Western Sydney’s hottest place to cool down opens
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Western Sydney’s hottest place to cool down opens

It’s been a long wait, but doors finally open today

By KANEBRIDGE NEWS
Mon, Sep 25, 2023 11:53amGrey Clock 2 min

Parramatta has a cool new destination for beating the heat, just in time for summer.

Today marks the opening of the Parramatta Aquatic Centre, a multi-million dollar facility designed to service the diverse communities of Western Sydney. Jointly crafted by award-winning architectural firms Grimshaw, Andrew Burges Architects and landscape architects McGregor Coxall, the facility includes a 10-lane 50m outdoor pool, a 25m indoor pool and a Learn to Swim pool as well as an indoor water playground, a fully-equipped gym in the health and wellness centre, community rooms and steam, spa and sauna facilities.

The $88.6 million centre is situated in Parramatta Park at Mays Hill and has been designed to ‘minimally disrupt’ the park, which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With the outdoor pool as the centrepiece, the aquatic centre has been largely worked into the topography of the park, maintaining community access to the site as well as protecting views across the park to Old Government House.

In addition to the public-facing facilities, the centre has 360 solar panels powering a 193kW system and an automated natural ventilation system instead of air conditioning. 

Parramatta has been without an aquatic centre since 2017 when the Parramatta Memorial Pool was bulldozed to make way for the Western Sydney Stadium. The outdoor pool has been named the Memorial Pool in honour of the former pool.

Architect Andrew Burges said the aquatic centre had been designed with the future in  mind.

“Our goal was to provide a completely new vision of what an Aquatic Centre could be – we wanted to create a destination for the community, one that provides opportunity for many forms of recreation in a safe and inspiring facility that feels more like a landscape setting than a building,” he said.

Project director for Grimshaw, Josh Henderson, said the centre was a culmination of years of planning and collaboration that would serve the needs of the community for years to come.

“The new Parramatta Aquatic Centre will provide a much-needed destination for swimming, fitness, and leisure in Western Sydney,” he said. 

“The design team, City of Parramatta and builder have all collaborated to create a valuable community asset that is enjoyable to experience, well made, highly functional and accessible. As a new home to many community groups, the opening of the facility will provide vibrant landscaped public spaces for fitness, sport, learn to swim classes and for time with friends and family.”

The new aquatic centre is projected to attract one million visitors a year.



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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 

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