Design Parramatta is an ambitious undertaking by Parramatta Council and the NSW Government Architects office who invited 19 teams to re-think Parramatta’s “public spaces, streets and lanes… in a creative review of the city’s CBD”. The DRAW-assembled team of urbanists and thinkers were awarded the Erby Place site in the heart of Parramatta’s civic grid. Together with team members Tyrrell Studios, Dr Lee Stickells and Dr Zanny Beggwe undertook a six week intensive design process that interrogated the qualities and potential of the meta-site, established a design strategy and generated a series of correlated design moves. The work culminated in a day-long presentation alongside 18 other teams in Parramatta.
The Erby Place project converts an uninviting, underused park and service lanes into an attractive, lively gathering place for the city. It is also a counterpoint to the city’s main streets, big developments and formal civic squares: the “First City”. The new Erby Place points to the immense promise of another layer of more intimate, flexible and unconventional spaces: A layer we called Parramatta’s “Second City” (demarcated above).
The proposal improves an important pedestrian network, inserts crucial green space in the city centre, and provides innovative new spaces for community and commercial use. It outlines a transformation that exploits the potential of Parramatta’s service spaces to become far more than sites for storing cars and garbage. Instead, a different kind of public landscape is envisaged – one that privileges an informal, incremental and experimental urbanism.
The transformation of Erby Place is formed by some very simple moves with far-reaching effects. A unifying, undulating surface is draped over the park and lanes – reversing the experience of a car-dominated service space and encouraging pedestrian through-movement.
A new public stair winds its way from the ground to the top deck of the car park. It forms a direct connection between the park and a new roof top event space, as well as drawing people into the beautiful canopy of the Jacaranda trees. Not simply vertical circulation, the stair includes pockets of planting and a generous landing that provides a dramatic balcony to the park.
A playful, mirrored intervention in the cantilevered car park soffit makes Lane 13 more inviting and reticulates services to create new opportunities for micro-incubator spaces. The faceted, mirrored surfaces catch light and activity – reflecting them back into the lane to brighten and animate it – while at night internal lighting improves safety.
The bespoke roof provides a beacon, weather protection, solar power generation, water harvesting and defines a gathering space. Its large mirrored disc echoes the forms of the park, establishes a beguiling visual connection and again animates the space with reflected activity. Together, these elements celebrate the existing qualities of the site while adding the capability for Parramatta’s citizens to appropriate it in diverse, unconventional ways.
These interventions rejuvenate Erby Place but also provide a physical platform for enhancing people’s relationship with the inner city – a place that will grow and thrive through participation. Central to this revitalisation is a community engagement strategy that invites existing and potential users of the space to shape its transformation.
On the top of the car park a simple modular amenities block and a generous sculptural roof structure. These installations reconfigure the under-used deck as an exciting new community event space. The prefabricated amenities can be easily serviced and supplemented via the existing car park circulation.
The new physical configuration is a scaffold for the social interactions that will activate and enliven Erby Place. Planned gatherings such as rooftop farmers’ markets, basketball games or car-boot sales will help cohere community investment in the park. Building on such connections, more fine-grained and bespoke street furniture and rooftop infrastructure will be created. Such “user-generated” architecture will sustain the informality and permeability of the “second city” whilst also creating a greener and more inviting environment.
PROJECT: Erby Place, Parramatta
CLIENT: Parramatta Council and NSW Government Architects Office
LOCATION: Parramatta NSW
PEOPLE: DRAW Adam Russell, Imogene Tudor, Edward Rosier, with Tyrrell Studios, Dr Lee Stickells & Dr Zanny Begg
PROJECT NUMBER: 1224