Paddington Reservoir Gardens is located at the corner of Oxford Street and Oatley Road opposite to the Paddington Town Hall. It was originally constructed as a water reservoir. The first water chamber was completed in 1866 and the second in 1878. The water chambers were built below street level with a grassed park above which opened to the public in the 1930’s. The site was used as a workshop, garage, and gas station until 1990 when the roof of the western chamber collapsed condemning the building to its closure. In 2006 The restoration of the place started when the designers Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and JMD Design Landscape Architects were commissioned by the city of Sydney to repair the underground reservoir chamber in ruinous shape and reinstate the park above for public use, two years later the park was open to the public. It was an exciting brief that created a much needed dialogue between old infrastructures and new uses.

DSC_2713Entrance from Oxford Street

DSC_2661Entrance from Oxford Street

DSC_2662The north edge of the park along Oxford Street

DSC_2714The remains of the gas station

DSC_2650Western edge along Oatley Road

Paddington Reservoir is a wonderful space suspended half way between a building and a garden, between a ruin and a futuristic structure. From a building it takes the sense of enclosure, the fact that it is on two levels, its materiality made of existing elements: old bricks, cast iron and timber, united with  new ones: steel, aluminium and concrete.

IMG_3415Western Chamber

DSC_2712Western Chamber


Western ChamberDSC_2702Western Chamber

DSC_2701Entrance to the Eastern Chamber





DSC_2692The Eastern Chamber


The sunk garden inhabiting the western chamberDSC_2683


The bridge spanning over the chambers and at the end to the right Paddington Town HallDSC_2664

From a garden it takes the lush vegetation, the lawn located on the eastern side of the park above the reservoir chamber, the sense of journey and discovery that belongs to open spaces such as labyrinths or mazes, but in the reservoir garden there is no sense of loss rather a constant excitement that comes by new views and encounters that unfold at every step of the journey.






DSC_2673Stairways to Oxford Street



The lawn above the eastern chamberDSC_2659DSC_2656

The design work emphasizes the dialogue between old and new, between the built and the unbuilt. The park has got two very distinct parts: the covered reservoir located in the eastern part and the outdoor adjacent sunken garden created amongst the ruins of the western chamber.

DSC_2696eastern chamberDSC_2651sunk garden in the west chamber

The area above the eastern chamber dominates the surrounding cityscape and becomes a view point from where life on Oxford Street can be enjoyed, the chamber below has been restored and transformed in a place for entertainment where movies and workshops take place. The western part of garden mixes detritus from the past with new minimal interventions such a boardwalk that defines the movements of the area. The whole is conquered by the stunning lush vegetation: from fern trees to Banksias.


The memory of the place is preserved and at the same time is reinvented with new futuristic elements: the lift, the metallic canopy and the bridges that fly over the entire garden.


It feels like the Roman Baths of Caracalla with the big difference that this is not only a space to look at but a space to inhabit. It is rare that a garden possesses such a three-dimensional experience, as Paddington Reservoir Garden has: we can admire and look at the space/vegetation from every possible angle and from above.



And it is also rare that an old building is so cleverly reinvented becoming a public space, a retreat, and a common ground that constitute the cocoon for daily activities. It is a loved space in the city where people come to play, to sit and relax, to read, to watch an exhibition, or just be.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens