lahznimmo architects and Spackman and Mossop Landscape Architects formed a joint venture (LNSM) to provide the Sydney Catchment Authority with architectural, urban design and landscape services for the preparation of the Warragamba Dam Masterplan. The first part of the commission involved preparing a new master plan for the entire Warragamba Dam site which was required after the major intervention works of the new $500 million auxiliary spillway. The second stage involved the design and of the major components of the Master Plan, including the Visitor Information Centre and Operations Complex and various ancillary structures, landscape works and roadways.
Between 1998 and 2002 an auxiliary spillway was constructed at Warragamba Dam to protect the dam wall and divert excessive flood waters. The construction of the new spillway sliced through the end of the existing Haviland Park, severing its connection to the dam wall and creating a shear sandstone cliff face some 25m high. The Visitor Centre and Operations Complex (VOC) are sited at the end of Haviland Park, perched on the edge of the newly created cliff face to take advantage of the spectacular location overlooking Warragamba Dam.
The building has two addresses – the first to Haviland Park and the second to the spillway and dam wall. From the Haviland Park side the landscape is emphasised and the building is downplayed and recessed from the park level, allowing the existing vista through Haviland Park to be maintained. The landform is reformed to gently rise creating a new “green” horizon line at the end of the vista. From the cliff side however the building is more expressive and hovers dangerously on the edge of the cliff face, with a series of public viewing platforms stepping down the precipice on the rock shelf levels.
The entrance to the VOC is announced by a simple precast concrete box which pops up above the landscape as well as a gigantic “Valve Assembly” from the original valve house. The descent into the building is via a ramp, which arrives at a partially cantilevered Forecourt with views over the Spillway and Dam.
The building comprises two key components. The first is a Visitor Information Centre with a multi purpose education room and exhibition component. The Centre is open to the public as well as catering to large groups of school children and is a key element of the Sydney Catchment Authority’s public education strategy. The second major component is the Operations Complex, which contains the Sydney Catchment Authority’s Communications Unit; Bulk Water Operations and Catchment Operations teams.
Warragamba Dam Master Plan Works are a family of structures of very different program and scale - all tied together by the need to interpret, visit, manage and preserve the public grounds surrounding the Warragamba Dam. This is both a working environment, where the responsibility of managing the catchment that supplies Sydney with its water, and a place for recreation and education. A network of roads, bicycle and pedestrian paths link the structures in a spatial and hierarchical relationship that resembles a small village or university campus. At the heart of the site is the heritage listed Haviland Park which reads as a formal village green. Surrounding this are the less formal structures of picnic shelters, barbecues and public amenities. On axis at the end of Haviland park is the Visitor Centre and Operations building.