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Water Work

Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and James Mather Delaney breathe new life into an important part of Sydney’s history

Water Work


April 22nd, 2009

The Paddington Reservoir in Sydney has been sensitively transformed into an urban park by Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) and Landscape architects James Mather Delaney Design (JMD Design).

Originally built in two stages in 1866 and 1878 and designed by City Engineer, Edward Bell, the site once served as an integral part of Sydney’s early water supply system.

The Paddington Reservoir Gardens project has breathed new life into the heritage site. TZG listened to the character of the existing site, retaining much of the original features.

The large underground water chambers (which ceased operation in 1899) have been opened to the public, with a sunken garden and pond and a raised pre-cast concrete boardwalk in the western chamber.

While conservation work – including a section of graffiti art – in the eastern chamber and new timber columns and a waterproof concrete roof, have stabilised the existing brickwork and allowed the construction of the landscaped park above.

“Rather than capping off the site, we have opened the Western Chamber to a level below the street and integrated the original structure with a sunken garden. This creates an intimate space in a public facility,” says Tim Greer – TZG Director.

Lighting has been installed in the chambers to highlight the restored features of the original brickwork (including the brick arches of the vaults), with public access via stairs and viewing platforms.

The architects describe the lightweight roofs that float above the reservoir as counterpoints to the “solid earthiness of the masonry vaults” while a limited palette of materials – steel, aluminium and concrete – act as a contemporary industrial reference to that of the historic brick, cast iron and timber.

“This project offered us the opportunity to create a ruin, retaining original parts of the structure as free-standing fragments,” Tim says. “This is rare in a city as young as Sydney.”

The site opened in late March.

Images by Eric Sierins



Project Lighting consultants – Haron Robson



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