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ASPECT Studios: Metcalfe Park is situated on the waterfront in the commercial and technology cradle of Pyrmont in Sydney. Adjacent to the harbour, the existing park offers some of the most direct views of the rapidly transforming western city edge of Sydney, but with no facilities or public offering beyond its open grass area, it functions as a transitional place with most people simply passing through or around it. With an appetite to do more and create a space to stay, a new project model was conceived of by the local business community. Several of the surrounding businesses have rallied together to establish a precinct partners working group and commission a temporary park with the goal of creating a useable and inspired park experience to encourage greater interaction by the surrounding communities.

To encourage more people to stay, exercise and play, ASPECT Studios designed a park within a park which was based on site research, community engagement and analysis, with the intent to introduce social infrastructure types and test the effectiveness of these in shifting existing patterns of use. Prior to commencing the design process, ASPECT Studios conducted an onsite observation study over several days during the summer months, to establish a ‘base case’ and to setup key metrics and rigour around the current patterns of use, to ultimately test the design outcomes against. The key outcomes of the study are listed below.

Key usage

The population of people using the park fluctuates from an average of 1500 people per day during the working week to 880 on the weekend. Within these periods, 75% of people pass through the park.

The peak usage

On weekdays the peak usage period was between 8-10am, with 300-500 people per hour moving through the space. This gradually reduced during the day to a low of 50-150 people per hour between 6-8pm. During the weekends this trend was reversed with key usage around 6-8pm with 200-400 people per hour using the park during the cooler evening period.

Activity analysis

Mapping pedestrian movements and activity throughout the day provided an understanding of patterns of use for key uses These were noted as thoroughfare, organised sport and exercise, sedentary uses and other uses such as cycling, walking dogs, and incidental play by small family groups. This defined the spatial principles as retaining clear desire lines and a clear unprogrammed centre, and enhancing the existing patterns of keeping occupation to the edges. Directly responding to the metrics of this observation study, ASPECT Studios was able to design outcomes for the park. The park tested play, health and wellbeing, emerging technologies, biophilia, social infrastructure, new working methods, seating, shade structures.

More Social infrastructure

To encourage more people to stay whether to eat, relax, exercise, play or work externally, the park accommodates the needs and desires of users by providing place specific bespoke furniture; outdoor tables; integrated planters; mature large trees; seating opportunities; ping pong tables; solar harvesting umbrellas to provide shading and smart phone and tablet charging facilities; and a wireless environment.

Visible Sustainability Initiatives

The new park takes responsibility for its environmental footprint and has separated waste collection, solar harvesting and used repurposed and renewable materials to build it.

Research and Advocacy

The temporary nature of the park is to test and understand how people interact with the space and what aspects of the park could work for the future. It is being trialled over the Sydney summer, with all park components designed to allow for easy rearrangement and storage over the period. It tests various configurations and will ultimately determine the optimal solution for the urban space, which are people and site-specific driven-outcomes. During this time the project is being documented (three x 21-day trials) to understand the success and shift in occupation depending on the physical environment and for the benefit for future work. The study process includes again mapping key usage, peak usage and an analysis of activity, whilst also aligning this with a communication strategy utilising web and social media platforms. This gives users the ability to provide direct feedback via the online ‘suggestion box’.

This summer park has been designed with a view to promote health and wellbeing and a better appreciation of the benefits of urban green space. The final solution will be a series of recommendations to landowner through ongoing stakeholder engagement to work towards a permanent solution.


Metcalfe Park “Park within a Park’
Location: Metcalfe Park, Pyrmont, Sydney NSW, Australia
Precinct Partners: Google, The Star Sydney, Doltone House, The GPT Group, Mirvac, Fairfax Media, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
Project Management: JLL, Margot Natoli Project Management

Design Team:
Lead Designers and Landscape Architects: ASPECT Studios
Fabrication Engineering and Installation: Fleetwood Urban

Photography: Florian Groehn
Year: 2015

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