OCULUS: The eastern end of Napier was closed to traffic in the 1980’s to prevent heavy vehicles taking a short cut, between Oxford Street and South Dowling Street, through the surrounding residential area of Paddington in Sydney. This road closure has created a pedestrianised space that extends to the intersection of Greens Road and Oxford Street, and adjoins the UNSW College of Fine Arts (COFA) campus. Substantial refurbishments to the COFA facilities have recently been completed, including provision of a new entry foyer and café on the northern side of the building, fronting the Napier Street road closure. A new gallery space can be accessed from this entry foyer.
The café and gallery space contribute to increased activation of the public domain, hence the anticipated increase in usage of the area was deemed by the City of Sydney to warrant the renewal of the degraded road closure area to provide a vibrant and inviting public domain not only for students but most importantly the local community.
One of the main objectives noted in the brief was to transform the place into one of Paddington’s premier meeting places and activity nodes by creating a vibrant and inviting public domain.
The following key strategies were identified during the feasibility study:
• retain all existing mature Fig trees;
• provide opportunities for people to gather;
• explore understory planting opportunities to complement the existing tree canopy;
• investigate the concept utilizing the existing and proposed vegetation to provide a setting for an outdoor café.;
• maximise pedestrian space and pedestrian circulation at the verge area adjoining Oxford Street/Greens Road intersection; and
• explore options to provide flexible and various seating types that will assist in making the area a meeting place.
The defining aspect of the space is the tree canopy comprised principally of Fig trees (Ficus macrocarpa hillii & Ficus benjamina) and Bangalow Palms (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana). All trees on site have been retained and supplemented with lush, dense planting that complements the curvilinear form of the seating walls and the existing trees. A decorative screen of varying height between 1.0 to 1.5 metres high has been situated in the garden beds to the north generally following the alignment of the service station wall and then turning and realigning in a playful manner with the concrete seating edge to the east. The screen provides visual relief from the clutter of the adjoining service station canopy and acts as a strong identifying feature for the site.
Overall the design reduces visual clutter giving the impression of a series of “rooms” enclosed only by the impressive tree canopy. The inclusion of the two decks allows direct movement through the site whilst providing three clear zones of occupation which can be utilised by the local community and COFA alike.
More photos (project opening)
Landscape Architects: OCULUS
Project Name: Napier Street Open Space, Paddington
OCULUS – Lead Consultant: Landscape Architecture and Urban Design
Artscape – Arts Consultant
Northrop – Structural, Civil and Hydraulic Engineering
Lighting Art + Science – Lighting Design
HMUP – Urban Planning
Funktion – Access Consultant
HydroPlan – Irrigation
Hargreaves Landscape – Landscape Contractor
Initial consultation concepts – Context
Location: Paddington, NSW, Australia
Client: City of Sydney
Year of construction: 2014
Budget: $1.2 million (landscape/external works)
Image credits: Simon Wood, Photographer
Awards: 2014 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects NSW Awards: Design