provides a 250 million litre catchment and natural purification system.

This purified water is used for the pool, and propagated down the terraced gardens allowing the growth of edible and non-edible plants. This produce returned to the community through a market housed under the landscape.

The history and geology of the site as a swamp and abundant food supply for both the Aboriginal people and the city in the 1850's, supports the move to re-introduce irrigated market gardens, which are ecologically sustainable and connect the new development to the sites past.


A syncopated grid of gardens and pools is derived from the surrounding rectilinear context. This diverse landscape houses a variety of community activities, a robust concept of both expansive and contained spaces, sometimes sheltering and private, sometimes prominent and commanding. These are varied spaces for varied uses.

The rectangular geometry with levels of scale and grain provides a flexible framework for a variety of activities for a variety of ages, cultures and ethnic groups. These include; chess, barbequing, picnicking, duck ponds, dog park, skating, water play, table tennis, exercise stations, gardening, basketball, football, soccer, rugby, running races, kite flying, public art, hide and seek, painting class, kissing, praying, meditating, meetings, outdoor community marquees, boxing, sleeping, movie watching, coffee drinking, eating, sleeping, working, sitting on edges, sketching, writing a novel, cloud watching, climbing a tree, playing, enjoying life; living.

Throughout the park, in playful tension with the grid, large follies have been placed. They cement the urban character and "placeness" of the park. They respond to the proposed green square library, doing a small part in stitching together the public realm, creating a local identity for Green Square.


The vision for Green Square is an aquatic centre within a natural landscape, connected to its history, a sheltered and diverse park, playful, elegant, situated and responsive to environmental requirements, a built landscape that produces food and purifies storm water, a place to recreate.


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