The brief involved the design of a Data Centre to act as urban catalyst within a new masterplan for Bays West Precinct in 2050. What was once a flourishing wetland pre-1788 is now an industrial graveyard harbouring the uninhabited Glebe Island Grain Silos and White Bay Power Station. The challenge of the brief was to revitalise and reactivate the concrete precinct to contribute valuably to the city landscape, bridging the gap between these two conflicting histories on a new common ground.
Common Ground aims to recentre First Nations peoples, practices and placemaking in an urban industrial setting, catalysing the repair and reconciliation of the landscape, whilst providing genuine amenity and industry as a data centre. The main design is informed architecturally by both the industrial and indigenous heritage of the site, utilising the energy created by the data centre to give back to the community, supporting integrated culturally and environmentally sustainable pavilions. At the forefront of this undertaking is the aim to create spaces that celebrate the enduring histories, cultures and country on a common ground.
The design aims to remediate this brownfield site by creating a circular economy whereby the excess heat generated by the data centre is used to support community facilities and the regeneration of the landscape within the masterplan. The design takes the concept of phytoremediation - a practice in horticulture whereby specific planting is used to extract toxins in post industrial soilscapes - to create facilities that supports the research and growth of these plants to be utilised and planted on site. It provides a number of other support facilities and pavilions that support inter-generational learning about cultural practices and care for country.
Suspended lightly above a remediated parkland and foreshore walk, the design replaces the existing concrete platform and adaptively reuses the existing Glebe Island Silos. A new working platform embeds the data centre's programmatic functions, with a series of protruding industrial pavilions and community facilities that have been re-contexturalised to house cultural and ecological industry; enabling a dialogue around culture, food and a revitalised environment. The main silos house vertical farming and energy production facilities whilst the pavilions include a Land Hub education facility housing phytoremediation research, a Working on Country Rangers Hub, a Heal Pavilion housing a therapeutic public meadow and parkland, a Central Amphitheater for public events, recreation and access to the water, a Produce Line for local food markets where vendors and community members are able to sell local produce (including produce grown on site in the vertical farms) as well as a Water Pavilion; which acts as a desalination plant harvesting saltwater to be reused and distributed amongst the vertical farming and remediated landscape. The rewilding and naturalisation of the landscape also aims to also encourage the return of micro-habitats and local marine life.