i2C Architects has been appointed with designing the Vineyard community hub in north-west Sydney, set to be the first of its kind in the Greater Sydney region. The practice’s work will transform the area, taking cues from the area's semi-rural character and drawing on its natural elements.

The 6,400sqm site, located on the corner of McGrath and Windsor Roads will be the subject of the development. The hub will comprise a childcare centre, community playground, a gym, a carpark, two food and beverage outlets with an oversized alfresco area, and a myriad of open spaces for the public to enjoy.

The community’s hub amenity takes a backseat to i2C’s purposeful design, which sees the development employ a strong connection to place and nature, which celebrates the site’s roots as a plant nursery. i2C Project Designer, Maryanne Daher, says the design is inspired by photogenic spaces such as the Grounds of Alexandria.

“Sydney’s CBD is bustling with family and youth-centric spaces for communities to congregate, but Vineyard and surrounding areas have not yet seen a space that keeps up with the residential developments in the area,” she says.

“Given its location in Greater Sydney, the design plans had to respond to fire and flooding requirements, however, we didn’t want to compromise on bringing a whimsical feel to the centre. We envisage the space to have a character of its own; a true destination for locals and visitors.”

To drive a sense of place to the proposed development site commemoration was key in the design process, says Project Architect Dino Delotavo.

“The design looks to commemorate the site’s previous use, so we’ve chosen large man-made tree-like canopies, and working hand in hand with landscaping experts Lark Collective, these will be adorned with seasonal florals. Rustic and artistic walkways will nod to the site’s past with cascading vines and shapes within the outdoor walkways that are reminiscent of the nursery, like birds and butterflies,” he says.

From street view, passers-by will see barn-like structures, channelling the former nursery. Verdant biophilic design will be enjoyed by visitors and onlookers alike, with planted green walls providing vibrant pops of colour. Timber and cobblestone furthers the robust, natural palette of the hub, with stained glass featuring sporadically.

The design is also driven by a sustainable approach to landscaping. A number of existing trees will be retained on the site, with native plantations utilised where possible. Tree planting will be done on the street frontages in deep soil planting beds that will provide habitat for wildlife and shading/cooling of pavement across the site. The paving chosen for the project will be laid with locally sourced bricks, along with recycled hardwood timbers as feature elements. Furthermore, eco-friendly grass pavers have been chosen over bitumen for the car park, which allows rainwater to permeate through the soil and prioritises green spaces over hard surfaces.

Furthering sustainable measures, innovative water-saving landscaping measures will see that external pathways and paving will be graded towards gardens, to utilise runoff where possible. Utilising water-wise native plants that are suited to the Hawkesbury growing conditions will be key in sustaining the low-maintenance landscape.

Every consideration was taken throughout the design process to adhere to safety requirements, going beyond building regulations. i2C has ensured the design places the children’s play spaces away from car parking and residential spaces, and raised recreation areas are given priority for both the effect of presence and flooding necessities.

The Vineyard community hub is the latest addition to i2C’s rich portfolio of urban design work, with the project due to receive development approval by the end of the year. Construction is expected to commence shortly after.