Today Sydney Park is a popular spot for dog lovers and kite flyers, but its rambunctious history as an industrial site in the 1880s and later a waste dump, is remembered by three soaring chimneys that once served the brickworks beneath. The park is 40 hectares of open space – landscaped gardens, rolling hills, water cascades and meandering pathways. Creeks flow throughout the greenery and attract different types of native birds.

Sydney Park’s history and current natural ecosystem will now be reflected in a major upgrade including a stormwater harvesting and reuse facility, along with stunning new wetlands, a green thoroughfare connecting Erskineville and Sydney Park Road and an environmentally integrated public artwork.

The new Sydney Park Stormwater Harvesting Project is the city’s largest stormwater facility, brought together through design, science and art. Led by landscape architects Turf Design and Environmental Partnership, the multi-disciplinary team behind it included Alluvium (water and environment), Dragonfly (ecology), Turpin Crawford (public art), and Partridge (structures), who worked together to analyse, develop ideas, and solve technical problems throughout the project’s design, creating a beautiful and biodiverse landscape.

At the heart of this work are the processes that enable urban waste water to be harvested and made good for reuse within and beyond Sydney Park. Making these water flows and reuse processes visible was an important part of the project, as they highlight the intrinsic relationship between water and urban life, topography, people, plant life and fauna.

The project’s public artwork, called Water Falls, was created by Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford together with industrial designer Konrad Hartmann. Designed to integrate with the look and feel of the new wetlands, Water Falls serves a vital role of distributing cleansed water from the new bio retention system and channelling it back into the park.

Our artworks are direct physical collaborations with nature’s energies, rather than representations of nature.

Turpin + Crawford Studio create site-specific artworks that interact with nature’s energetic forces through rhythm and movement. Their work straddles science, nature and the built environment to create a heightened awareness of place, energy and time. We talked to them about Water Falls and their approach to art and nature.

How did you arrive at the concept for Water Falls?

We worked closely over a period of three years with the project landscape architects, environmental engineer and habitat ecologist to find visual and active ways of enhancing community engagement with the principles of the Sydney Park Water Harvesting Project. This led to developing a series of concepts to highlight the harvesting of storm water originating from the streets of Newtown and its cleansing through the new functioning landscape of bioretention swales within Sydney Park.

What are some other projects that you’ve worked on in Sydney?

Tied to Tide is a wave, wind and tidal activated artwork commissioned by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and installed in Pyrmont Point Park in 1999. Its daily rhythmical performances harness the energetic forces of Sydney Harbour, reflecting the mood of the harbour for the enjoyment of visitors to Pirrama Park.

Storm Waters is an environmental water artwork commissioned by Landcom at Joynton Park in 2002 which functions as part of the treatment train of storm water harvested from the surrounding streets. Characterising the recessed park as a water park, two large sets of water stairs aerate the water and bring it to the surface for the enjoyment of the public, whilst reminding us all of the drama of storms.

Tank was commissioned by the Attorney General’s Department and located in the Downing Centre Tunnel. It is an artwork which conjures an enigmatic image of water’s surface or depth. Achieved entirely with light, this artwork is located near the historic headwaters of Sydney’s first fresh water supply.

(Note, there are also Halo (commissioned by Frasers and now owned by the City), Time Rings (commissioned by Leichhardt Council and now owned by the City), Windlines (co-commissioned by the City and Scouts Australia) and soon Swing at Heffron Hall!)

How did Turpin + Crawford come to its focus on works that incorporate natural elements?

We have long held an interest in the interconnected nature of our world. Human connections to ecosystems and the elemental energies of water, wind and sunlight, combined with physical forces such as gravity, are a never-ending source of inspiration.

What are some challenges?

Much time is required to learn an environmental project’s complexities; not only the science, but the creative or artful ways that might highlight environmental function. Art is about creating meaning. To do this in the public domain requires time, patience, collaboration with others, long-term commitment and tactical skill in an industry environment where artists are not always regarded as professional. All this can be very challenging at times but also very rewarding and enjoyable.

Published: 13 Jul, 2015 | 0 Comments

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