Parramatta Aquatic Centre   Sydney, Australia

The Parramatta Aquatic Centre (PAC) is located at Mays Hill, the traditional lands of the Burramattagal, an inland group of the Dharug people. The Centre is in Parramatta Park, which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and is situated in a distinct landscape concept which acknowledges the site’s historical vocation as a gathering place. The pool reinvents the traditional aquatic centre typology, creating a new place where the quality of outdoor landscape and recreational space defines the experience. This is a new, inclusive community hub centred around the pleasure of swimming in a park setting. This park is minimally disrupted by locating the building footprint within the topography – retaining and celebrating heritage landscaping and vistas.

The design comprises swimming areas arranged around the ring, carved into the topography with the health and wellness facilities acting as the buffer to Park Parade. The centre features a 50-metre, 10-lane outdoor pool with seating; a 25-metre, indoor recreational pool; an indoor Learn-to-Swim pool; an indoor water playground; multipurpose community rooms; steam, spa and sauna facilities; a health and wellness centre, including a modern gym and program rooms; a cafe; and car parking. All of the facilities are predominantly organised into a single level for ease of access and use by Parramatta’s growing and diverse community.

The rooftop covering the sunken pools upholds the open space requirements of the precinct Master Plan, retaining community access and heritage views to Old Government House. Connectivity has been designed to minimise impacts on the traffic in the area and effectively link to existing public transport. The car parking is also integrated to the topography of the park.

The centre features 360 rooftop solar panels powering a 193KW capacity solar system. Automated natural ventilation is used in the fitness centre instead of air conditioning to maximise energy saving. Skylights that filter harmful UV, maintain temperature, and absorb sounds, are set around the centre to provide soft natural light to indoor areas.

Grimshaw leads the design partnership with Andrew Burges Architects (ABA) and McGregor Coxall as landscape architect. The design team’s submission was selected as the winning scheme from a Design Excellence Competition in 2018, at which time the jury commended the response to exceptional operational aspects, the generosity of space contributing to the user experience and the integration of the scheme into the park. Grimshaw have previously collaborated with ABA on Gunyama Park Aquatic & Recreation Centre → at Sydney’s Green Square, which was jointly awarded the 2021 Lord Mayor’s Prize in the 2021 Australian Institute of Architecture Awards (NSW Chapter) and received the award for public architecture at the 2021 Australian Institute of Architects National Awards.

The circular form surrounding the outdoor pool, named the Memorial Pool in recognition of the former Parramatta War Memorial Swimming Centre, is complemented by two linear pathways forming the spine of the site. These pathways unite routes to, from, and around the Centre, connecting the CBD-facing park, entry plaza, main pool space, ring walk, and verandah. Clarity was central to the outcome, ensuring active transport and wayfinding were increased throughout the site. A series of interconnected bike and walking paths unite plaza spaces and parklands to enhance pedestrian activity. Open lawns and landscaped berms complement the active transport networks that link the Centre with Parramatta CBD.

The precinct’s habitat and biodiversity values are extended with the addition of 562 new native trees planted across 30,000 square metres of landscape to enhance the existing urban forest. Tree plantings are strategically incorporated with seating and gathering spaces wherever possible to increase the shading paramount to the site’s functionality. Heightened ecological values and soil reconditioning will influence the sites microclimate, maximizing shaded areas for play and relaxation. The pool itself is surrounded by dense urban forest, which will play a major role in mitigating urban heat impacts.

A transformative endeavor for the geographical centre of Sydney, the new Centre extends the surrounding Parramatta Park and forms connections between Parramatta and Cumberland Councils. With more than a million visitors expected to use this facility each year, PAC will be a year-round destination for the people of Parramatta and beyond.

Sydney, Australia

Project Type
Sports →

In collaboration with:
Andrew Burges Architects (ABA) and McGregor Coxall

City of Parramatta Council