A landmark new park on the former Water Police site at Pyrmont in Sydney has been judged Australia’s best public urban landscape project in the 2009 Public Domain Awards. The park was named Best Overall Project in the biennial Awards, hosted by industry association Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia (CCAA) this month.  

Overlooking the Harbour on Pyrmont peninsula, the Sydney park combines elements of the site’s industrial history and waterfront environment with more contemporary forms and materials to create what the judges described as “an outcome of apparent simplicity and exemplary coherence.”    

The winning project was designed by landscape architects ASPECT Studios and constructed by Ford Civil Contractors for the City of Sydney. It was also named Best Project for NSW and joint winner in the Precincts Category.    

Sacha Coles, National Director of ASPECT Studios, says his design team inherited what was essentially ‘a big, flat, unarticulated site’ and set out to turn it into something ‘rich and complex’. To achieve this, original elements like the low concrete wall on the water side of the Foreshore Promenade were retained and incorporated into the overall design.    

New forms such as the ‘boomerang’ concrete walls that sculpt and retain the grove on the road side of the Promenade also have a raw, off-form finish to reflect something of the site’s industrial past.    

Elsewhere a variety of different new concrete forms and finishes have been used which, along with level changes, help to delineate different park ‘rooms’.    

One of the aims of ASPECT’s masterplan was to give back to the community access to the harbour. Subtle level changes across the site lead visitors down to the water’s edge, where large concrete steps literally descend into an aquatic ‘amphitheatre’ defined by concrete forms.  

Coles says the Public Domain Award is a great honour, not just for those who worked on the project but the local community.    

The national Public Domain Awards are held every two years to recognise the innovative and functional use of concrete to enhance the public domain.    

CCAA Chief Executive, Ken Slattery, says the Awards celebrate infrastructure projects that connect to the community at a very fundamental level, such as parks, roadways, malls, transport interchanges, bridges and public artworks.    

“They highlight the importance of good design, construction and materials in achieving outcomes that are practical, lasting and pleasing to the eye.” he says.    

The CCAA Public Domain Awards have been running since 1996 and this year attracted a record number of entries from around Australia.    

The 2009 Awards were judged by a panel of landscape and design architects, headed by Professor Catherin Bull of the University of Melbourne. Other jury members were Peter Poulet, the newly appointed Tasmanian State Government Architect; and Scott Taylor, a director of Terrain Consultants and a past president of the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.    

Entries were judged on functional performance, aesthetics, economy, durability, construction, traffic management or calming (where appropriate), sustainability, and the overall significance of the works in relation to the public domain.