The inner-city Sydney suburb of Ultimo is recognised as Gadigal Country, though the Go-mo-ra people living around Blackwattle Creek may have formed a separate clan.. The sandstone ridge of the Pyrmont peninsula has undergone constant change since colonisationAustralia was colonised. By the mid-1850s much of Ultimo had been quarried and carted away to build Sydney’s public buildings.

Following World War II, Ultimo was at a loss. The charming character once associated with the working-class suburb became a distant memory. Plans for numerous freeways threatened hundreds of properties across Ultimo.

Resident action groups – known as RAGs – fought the freeways. Active protests came to a head at Fig Street, which saw twelve people arrested in 1975. Plead plans for the North-Western Expressway were to be curtailed., Yyet much of Ultimo’s terrace housing had been demolished – including the ‘Upper Fig Street terraces’ where Fig Lane Park stands today.


Fig Lane Park represents the community’s desire to physically conserve and socially rehabilitate. On land demolished for a freeway that never happened, the park’s construction in 1997 followed years of uncertainty.

From the beginning, it was understood the park design should be sensitive to the aspirations of longstanding older residentsneighbours, young professionals, public housing residents and students.

Design development was based on understanding needs, established through local precinct committee and residents’ workshops.


Following community feedback, Fig Lane Park was designed as a suite of courts surrounding a raised central lawn. The park is reminiscent of place and community and how it has evolved from Gadigal times to now.

The artworks are designed by Lucy Bleach. The water-feature Swellstone is the base column of the old Pyrmont Bridge. The sculpture was inspired by a former natural spring – significant to the local Aboriginal community for its ceaseless trickle in times of drought.

Esculentis Spiralis is recovered sandstone inscribed with intricate drawings showing local food evolution from pre-settlement to the present.


Fig Lane Park has proved its essential function to the community for 25 years. As the park’s designers, CLOUSTON have been inspired to conduct regular pro-bono inspections of the park, working directly with the City of Sydney on each visit.

At each review, locals invariably express their appreciation for the park and give insights into its daily use. These interactions reveal the serendipitous nature of park use – from those who stop, to those who linger, to the dog owners – “the dogs run this park!” said one.

The community embrace all users….” It’s good that sometimes the homeless folk come and use the BBQ and always clean up afterwards”.

A timeless design helps the park remain relevant as new user groups move in and out of the area. A sense of collective care means virtually no vandalism is evident. The sense of ownership is ‘passed on’ to incoming users as an enduring legacy.


From the beginning, the importance of tree canopy cover and growth was inherent. A combination of indigenous Eucalypts, Angophoras, Figs and Blueberry Ash trees were complemented with deciduous Crepe Myrtles and Wisterias to offer much needed shade on hot summer days.

The park was one of the first to use different soil horizons and connected soil networks to give trees maximum chance to thrive. This has been critical for shade and to the ultimate volume of carbon sequestration achieved. The most recent audit reveals 65 tonnes of carbon have been sequestered by the trees planted in Fig Lane Park since it was constructed – averaging 2.7 tonnes per year.


Fig Lane Park was awarded by AILA for its urban design in 1996. Since then, the strong community presence that defined the park’s design has remained in its use and management.

The regular audits undertaken with Council have involvedinvolved evaluating the overall condition of the park, identifying repairs; discussing maintenance issues, understanding the community’s observations, and most recently calculating carbon sequestration of the park’s trees over 25 years.

Lessons learnt include:
− Comprehensive engagement at the outset leads to an enduring ‘ownership’ of the park.
− Short visits or passing through the park are critical to connect people with nature.
− Sitting quietly at the edges and yet still be engaged is important.
− Artwork is enjoyed in serendipitous creative ways.
− Carbon sequestration by the park’s trees is our collective responsibilityexponential – 65 tonnes of carbon sequestered and counting.

Knowledge from the audits has added immense value to climate positive design thinking in the Landscape Architecture profession. Learnings also promote the essential role the city’s parks have in mitigating climate change impacts. But perhaps the most poignant lesson comes fis the social value of Fig Lane Park to rom the community itself. During an audit in the early 2000s, aOne recently-widowed resident who just moved to the neighbourhood said “This park saved my life.”

Location: 320-334 Jones Street, Ultimo, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2007.

Design year: 1996

Year Completed: 1997 – Construction of Fig Lane Park was completed on the 13th of July 1997.


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