It’s is hard to miss. Even when the sun isn’t shining, the tessellated red roof draws the eye with a vivid, kinetic form. And when the Australian rays are at their full splendour, it appears to flow with the changing light, catching the play of glints and shadows to command a marquee presence at the heart of Parramatta’s high-rise business district. Dubbed Phive, the mixed-use public and cultural hub integrates a civic centre — housing the local council chambers — with offices, research facilities, and a library branch, as well as a variety of exhibition spaces, including an Aboriginal Keeping Place dedicated to local Indigenous objects.

PHOTO: Nils Koenning

Designed by Paris-based Manuelle Gautrand Architecture in collaboration with local partners DesignInc and Lacoste & Stevenson, the 15,000-square-metre structure sits along a vibrant pedestrianized street and public square — a setting which lends the dramatic sloped roof and invitingly transparent façade even greater prominence. On the ground floor, Phive is also animated by a café that spills out onto the street-level plaza, inviting passerby to linger and explore the space.

PHOTO: Sara Vita

The relationship to the public realm also guided the building’s distinctively angular design, with the roof carefully sculpted to preserve sunlight along the pedestrian promenade while creating comfortable indoor conditions. Comprising 549 individually fabricated panels, the tessellated roof invites indirect light into the open interior, mitigating solar heat gain. Moreover, the sloped, organic form also facilitates passive ventilation, drawing hot air into the top of the spire to maintain cooler indoor spaces below.


“Ours is a brave little building compared to its towering neighbours,” says DesignInc director Richard Does. “The tessellations of the red cladding are its identity, referencing the blooms of local flowers.” Inside, a more subdued colour palette continues the natural references, with the local soil and flora — such as native waratah, bottle brush and grevillea — providing a point of inspiration.

PHOTO: Brett Boardman

While the interior is animated by a range of cultural and civic functions, the two-level Phive library branch is a focal point — and a hub of activity. Spanning much of the building’s first two storeys, the library is also prominently visible from outside, signalling a welcoming public space. From the second storey reading room, visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the street, all from an airy, soaring space under the show-stopping roof. It offers a moment of respite within a distinctly energetic, cosmopolitan setting.

PHOTO: Brett Boardman

Lead image by Sara Vita.

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