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Parramatta Park Pavilion by Sam Crawford Architects in harmony with nature

Parramatta Park Pavilion by Sam Crawford Architects in harmony with nature


A popular cafe was severely damaged by fire in 2016 and Sam Crawford Architects raised it from the ashes, elevating Parramatta Park Pavilion to the status of an architectural phoenix.

Nowadays, Parramatta Park Pavilion by Sam Crawford Architects includes a restaurant and public amenities and connects with the river and its extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscape setting.

From the shell, a new restaurant has burst into being within the same footprint – salvaging and reusing the remaining fabric.

It also sits on the site of former dressing sheds – also destroyed by fire – for river bathers dating from circa 1912, when the prohibition of public bathing was lifted. 

It overlooks ‘Little Coogee’, a former swimming and picnicking spot on the Parramatta River banks and connects to cycleways and walkways in the park.

Open and welcoming, the building has large steel-framed windows and doors and lofty pitched ceilings, which provide natural light and clear views of the park and river and the burgeoning city of Parramatta in the distance.

 The long metal roof produces a striking form with lightweight and transparent materials to increase the connection between the inside and outside spaces. 

The translucent roof at the south-western end is cantilevered out to create an additional outside covered eating area, increasing dining capacity and giving shade from the afternoon sun.

A strong entry portal is a marker in the landscape, providing a visual link through the building to the river, and mediating between two gable roof geometries. 

The oversized threshold welcomes, gathers and directs patrons and frames the view of a large fig tree and the river beyond.

The pavilion now houses a 300-seat restaurant called Misc., which was recently opened after COVID delays with an interior fit out by design studio Nic Graham & Associates.

“The key design driver was to maintain the footprint of the former cafe building so as to avoid disturbance of significant Indigenous and early European artefacts,” says Sam Crawford.

“Reuse was also critical – the slab, walls, bricks, many steel windows and doors and some roof trusses were all recycled. It was a gymnastics exercise – we couldn’t dig anything, the utilities had to remain in the same location, and of course, we needed to meet the 21st-century building code. 

“And be future-proof to adapt for changing uses.”

The practice wanted to respect the layers of history of the site.

“The park setting has a rich period of occupation by the Burramatta clan of the Darug people and ongoing connection for the Indigenous community,” says Crawford.

“It is one of eleven sites that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage listing, and contains the oldest remaining public building and oldest remaining workers’ cottage in Australia.”

 Photography: Brett Boardman and Parker Blain

Recently, Splinter Society also renovated Villa Italia, blending history with modernity brilliantly.


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