Gunyama Park and Aquatic Centre

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Green Square, Sydney

Competition entry

Gunyama – the prevailing west south-westerlies blow on a marsh haven, swarming with birds of every description, a resort for brush wallabies and dingoes. 100 years later and the winds bring different aromas – boiling down tallow and tanneries – “hold your nose” smells. Fast forward another 100 years and we can breathe freely once more.

A living system
The park and aquatic centre has been designed as an integral “living (ecological/biological) system” in a scheme that echoes the history of the site and is self-sufficient. A key aspect of this living system is the management of storm water and energy, particularly storm water detention and energy efficient systems for temperature and water management.

A marsh restored
Rainwater is captured and cleaned through the park in a series of biotope swales, raingardens and the marsh, centrally placed as a gesture to reclaim abit of nature. The reinstatement of natural plant ecologies through heath, marshlands and sand dunes, captures the essence of the original landscape and provides a variety of spaces and places for community engagement and play.

Breathing pods
Pods are a central theme reflecting the amorphous shape of a wetland and echoing the fluid and dynamic qualities of water. This theme is translated into the design to enhance legibility, sustainability, function and design.

Thermal mass has been incorporated within the design of the building pods to store heat energy and minimise heat loss. This is combined with metal cladding within the exterior façade to reflect heat and provide enhanced temperature control in critical areas. Auxilliary spaces act as temperature buffers to mitigate heat losses.

The park and centre layout focuses on integrating with the surrounding community, and future planning of Green Square. Externally the building greets the landscape. Retaining walls and ramps draw visitors into the building through a series of transitioning, open, light filled spaces.

Pool halls reach out towards the park, and interact with adjacent streets. A sculptural roof garden provides a tranquil green for the surrounding mid-rise residential buildings, manages storm water, acts as an insulating material and symbolises the centre, as if rising out of the original swampland.

Frugal Intelligence
The aquatic centre would be built above the waterline, minimising costs and balancing cut and fill as much as practical. The pool hall’s main structure is based on a triangular truss system with cross beams, creating an efficient structure for its span. The trusses are encased in a series of ‘super heated cells’ in the shape of pods, combined with solar panels to provide an efficient water and ambient temperature management system.

An Urban Oasis
The rich history and geography of the site is subtly suggested in the design. Bioswales and a water play park acknowledge the meandering Shea’s Stream, the red and white spots of the skating areas wittily reference the race track, rectilinear elements reflect the industrial era of the site and rustic poles and climbing frames hark back to the shell-like midden shapes of the original marsh setting.

The planting reflects the original landscape of the Eora people, with Mahogany trees, Cabbage tree palms, grass trees, Banksias, and other rich flora textures of the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, with wetlands and marsh.

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