Sydney based Tyrrell Studio has collaborated with Daniel Griffin to create a first prize winning entry to the 2011 international design competition Ideas on Edge Parramatta. The competition received over 150 entries, 40% international and the remainder from around Australia. There were 3 equal winners. Images of the winning entry and a narrative from the architects after the break.
Tyrrell and Griffin’s winning concept focuses upon blurring the physical and metaphysical boundaries between the local culture of Parramatta, and its local ecosystem, finding moments of architectural drama at their junction. The scheme recognizes that the site is located at a brackish point of the river where the fresh water from the inland meets the salt water from the coast. This mixing of waters produces a highly diverse ecosystem at a local level. It is a place where species of fish meet, where salt and freshwater tolerant plant species are found and where hundreds of birds are attracted to the mix.
Interestingly, the site also occurs at a key urban point where the busy urban spine of Church Street meets the river. Unfortunately, Parramatta has progressively turned its back on its river, which has become a forgotten drain rather than a living, changing natural focus for the city. The design breaks down a series of abrupt and divisive river edges by laying a generative grid over river and land. The grid resolves itself into a variety of functional built elements in the design but also acts as a conceptual tool to blur land and water.
Next, a series of ‘program intensifiers’ are layered on the design. Local culture is intensified through the creation of an urban incubator for innovation and ideas. This takes the form of small studio spaces, research labs, aged and childcare, performance spaces and university and corporate support shopfronts. Together, this small-scale urbanism plugs into the disused rear of shops and creates a humming cultural district which moves out over the river.
The ecology of the site is intensified through a large sculptural building called ‘The Birdshell’. The building is a conference center, but its facade accommodates and is designed around a celebration of urban bird life. Hard concrete becomes a soft and living veil. From within the conference center, birds create a shadow play on the walls. The form of the shell is designed to both amplify the varied bird calls and to draw in and cool breezes from the river. It is an open aviary of an urban scale. The site is allowed to flood regularly, and runoff is collected in a mosaic of rain gardens that treat storm water from the urban core of the design and release it clean to the river. Ultimately, the river has no edge in the final proposal; it is an urbanism ‘of ‘ a river rather than ‘beside’ a river.
The Parramatta City Council has been talking about turning Parramatta into Venice since mid 2010. However, Parramatta council does not need to copy the European model. Griffin and Tyrrell’s winning scheme aims to show that Parramatta has its own unique and Australian landscape identity, which should be fused with its own local culture to create a catalytic urbanism suited to Sydney’s second city, not Italy’s.