In the heart of Sydney, Parramatta is consistently growing – building a bustling, diverse community that has become Sydney’s dual CBD. To match this expansion, City of Parramatta has brought PHIVE to life; a $136 million cultural, civic and community hub. Boasting a bright red roof jutting into the skyline and unique architecture, the community hub is the new icon of the City, featuring everything the community needs for the future, from a new library and Council Chambers, to tech labs and sound studios.
The new PHIVE building is much more than a piece of new shiny infrastructure for the area, it aims to be a community space to gather, work, play and collaborate.
The eye-catching space, which opened on 23 September 2022, was constructed by the Australian group Built, connecting the new spaces with the original heritage-listed Parramatta Town Hall and mixing past, present and future.
The title PHIVE is short for Parramatta Hive, and also plays homage to the number five – the building’s location in Parramatta Square.
The six-level building was designed by a team led by award-winning French architect, Manuelle Gautrand, in partnership with Ms Gautrand’s French firm and Australian architecture firms Lacoste+Stevenson and Design Inc, represented by Richard Does and Thierry Lacoste.
City of Parramatta Lord Mayor, Cr Donna Davis, said,“The City of Parramatta’s state-of-the-art new community, cultural and civic centre, PHIVE, is a space for our communities to learn, be inspired and explore something new.”
The beginning of the journey
Cr Davis said that PHIVE is a project years in the making, with its inception going as far back as the mid-1990s as part of Council’s vision to develop Parramatta Square.
The project began to whole-heartley come to life in 2015 when “Council began exploring options for an ambitious new civic building, community and cultural facilities, visitor services and library located in the centre of Parramatta Square, incorporating the existing, heritage-listed Town Hall”, Cr Davis said.
“Following an international design competition, Council appointed Manuelle Gautrand Architecture, DesignInc and Lacoste + Stevenson for the design. “Ms Gautrand is internationally recognised for her exceptional designs and bold, eye-catching use of colour.
“Now we have a community space that is a landmark addition to Parramatta, placing our City firmly on the world stage.”
Not just a pretty face: Phives’s smart design
The new cultural hub is built with the future in mind, featuring a smart design with a plethora of amenities, such as new Council chambers, community meeting rooms, visitor services, children’s area, tech labs, a wellness studio and meeting rooms.
A large part of the building’s smart design is its ventilation system that responds to weather conditions, allowing the building to save power.
Cr Davis said, “Our state-of-the-art new building has been designed with world-class facilities to stand the test of time.
“It’s a truly smart building, with sustainability credentials allowing it to be net zero carbon from day one.
“It’s vibrant, it’s colourful, it’s on a completely different level to any other council building you will see anywhere else in Australia. This building is one of a kind. This is a building current and future generations will continue to explore and enjoy in the heart of Parramatta’s CBD.”
Building Parramatta’s new living room
Construction of PHIVE began in early 2020 right before the pandemic hit Australia, and has faced its fair share of challenges.
“As with all construction sites, there are challenges along the way – including the pandemic and multiple lockdowns – but Council worked hard alongside our construction partners, Built, to keep any delays to a minimum,” Cr Davis said.
The site was also unique as the team wasn’t working from a blank slate, but a site of historical significance, which presented some hurdles.
“While the archaeological significance of the site presented some limitations, the stunning and bold design we chose maximises the space we had to work with. It creates a modern interface with Parramatta’s rich heritage,” Cr Davis said.
“PHIVE cantilevers above the Town Hall roof at level three, offering a great view over the historic building, while ensuring minimum impact on the existing heritage elements.”
Cr Davis said she is also excited about the work that is going on to modernise and repurpose Town Hall, which aims to be completed by the end of 2023.
Working with the community
For Council, consulting with the community, listening to feedback and ensuring the history of the site was captured and present in the new design was a key priority.
“The City of Parramatta has worked closely with our community for many years to bring this project to life. Back in 2017, we created a citizen’s jury to get a wide snapshot of community feedback about what people wanted to see in this new building,” Cr Davis said.
“The jury comprised of people from different backgrounds and localities to have their say on the design and elements of PHIVE.
“It was important for our communities to have a voice and sense of pride in this important community building.
Council is now proud that tens of thousands of people have passed through PHIVE’s doors to enjoy our fantastic new community, cultural and civic hub.” Cr Davis explained that an important part of the project was ensuring the site’s rich history was preserved and acknowledged, including its 60,000-plus years of First Nations stories, to its more recent European history.
“Through the ages, Parramatta Square has been a marketplace, a meeting place, a city centre and civic hub. Archaeological digs at the site found significant remnants of heritage from both Parramatta’s First Australians and European settlers,” Cr Davis said.
Cr Davis said that the archaeological finds have been captured through a variety of displays throughout Parramatta Square, aiming to highlight the important role the site has played over thousands of years.
“Extensive consultation was carried out with the Dharug Reference Panel, Council’s Heritage and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committees, which was key to ensure this important, rich history was preserved,” Cr Davis said.
Helping to build a cohesive city
Council designed PHIVE with the goal of creating a second home for the community and promoting social cohesion – with the new hub offering accessible and modern amenities.
“The building’s bright warm colours are inspired by the Australian landscape, inspiring and inviting communities to enjoy the spaces and stay a while. Locals and visitors of all ages and backgrounds will be able to come together to connect, collaborate or get creative,” Cr Davis said.
“PHIVE is Parramatta’s new living room. This building has been designed for everyone of all ages and backgrounds – a space to connect, collaborate, get creative, or simply meet for coffee.”
Cr Davis also said that PHIVE is open seven days a week until late, offering a fantastic range of workshops, book clubs, classes, exhibitions and talks.
“There’s something for everyone at PHIVE – whether it’s recording a podcast in the state-of-the-art sound studios, making new friends at the senior’s group or enjoying a yoga class in one of the new active wellness studios.
“We’re so proud of PHIVE – the new heart and soul of our City and the final piece of the puzzle for Parramatta Square’s bold $2.7 billion transformation.”
The hub also fills a gap in the community by providing ample recreation space for locals who live in smaller houses and apartments.
“Many of our City’s residents are apartment-dwellers and PHIVE offers a second living room and learning hub to relax, learn and explore,” Cr Davis said.
“Local HSC students will appreciate our incredible new library and quiet study spaces, offering a place to research and study until late. Families will love visiting our beautiful, new children’s library with regular story time, author talks and kid’s activities and workshops. Our new wellness studios offer beautiful, light-filled spaces to keep fit and active.
“Visitors can also stop to appreciate and learn about Aboriginal cultural materials at the Keeping Place at PHIVE’s discovery centre.”
Positive reaction from locals
To celebrate the opening of PHIVE, Council held an open house with over 100 free activities and a school holiday program that sold out – featuring ample positive community feedback.
“It’s wonderful to see locals and visitors of all ages and backgrounds enjoying their new space,” Cr Davis said.
“Some of our first events in PHIVE have been sell outs and there is so much enthusiasm from all sections of our community about our new civic hub.”