Having swept up an armful of accolades in the past year, Prince Alfred Park + Pool Upgrade by Neeson Murcutt Architects in association with City of Sydney (NSW) has once again proved that it is one of the best urban design projects in Australia.

Taking home the Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design at the 2014 Australian Institute of Architects’ (AIA) National Architecture Awards, the project involved the reinvigoration of a previously under-utilised park and tired public pool.

Drawing from the idea that green spaces are sacred in inner urban areas, the team embedded a new 1000m2 pool facilities building as a piece of ‘folded landscape’ with a green roof of native ‘meadow’ grasses by Sue Barnsley Design. In a single move, the building disappears from the adjacent street, creating a secret-like space that tells an inclusive story.

“Before this revitalisation project, Prince Alfred Park was a somewhat forgotten place in Sydney: 7.5 hectares of tired and slightly forlorn landscape straddling the main railway corridor between Redfern and Surry Hills. This important public project has brought a burst of new life to the park and its surroundings,” said the awards jury, led by AIA Immediate Past President Paul Berkemeier.

“The pool and its facilities are sheltered from the busy street by a folded landscape planted with native meadow grasses. Two more triangular mounds further define the pool’s outdoor areas and link the pool to the broader park landscape.

“The new pool facilities are contained within a simple, linear, 120-metre-long form with a sloping section and cantilevered roof that opens onto the pool concourse. A cafe and entry are placed at the southern end adjacent to the forecourt and a whimsical children’s playground. Next are change rooms that work beautifully with the expression of the section: the sloping ceiling and rear wall are lined with white tiles to give them a luminous, almost liquid quality. Light floods in through continuous clerestory glazing and circular skylights.

"The southern end is terminated with a vast plant room, excavated deep into the ground. This contains all of the pool equipment and also has provision for future trigeneration sets to provide power to the grid and serve all the energy needs of the pool complex. The large exhaust funnels of the trigen plant burst through the sloping meadow atop the facilities building. Their bright colours and patterning have a playful character which speaks to the surrounding follies, play structures and palm trees.

“Bleacher seating lines the mound on the far side of the pool, while a mass of bright yellow umbrellas shade spectators. Nearby a playfully over-scaled timber seat provides another shady settling place beneath a grove of trees. The built elements work seamlessly with the parkland setting – a landscape that retains a sense of its history and pastoral character. The project is a delight in every detail. It successfully integrates the new pool complex and major urban park, and is another great public project delivered by the City of Sydney.”

Photography by Brett Boardman

The project also took out a National Award for Public Architecture, while a National Award for Urban Design went to GASP! Stage 02 by Room 11 in Tasmania.

Click HERE for the full list of winners.