Situated in one of the most important civic precincts in Sydney, the Calyx is amongst some of Australia’s most significant institutes and cultural landscapes. Opened in June 2016 the new facility has already become an iconic landmark that serves as a horticultural display, research and education centre. Intelligent, sensitive design provides visitors with an integrated mix of indoor and outdoor areas with a regular program of events year round.

McGregor Coxall led the design thinking in terms of the buildings relationship to the gardens and it’s response to the existing building form along with the extended arching steel frame structure. This project represents the role the Landscape Architect can have when involved at the early stage of the design thinking and process. The Landscape Architecture approach was embedded in the overall design response and as a result this important new building achieves a more integrated design outcome.

The project was awarded following a design competition in collaboration with PTW and Cockram. The team used the existing elements of the Arc, originally designed and constructed in 1994 by renowned Australian Architect, Ken Woolley. The landscape presents the Calyx as a jewel in the gardens with its elevated position and sense of arrival. Two leading radial paths provide a powerful visual and physical connection between the new built form and the wider gardens. The project establishes a framework from which the precinct can become a continuously activated cultural and civic place where people can meander, inhabit and interact.

The design of the Calyx builds on the geometry set out by Ken Woolley’s Arc. The building grafts onto the base of the Arc to create an integrated space with indoor and outdoor areas for exhibition. The name “Calyx” refers to the outer casing of a flower bud. At the centre of the building is an “Iris” podium, which features a mirror pond and can be used as a flexible space for events as well as exhibitions. The concept and orientation of linkages to the building utilises the surrounding physical and cultural context to generate a broader, more comprehensive outcome, integrating heritage and cultural life and engaging with the wider context of the park.

The Calyx features the largest interior greenwall in the southern hemisphere, hosting more than 18,000 plants managed and selected by the Royal Botanical Gardens Trust. The living wall is six metres high and spans 51 metres in length.

McGregor Coxall’s involvement in the project & specific role:
In the early stages we helped determine the building aspect and location as well as the overall site masterplan:
– unlocking the site – and enhancing the buildings relationship to the wider parkland and it’s overall setting and shape.
– utilising the existing trees and vegetation to create the impression the landscape was enveloped around the building. The landscape hugs the building to create the best setting for the architectural form
– The team worked in 3d to understand the best spatial experience when entering towards the site; visualisation impacts in and out of the main structure
– developing options to understand and convey the relationship with the landscape and the visual connection to the Royal Botanical Gardens.
– McGregor Coxall worked closely with PTW to determine the layouts of the main concrete platform, ramps and the edge treatment of the raised concrete iris ring.

CD & Construction:
McGregor Coxall worked closely with contractors and RBG (Jimmy Turner) on site during the construction documentation phrase.
Important factors and interventions included:
– Working with the contractor to test and sample the concrete floor mix on site to ensure the appropriate high quality finish
– We worked with the client team to achieve the correct edge detail making the design more elegant – giving the impression of a floating slab and creating perspective the planting and the building form
– relocating major services, particularly the stormwater pits which are now hidden but were originally visible overground and thus creating a more refined outcome
– the team undertook construction documentation detailing the pathways, stairs and lighting strategy.

Entrant office name: McGregor Coxall
Other design firms involved: PTW Architects
Project location: Sydney, Australia
Design year: 2014
Year Built: 2016


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