2016 Outdoor Structure Prize: Sydney Park Water Re-Use by Turf Design Studio and Environmental Partnership

  •   5 May 2017

The Sydney Park Water Re-Use Project by Turf Design Studio and Environmental Partnership is the City of Sydney’s largest environmental project to date and a key component of Sustainable Sydney 2030.

At the intersection of design, art, science and ecology, the project creates a significant piece of environmental and community infrastructure on one of Sydney’s oldest post-industrial wastelands.

At the heart of this project is a story about water. The project is a sophisticated piece of green infrastructure consisting of four wetlands. Formerly, Sydney’s Newtown Catchment ran underneath Alexandria Canal. It is now intercepted and ‘plugged into’ the Sydney Park wetland system to expand its catchment to a regional scale. The wetlands capture and cleans the equivalent measure of 340 Olympic-sized swimming pools per annum, and is reused within the park and surrounding industry.

Challenges faced included preserving the site’s post-industrial and Brickworks heritage in the new park landscape, protecting and enhancing the local wildlife and flora through the redevelopment of the park, designing an ecological system that accommodates rain events of varying intensity, finding methods to communicate the water-harvesting system and technologies rather than concealing it, and contaminated fill management.


  • Collaboration across design, art, science and ecology
  • City of Sydney will achieve a 2030 target for 10 per cent of water demand to be met through local water capture and re-use
  • 850 million litres of stormwater per year is captured and cleaned providing a sustainable supply of water for the park, its wetlands and nearby industry with any remaining water returned to Alexandria Canal
  • Public art plays on the spirit of water and its interactions with topography, form, surfaces, plant life and fauna through the park
  • Bio-retention wetlands have improved the landscape setting, environmental amenity and habitat value, as well as providing opportunities for interactive play and education
  • As a former landfill site, excavated material was generally contaminated. Rather than disposing offsite, the fill was integrated into the design as a series of sculptural mounds, capped to contain the contaminants, and planted

Jury Citation

“An inspiring and innovative project that goes way beyond standard sustainability outcomes but also captures the hearts and minds of everyone who visits and reminds them about our most important resource: water.

“It is truly inspirational to see how Turf Design Studio has transformed an urban stormwater management system (once a lifeless engineered solution) into a life-giving, nourishing place. It does its engineering job seamlessly with perhaps [its] even higher calling of engaging with people to play, get wet – perhaps fall over – but without a doubt to love it, and return again and again. Superb.”