International acclaim for Sydney water re-use project

Sydney Park Wetlands connects with community through weirs and paths.

The designers of Sydney Park’s wetlands, created on 40 hectares of former landfill, have again been recognised for their innovative approach.

The success of City of Sydney’s landmark water re-use project in Sydney Park lies in its fusion of science and ecology with art, coupled with the council’s ability to curate the multidisciplinary team that designed it.

That’s according to Mike Horne, director of Turf Design Studio, one of the landscape architects behind the project, which has won further acclaim after picking up a prestigious European prize this month.

In partnership with City of Sydney, Turf Design Studio and Environmental Partnership led a multidisciplinary team of water engineering, public art, ecology, lighting and other specialists on the $11 million Sydney Park Water Re-Use Project.

The project was awarded both the Civic Trust Award and The Special Award for Sustainability at Europe’s Civic Trust Awards.

It’s been recognised for delivering unique parkland that integrates landfill remediation, recreation, enhanced biodiversity, civil infrastructure, and new urban water re-use systems.

The Sydney Park Water Re-Use Project

The project is City of Sydney’s largest stormwater re-use facility, harvesting 850 million litres of stormwater annually. It’s designed to reduce City of Sydney’s potable water demand by 10 per cent before 2030.

The initiative has revitalised 40 hectares of former landfill site into wetlands, playgrounds, wildlife habitat, and recreational areas.

Mr Horne said the project’s success lay in its unique, multidisciplinary fusion.

“Turpin + Crawford Studio, Alluvium and Dragonfly Environmental brought verve and skill to the project. The City of Sydney also deserves recognition for its curatorial rigour and commitment to quality on behalf of the community,” he told Government News.

Project’s unique obstacles

Mike Horne

Discussing the challenges involved in what was City of Sydney’s largest environmental project to date, Mr Horne said that as a former brickworks and then landfill site, the park’s existing ponds held promise but suffered from low rainfall and algae outbreaks.

“Given the site’s magnitude, the team focused on water harvesting and re-use to ensure waterway health and to future-proof water supply for the site.”

The project has enhanced circulation of water through the ponds and wetlands, diverting 840 mega litres per annum of local stormwater for treatment and re-use, renewing ecosystems and creating greener and more functional public amenity, he said.

“The city also seized the opportunity to use what was essentially an infrastructure project as a vehicle to breathe new life into the park – as a vibrant recreation and environmental asset for Sydney,” said Mr Horne.  

The Sydney Park Water Re-use Project competed with a field of UK and international entrants in the Civic Trust Awards, which celebrate exceptional architecture, urban design and public art projects globally.

The project has transformed the park, says Clover Moore.

The project has previously won the Australia Prize in Urban Design Award for Major Built Infrastructure and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects’ national infrastructure and NSW excellence awards.

Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, said the design team had “transformed the park, literally bringing the wetlands and the story of water treatment to life in the park’s ecosystems and in the community’s imagination.”

Through the chain of wetlands, connected by weirs, bridges, paths and stepping stones, the designers have created delightful places in the park’s landscape, connecting community and nature, she said.

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