3XN - Sydney Fish Market
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Sydney Fish Market


Retail  /  Future
The Sydney Fish Market, currently housed in a series of old warehouses and post-industrial buildings, is one of the most significant community and tourist destinations in the city. 3XN has approached this project with the specific goal of creating a fish market that is much more than just a fish market. The building will serve many purposes when it is finished - a working fish market, an amenity for the city, a cultural destination, an urban connector, and an inspiring icon along the would-renowned Sydney Harbour.

In designing this new building, 3XN was inspired by the traditional market archetype, which appears throughout history and across cultures. The market is the social hub of cities around the world; it is generally comprised of a series of stalls that are open to the air but covered in a canopy and located in a large plaza. The new site of Sydney Fish Market is a 3.6-hectare site at the head of Blackwattle Bay. The design capitalises on the opportunity to link the bay with Wentworth Park to the south, and the entire community with this cultural icon.

As a significant community and visitor destination, the new Sydney Fish Market will facilitate interaction by combining a vast amount of public space with an authentic market. As a working seafood market and wholesale operation, the new facility must support these functions in an uninterrupted way. The new facility goes beyond its immediate role of the sale and distribution of seafood and provides an array of varied experiences that enable change and responsiveness to the future, creating a destination for locals and tourists alike that is an integral part of the city fabric.

The existing fish market has a conflict of functions. Like all other fish markets in the world, visitors come to get a sense of the behind the scenes activities, but this interrupts the daily operations. In response, some markets have had to limit visitors. For this building, 3XN has physically separated the operational aspects from the public ones, while allowing visual connections between the two. In the new building, the ground floor hosts all the functions traditionally associated with fish markets – the landing and loading of fish, the wholesale market, and the auction hall.

The staircases that lead from the plazas to the upper ground are a continuation of the surrounding landscape and act as an invitation for people to enter the market. The stairs also double as seating, creating a public space where people can enjoy their food and the view over the bay.

The upper ground houses fresh seafood retailers, restaurants and cafés. The design focuses on maintaining a human scale and creating a true market atmosphere – just like historic marketplaces or bazaars with a series of small stalls that are connected. The aim is to create an intimate market atmosphere.

A sweeping timber-and-aluminium roof floats over the building like a canopy; it ties all the various program elements together in one elegant move, while giving the building an iconic presence along the harbour. The wavy structure is a response to the underlying functions; it rises and falls to correspond with the program below. Beyond design, the roof has four primary efficiency and sustainability attributes: shading, daylighting, ventilation, collection of rainwater and the possibility for solar cells harvest the strong Sydney sun. The roof’s triangular openings allow abundant natural light into the building, while their orientation shades the building from the harshest sun. The market has been designed to be as permeable as possible to maximise natural ventilation and minimise the need for air conditioning. The design utilises the roof’s geometry for rainwater collection and recycling.

With very clearly articulated, and very ambitious, sustainability goals that include a 50-percent reduction in energy consumption, a 50-percent reduction in water consumption, and a 50-percent reduction in waste compared with the existing fish market, this new building has sustainability at its core. The new fish market maximises its water recycling potential by a combination of rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling, bio-filtration, and mechanical filtration and sterilisation for the daily operations like washdown. Biological and mechanical water quality systems are an integral part of the design of the new fish market, focused on conserving the valuable resource.

A comprehensive energy optimisation strategy has been employed to reduce consumption and demand while producing energy from renewable sources. The strategy includes the possibility for absorption chillers to turn excess heat from refrigeration into cold water for cooling, use of excess heat sources to power the hot water system and space heating. Potential use of leftover ice to pre-cool air for refrigerated areas. Passive conditioning utilises canopy shading, wind capture, thermal mass and excess cool air from other zones to create a comfortable environment with minimal reliance on active conditioning systems.

Plantings and bio-filtration zones across the site will form a ‘green bridge’, offering native fauna habitat and access to the water with local flora providing a natural water purification and filtration of the site run-off.

The waste systems employed in the new fish market aim to recycle all industrial food-waste. A comprehensive strategy for all recyclables will be instituted and managed to optimise consumables and the fish market will reprocess materials used in packaging and operation.


 Urban Growth NSW
 80000 mq
 GXN, BVN, Aspect Studios, WallnerWeiss
 3XN and MIR


Founded in 1986, 3XN has been advancing Scandinavian traditions of clarity and generosity in architecture and translating them for a global audience. The firm’s work is grounded in ongoing research into how buildings reflect and influence human behaviour and the environment, which results in innovative solutions to increasingly complex contemporary challenges. Among 3XN’s high-profile projects are IOC’s HQ in Lausanne, the new Sydney Fish Market, Museum of Liverpool and The Blue Planet aquarium in Copenhagen. In 2007, 3XN established the innovation unit GXN, whose mission is to collect and apply the latest knowledge on materials and new technologies to the studio’s architecture. Over 11 years, GXN has driven architectural innovation focusing on social behaviour, new materials and building technologies. The ‘G’ stands for Green, highlighting GXNs dedication to ecological design. The goal is to create human centred architecture and to develop the build environment as manmade ecosystems.


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