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One thing UNSW Master of Architecture student Jun Yi Loh wouldn’t change if he were charged with redesigning Sydney’s Fish Market is its smell.

“I think the smell is something we should accept and celebrate,” the graduating student says. “Fish markets are going to smell. From my experience as a child in Malaysia where food markets are still very common, almost every neighbourhood has one and it reminds me of the freshness of everything. The smell defines the market.”

In November, the NSW State Government announced a $250 million redevelopment of the market at Blackwattle Bay. Jun Yi had already chosen the market – one of the few Sydney Harbour foreshore sites that lends itself to a major redevelopment – as the subject for his final year project.

His design for high density living next to the market, which incorporates vertical farming, green energy, communal living and closed-loop water filtration systems, will be displayed with those of other students in the University’s Master of Architecture Graduand Exhibition – Utopia Redux.

Designing with high-density, high-rise living, sustainability, and food security in mind, Jun Yi and his UNSW colleagues have created new visions of how we can live, work and play in our cities.

Several projects have incorporated innovative ideas related to the Fish Market and Sydney’s relationship with food production. Others have tackled the problems associated with the rapid development and style of apartment complex springing up in Sydney’s suburbs.


Vivienne Hinschen's design incorporates floating markets at Blackwattle Bay

The degree aims to give students the skills to design and build sustainable, liveable cities, says Dean of UNSW Built Environment, Professor Helen Lochhead.

“Our students’ graduating projects provide glimpses into a future where architecture and high performance technologies can improve housing and urban conditions, and help solve the many pressing challenges facing our cities through rapid urbanisation,” Professor Lochhead says.

In Jun Yi’s case, the Fish Market has been combined with vertical farming and high density living to overcome some of Sydney’s most pressing problems: how to feed and house a burgeoning population in complexes that are enjoyable to live in.

The design includes a new open-air waterfront market built around tight-knit street patterns with a series of apartment towers rising from the market. Each “vertical village” has access to hydroponic growing spaces, shared kitchens and group dining spaces.

The vertical farms have to be more than just “growing machines” used to generate financial gain, says Jun Yi. They should be an integral part of the community, encouraging people to grow and cook food together to help build a local neighbourhood.

“Growing food is something so respectable and so significant, not just a marketing tool,” he says.


"I think it is important that we understand where our food comes from, how it is processed and transported" - Vivienne Hinschen

Graduate Vivienne Hinschen is also interested in how food fits – or doesn’t fit – into the urban landscape. 

She has designed a series of floating market squares adjacent to the Fish Market that host a changing array of farmers’, weekend and special festival markets. The Fish Market itself would be divided into several precincts, including a series of vibrant retail spaces each specialising in a distinct type of produce and which are intimate spaces that encourage shoppers to talk to retailers about the produce.

“I was inspired by traditional bazaars like those you see in Turkey which are a mixture of confined and more open spaces, where you can smell the food and interact with the producers,” says Vivienne.

“In the urban domain we miss out on all of the behind-the-scenes activity associated with food. I think it is important that we understand where our food comes from, how it is processed and transported.”

Alison Nobbs, UNSW Architecture tutor and Principal Architect at award-winning architectural firm Nobbs Radford Architects, says the final year of the Master’s program allows students to form their own approach to a design problem.

“It’s a culminating project that brings together the realities of architecture on complex sites, and all the technical challenges that come with that.

“However, the students are able to design unencumbered by planning and legislative requirements, to realise very plausible yet visionary responses.”

The exhibition includes designs from the four specialisation streams in UNSW’s Master of Architecture program; High Performance Technology, Housing, Urban Conditions and Social Agency.

What: Master of Architecture Graduand Exhibition - Utopia Redux

When: 1 December 2016 to 13 January 2017

Where: UNSW Red Centre Gallery, Randwick Campus

To see all student designs click here