Gunyama Park + Green Square Aquatic Centre
A two stage, open and anonymous competition was run by the City of Sydney for the design of a one-hectare parkland and accompanying aquatic centre/fitness centre as part of one of Sydney’s densest new development areas. Situated between the CBD and the airport, Green Square is expected to be home to over 40,000 new residents in the next 20 years, making it one of the densest corridors in Australia and most culturally diverse future communities.
Initially shortlisted from an anonymous, international field of 140 entries, our proposal for the Green Square Aquatic Centre + Gunyama Park focused on extending the brief to position the project as an ‘event’ space capable of supporting a diverse future community through its adaptability and resilience to change. In opposition to the often monolithic, monumental and enclosed typology of the aquatic centre – single large span buildings that sit at odds with the finer city grain around it – we proposed that the aquatic centre and gymnasium be raised above or settled below a public podium that promoted the role of the public park over that of the private, paid entrance to the aquatic centre.
In both programmatic and diagrammatic planning, as well as architectural expression, the aquatic and fitness centre were proposed as pieces of a larger, city-wide infrastructure of public spaces connected by their capacity to become the stages for the active, urban life of the city. Moving away from iconic architectural statements, we focused on producing an architecture that was clear and simple in its expression, but complex in its capacity to become many things to different people, and to ensure a flexibility in its use that would allow it to adapt to the future, yet unknown needs of a dense, developing community.
Programmatically, we stacked programs that traditionally are laid horizontally: a vertical gym, for example, hovering over a public podium connected by public stairs, ramps and walkways; indoor-outdoor pool-spaces using interconnected water volumes tucked under this public podium allowing the public to circulate around and over the private spaces; a fragmented rather than monolithic architectural form to allow oblique views through the aquatic centre to the parkland beyond; and a materiality that proudly celebrates the urbane quality of this residential precinct without succumbing to a desire for monumentality, singularity and distinction from everyday life.
The second stage of this competition was designed in collaboration with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and Professor Anton James of RMIT University (JMD Design).