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Un-built: Parramatta Ideas on Edge

July 5, 2011

Tyrrell Studio and Daniel Griffin’s competition winning entry transforms the urban spine along Parramatta river, re-engaging with the site’s complex local ecosystem.

Tyrrell Studio has collaborated with Daniel Griffin to create one of the three winning entries to the 2011 international design competition, Parramatta Ideas on Edge. The competition received over 150 entries, 40 percent international and the remainder from around Australia.

Tyrrell and Griffin’s winning concept focuses on 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 recognises 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 local ecosystem. 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.

The site also occurs at a key urban point where the busy urban spine of Church Street meets the Parramatta 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 centre, but its façade accommodates and is designed around a celebration of urban birdlife. Hard concrete becomes a soft and living veil. From within the conference centre, birds create a shadow play on the walls. The form of the shell is designed to both amplify the birdcalls and to draw in 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 raingardens that treat stormwater 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.

*Team* Tyrrell Studio and Daniel Griffin

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