Victoria Park Public Domain
Exploring the challenge
Prior to European development, the site was part of a large wetland and lagoon ecological system that extended from Centennial Park to Botany Bay, known as the Botany Swamp. Watkins Tench described it in 1789 as one of the finest meadows in the world, but since then the site's ecosystems have gradually deteriorated. The site was developed firstly as a racecourse in the 1800s, and then for heavy industry. The large flat land, and seemingly limitless supply of good quality ground water attracted development, but these uses were unsustainable.
Victoria Park is now a 24 hectare mixed-use development, incorporating medium and high-density housing, commercial and retail facilities for a population of 5,000.
An individual approach
The design concept embodied four key principles that relate to its place: site-wide environmental strategy, interpretation of the natural wetland systems, site connectivity and community development. In the public domain, the east-west streets feature median wetlands that facilitate the water management system. North-south streets are more traditional avenues. This was a direct response to solar access into streets and allowed for the introduction of bio-swale treatments into the wider east-west streets. The parks have a richness in spatial form and materials, unified by the common thread of indigenous planting of wetland species, and a landform that is moulded to accommodate water retention requirements. Public artworks express and celebrate improved water quality achievements, and plant selection and habitat creation consistently support the local ecosystem and promote biodiversity.
An innovative response
The project exceeded expectations by virtue of its innovative water management system and its integration into the high-quality living environment. Consequently, the project has become a benchmark for water sensitive urban design in an urban context.
Significantly, the public domain design commission proceeded simultaneously with the design and documentation of infrastructure, ensuring that the urban design and its water management system was coordinated with the roads and services design.
Definition in detail
The project is unique in its site-wide focus on water management and its integration with the public domain.
The bio-retention swale infiltration system regulates the quality of first flush water from the site's public roads. The filtered water is intercepted, recycled and visibly exposed at the site's notable water features at Joynton Park.
Plant selection and habitat creation consistently support the local ecosystem and promote biodiversity. Native species are predominantly used in streets and parks to re establish endemic communities on the site and minimise maintenance requirements.
The establishment of an ecologically sustainable water management system on the site is in itself a significant contribution to the culture of the built environment. That this has been integrated into a high-quality and dense urban environment provides a benchmark for development throughout Australia.
Victoria Park provided proof that natural systems, or constructed ecologies can work in urban environments. The value of natural systems to sustain the land has often been the hallmark of rural development, but deemed unworkable in urban situations. Victoria Park redefines the role of natural systems, and exposes the shortcomings in the ideas of landscape as ornament.
The water management strategy is seamlessly integrated with the urban design concept. The street layout provides simple and legible connectivity throughout the site with appropriate lighting and signage elements. Drainage structures within the swales are combined with elegant bridge structures and an attractive median planted with a strong palette of native and endemic species.
The park's designs create a variety of exceptional settings for the enjoyment of the new community. New plazas, playgrounds and publicartworks are combined with the provision of large open spaces and amphitheatres that meet the need to detain large quantities of stormwater on the site. The designs make a contemporary contribution to the creation of a high-quality public domain.
Its open space not only provides a valuable recreation resource for the community, it also sets about restoring and reconstructing the ecosystems that once prevailed.
2004 Australian Award for Urban Design – Category Award – Public Domain
2004 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National Awards – Commendation for Environment in Landscape Architecture
2004 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National Awards – Merit Award for Design in Landscape Architecture
2003 Royal Australian Institute of Architects (New South Wales) Awards – Lloyd Rees Award – Civic Design
2003 Royal Australian Institute of Architects (New South Wales) Awards – Architecture Award – ESD/Energy Efficiency
2003 CCAA Public Domain Awards – Commendation – Precincts
2003 NSW Premier's Public Sector Awards – Bronze Award for Water Sensitive Urban Design – The Environment
2003 IFLA Eastern Region Award for Excellence – Award of Excellence 2002 Green Square Design Awards – Award Winner – Innovation
2002 The Architecture Show Magazine and The Francis Greenway Society Green Building Awards – Gold Medal
2002 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (New South Wales and Australian Captial Territory) Awards – Project Award for Achievement in Landscape Architecture - Master Planning
2002 Planning Institute of Australia / Urban Design Forum Australia Award for Urban Design Excellence – Award of Merit
2002 SIA National Award for Excellence in Water Sensitive Urban Design
2001 Royal Australian Planning Institute (New South Wales) Awards – Commendation Award for Excellence in Planning – Urban Design Plans and Ideas
2001 UDIA (New South Wales) Awards for Excellence – Commendation – Professional Consulting Award
Victoria Park, Contemporary Landscape Design, Beijing Auspicious Culture Transmission Co Ltd, Beijing, 2011, pp. 74-75
Victoria Park, Landscape Design (China), no. 38, May 2010, pp. 14-19
People, Plans, Places, and Pandas, Landscape Architecture China, no. 8, 2009, pp. 120-134
Victoria Park, Asia Pacific Landscape Design 2, Pace Publishing Limited, Hong Kong, 2006, pp. 24-30
Urban Ambition: once were terra by Peter Connolly, Architectural Review Australia, no. 095, 2006, pp. 50-55
Watering Sydney by James Weirick, Architecture Australia, January/February 2004, pp. 78-85
Critical Opinion: Victoria Park by Catherine Evans, Landscape Australia, no. 99, September 2003, pp. 12-14
Scale 24 ha
Location Sydney, Australia
Photography Max Creasy
Collaboration Government Architects Office of NSW / Turpin Crawford Studio (Artists)
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