Powerhouse at Parramatta – Cultural Reality?

Darryn Capes-DavisCommunity, Parramatta LGA

In 2018 I spoke at in the public forum of City of Parramatta Council. At that time I reported how the Deloitte report on the Heads of Agreement, making the Powerhouse move to Parramatta possible, stated “That design of the proposed MAAS could result in the ‘iconic’ objective set in the Cultural Plan not being met.” Now that I have read the brief for the Powerhouse design competition I believe this prophetic statement to be true.

In 2017 the City of Parramatta Cultural Plan was endorsed, including the River Strategy and Civic link. This included the River Square described as a “public space linking directly to Parramatta Square and station through the Civic Link”. Now I read in the Powerhouse brief that “this link can be
interpreted across the site and may not be open-air or a direct north-south connection.”
This simple statement could mean that the design need not incorporate any direct link, lacking the public space linking directly to Parramatta Square as aspired by the 2017 Cultural Plan.

In the design brief is a statement repeated many times: “To enable the best Museum outcome and support the Civic Link we are requesting that all
submissions consider the removal of Willow Grove, should it be required.”
If I could see a great outcome for the Civic Link I would likely support this idea. However, all I can see is loss for Heritage and a loss for the Cultural Plan.

On a plus, the hysteria around flooding is well managed in the opinion of any engineer reading the brief. This requirement to be above 1% flood event needed to have a unique design and the competition winners have sure delivered in that regard.

If only the site was not so land and water locked, we could get an iconic design without comprising public space and the aspiration of the 2017 cultural plan, which now seems to be in the shadows a large development full of internal cavernous voids, but void of any opportunity to deliver on the public boulevard from river to the heart of the Parramatta CBD.

I can only hope that all involved in the iconic design listen to the people of Parramatta and allow the living spine of the City of Parramatta not be strangled by monolithic blocks.

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