A Collapsed Roof Providing Mile-High Potential

For the past two years, when residents of Sydney have gone down to the park, they have literally travelled “down”. Wonderfully making use of an old water reservoir, the Australian firms TZC Architects and JMD Designs constructed Paddington Reservoir Gardens to make good use of a cave-in. The reservoir was originally constructed in the 1870s and provided some of the first water to Sydney residents before being closed down around 1900. Since then it has served as a garage and workshop for a municipal sewer agency, a service station, “open space” for the city council, and finally a commercial parking garage until a garden-covered section of roof on the western cistern collapsed in 1991.

Not a city to suffer decrepit structures, the open air depression soon drew attention from civil planners as a way to bring shade and an interesting public space to the center of the city. The Gardens act as an area of repose with original brick, timber, and iron supporting a plethora of foliage and birds, even a fish pond, while the inner city above carries on with its hectic schedule. A surface-level park over the eastern basin covers an arched and lighted public meeting area beneath where the designers left dozens of interesting arches and artistic, decades-old graffiti. Taken together, the old cisterns with their plants and lighting bring to mind the way nature begins reclaiming ancient buildings like Roman aqueducts and ruins.

JMD Designs and TZC Architects brilliantly utilized a decrepit space and transformed it into a community center piece. A superb place to relax by picnicking with friends, hold community events and concerts, or quietly read a book, the way modern and old construction frames interesting plants and animals won the Gardens Australia’s 2009 Award for Urban Design.

Image credits: IndesignLive.com, SydneyArchitecture.com, HHT.net.au