Sydney-based practice Scott Carver has won the Design Excellence Competition for 197 Church Street, Parramatta.

Located in the heart of Sydney’s second CBD, the 4,300sqm site includes a 32-storey hotel, 25 floors of commercial space and a number of public gathering spaces.

Scott Carver Director, Nicholas Bandounas, says the practice is excited by the ability to transform the site.

“The opportunity to participate in such a transformational project is a humbling experience, which can only be topped by the win itself,” he says.

Parramatta is undergoing a transformation within its private and public sectors which has led to many new developments, and the implementation of a citywide framework plan. The 197 Church Street development is at the coalface of this transformation, with the building reinvigorating part of the CBD.

Scott Carver’s architectural approach has been guided by discussion with the practice’s Indigenous partner, Matthew Fellingham, and what caring for Country means to First Nations principles. As an early part of the process, the conversations revealed a number of opportunities to intrinsically connect the new structures to the land through the building’s design narrative that is rich in culture and heritage. 

197 church street parramatta scott carver

Through exploring Indigenous pathways and geomorphological lines in the region, as well as the colonial layering and urbanisation of the city led the practice to develop four key conceptual design principles: Travel Lines, the Urban Grid, Layering and Placemaking. The conceptual principles inform the design in a physical and philosophical sense, and work together to form a deep connection and sense of place.

“Our key design principles are equal parts physical and philosophical, driven by geomorphology, contextual history, community, and the urban framework. Importantly, these key principles are also underpinned by cultural layering and connection to Country,” says Bandounas.

The site’s significant location commands considered integration into the existing urban grid, established by the first European settlers. This led to a ground-up approach and the creation of a through-link to physically connect the urban block bounded by Marsden, Macquarie and Church Streets - streets with names originating from religious and political history. Missing from this connection was the Indigenous story, and the celebration of the Indigenous culture unique to the Parramatta region, the Burramattagal people.

“Working with the team at Scott Carver allowed me to interject cultural knowledge passed down from my Ancestors. As an integrated design team, we workshopped the Connecting Country Framework to develop the design principle of, ‘listening to an Aboriginal voice first’, for place names, wayfinding and meeting places,” says Matthew Fellingham, Lead Consult and Creator, Fellingham Consultancy & Design.

“FCAD worked with Traditional Knowledge Holders to ensure the Barramadigal voice and Dharug Nations’ ethos was captured in multiple design elements.”

197 church street parramatta scott carver

This resulted in the through-link being named Ngara Nura Way, which means, “connecting to Country by practicing active listening, hearing and thinking whilst on Country”. To honour this philosophical idea and its origins, Indigenous history and culture has been integrated into the space to connect directly to the heart of Parramatta’s Indigenous history and culture, giving gravitas to the conceptual principle of placemaking. The significance of Parramatta Square historically and geographically, the connection and meaning of the newly created Ngara Nura Way, and the travel lines established through the site drive the articulation of the built form above.

The building’s podium takes cues from the historic Murray Bros building and Post Office building arches and fine grain detail, and the opportunity to connect to and celebrate Ngara Nura Way. The commercial tower above the podium gestures to Parramatta Square in a layered approach, anchoring the significant Church St and Macquarie St intersection, and steps away from Ngara Nura Way to create a visible relief.

The hotel tower, which is tall and slender, addresses Marsden Street and speaks to the commercial tower through common horizontal massing breaks that reflect the program within. The final layer comes in the form of the fa├žade, which speaks to attributes found in nature with the layering transitioning from heaviness to lightness. 

Overall, the design proposal will contribute positively to the urban life of the precinct, connect with its rich history, and culture, and align with the transformational evolution in growth and prosperity currently witnessed in Parramatta.

To read more about the project, click here