From Reservoir Ruins to Stunning Urban Park in Sydney

First, it was a failed urban reservoir, closed after just twenty years due to its weak flow of less-than-sparkling water.  Then, the crumbling remains of whitewashed brick, barrel-vaulted ceilings and graceful arches was incongruously used as a commercial garage. But today, those 132-year-old ‘ruins’ in Sydney, Australia have new life as a stunning urban park that captures a captivating combination of ‘ancient’ and modern architecture.

(images via: the city of sydney)

Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer added a minimal amount of new structures to the old, in a limited palette of materials – steel, aluminum and concrete – to give the original brick, stone and timber center stage. Opened in March 2009, Paddington Reservoir Gardens gives city residents a grassy park above the water chambers as well as a “sunken garden” in the western chamber featuring a water garden in acknowledgement of the site’s aquatic history.

Far from obliterating all signs of the reservoir’s decades of disuse, the design actually preserves some graffiti art on the walls in the eastern chamber. The urban street art, modern additions and the original structure reminiscent of ancient Greece or Rome come together in a fascinating juxtaposition that is not often seen in renovations of historic sites.

While similar structures across the world have simply been demolished and disposed of, TZG and the City of Sydney chose a sustainable strategy that not only reuses old materials imbued with history and a sense of the city’s identity, but gives local residents access to much-needed green space in an inner-city environment. Paddington Reservoir Gardens won the International Architecture Award in July 2010.

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