2013 Sydney Design Awards

Image Credit : Photography: Brett Boardman 0418 210 943 studio@brettboardman.com


Project Overview

Located at the edge of central Sydney, the ambition of the project was to reinvigorate the under-ulitised 7.5 hectare park, and upgrade the tired public pool. The overriding principle was to premiate landscape over built form, based on a conviction that in these inner urban areas, green space is sacred.
The old pool facility building was removed from the middle of the park, allowing the landscape to be visually opened and re-graded, amplifying its distinctive pastoral quality. New activities such as playing courts, fitness nodes, playgrounds, and picnic tables are concentrated along the railway edge and have added life to the park. Pathways choreograph desire lines and shed stormwater to grassy swales for collection and reuse on the park playing field. New plantings and avenues draw on the Victorian love of exotica, while a rolling, grassy topography blurs the park perimeter with an urban grassland ecology. The new pool building is designed as a ‘folded landscape’ with a green roof of native meadow grasses. In this single move the building disappears from the adjacent street, and is embedded into the park landscape. Two crisply shaped landscape mounds define the pool enclosure, simultaneously connecting and separating pool and park.

Project Commissioner

City of Sydney


Project Creator

City of Sydney and Neeson Murcutt Architects with Sue Barnsley Design


City of Sydney

City Projects and Property Design + Project Managers:
Elizabeth Sandoval, Lisa Dodd, John O'Shea

Architect: Neeson Murcutt Architects Pty Ltd
Landscape Architect: Sue Barnsley Design

Project Brief

The Prince Alfred Park and Pool upgrade has reinvigorated this, the largest public open space in Surry Hills. Once a park that was under-utilised, it has already become a popular destination.
The project remakes the north-south shareway – an important commuter route for pedestrian and cycles – and concentrates new activities along it. Upgrading a playing field and adding new courts, arbors, fitness nodes, playgrounds, and picnic tables to provide greater park amenity, life and safety. The project includes other pathways that choreograph desire lines and recast entries to align with bounding streets. The pool entry paths from Chalmers Street have been engineered to take service and emergency vehicles, while site-wide water management improves the resilience of park and catchment.
The existing 50m outdoor pool is retained and upgraded to meet sustainable aspirations. The new pool building is designed as a ‘folded landscape’ with a green roof of native meadow grasses. Two crisply shaped landscape mounds define the pool enclosure, simultaneously connecting and separating pool and park. There are generous grassy sunbathing areas within the pool enclosure and a cluster of palms at the entry allowing the building to sit confidently within this parkland without compromising or cluttering this prized open space.

Project Need

The project rationalised buildings and structures across the site. Consolidating public toilets within the pool building, moving tennis centre to the Coronation Centre, relocating maintenance depots and removing storage sheds. Preferencing landscape over built form. The green roof of the pool building is the most direct expression of this intention, drawing structure, waterproofing, stabilising, soils, plants and irrigation together in a new urban ecology. The fine grasses and herbs of the roof linking to the wilder, non-irrigated meadows along Cleveland Street, where species compete with mature trees and impromptu access.
Using soils from the site new accessible pathways artfully adjust the lay of the land, and reconfigured two mounds that define the pool enclosure. The texture of the park meadows are echoed on the external face of the mounds, where turf is left unmown, like a golf rough. Adding to the loose, pastoral quality of the park and demanding new approaches to park maintenance.
Site wide stormwater management adds to the sustainability and resilience of the park and catchments, while the transplantation of large cabbage tree palms to the pool forecourt, required piering of slabs to allow for interlinked tree pits with uncompacted, soil profiles. The alignment of palm, tree grate and pavement stripes a precise operation.
While actively impressing ecological performance within the project, the identity of the park is drawn from the past memories of this place and Victorian predilections. Giving a playful and particular visual language to Prince Alfred Park.

Design Challenge

Originally laid out for the holding of large exhibitions in the English style, the new park plays on the episodic placement of elements with a new spatial and ecological sensibility – adding life and contemporizing the park without erasing its Victorian roots. New plantings and avenues draw on the Victorian love of exotica, while a rolling, grassy topography blurs the park perimeter with an urban grassland ecology while embedding stormwater management across the site. The sinuous lines of the new concrete pathways also have an important resonance with the park’s Victorian heritage. Elements such as the park lights, playgrounds, fitness nodes, pool enclosure fence, umbrellas, toddler shade structure, tree-seat, chimneys, bestow a playful character as ‘follies’ within the Victorian park.
The greatest design challenge was making the 1000m2 pool facilities building ‘disappear’ within its park setting. This was achieved through the folded landscape strategy, which also concealed the presence of Chalmers Street with its busy traffic, from the actual pool. The meadow roof was meticulously detailed to provide adequate soil depth, stability, irrigation, and a mix of species, textures, colours and flowering seasons.
Two crisply shaped landscape mounds define the space of the outdoor pool enclosure, simultaneously connecting and separating park and pool. They were created from soil on site, and provide wind protection and create areas for discrete sunbathing. Strategic gaps between the mounds allows views between park and pool, including glimpses from Chalmers Street.


Prince Alfred Park and Pool is a benchmark project of sustainability initiatives providing a direct benefit to city residents whilst showcasing complex ESD measures integrated with contemporary state-of-the-art design including:
• green roof insulation - biggest green roof of its kind in Sydney using local native plants;
• new pathways set level with lawns making them universally accessible while allowing for natural drainage, enhanced infiltration and purification of stormwater flows;
• capture of storm water from upper catchment in a 500cc underground storage tank for irrigation of the playing field and pool lawns
• grass swales and a planted bio retention swale improving water quality before discharge to Blackwattle Bay
• moisture sensors to reduce irrigation;
• improved topsoil conditions
• extensive tree, under-storey and habitat plantings;
• meadows protect mature figs from compaction and provides habitat for urban wildlife
• extensive lawns including non mowable grass slopes to the external face of pool mounds
• high coverage of porous, green cover, reducing reflectivity and heat
• created from soil on site
• bike parking;
• recycled construction materials;
• timber products from sustainable forests;
• rationalised lighting and energy efficient lamps including LED lights;
• pool plant designed to house future trigeneration equipment that will provide electricity for the whole site;
• environmental messages through signage.


This award celebrates creativity and innovation in the use of practical, aesthetic, horticultural, and environmental sustainability components, taking into account climate, site and orientation, site drainage and irrigation, human and vehicular access, furnishings and lighting.
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