Sydney Water: By The Sweat Of Their Brows

Merit Award

Potts Hill reservoir has supplied Sydney with its drinking water for well over 100 years, so it is of particular importance to the heritage of this public brand. The site contains the original screening chamber used to remove debris out of the upper canal. The first reservoir was built when the needs of Sydney’s population surpassed the capacity of the canal, and was a significant engineering feat at the time. This was eventually superseded by a second reservoir, incorporating a massive bladder to protect the water from contaminants; the bladder is made from a UV protective material, another feat of ingenuity and innovation.

The Potts Hill site is vast, incorporating several buildings of historical significance, including the original pump house and surrounding facilities. To celebrate this rich heritage, Sydney Water commissioned BrandCulture Communications to create a comprehensive environmental graphics program throughout the site.

Environmental graphics throughout the main office building and in the warehouse office integrate imagery from an era that relied heavily on human labor. Large-scale photographic murals depict the people associated with the water department in bygone eras, adding a sense of humanity to a site that could easily look industrial and institutional. The glass walls of meeting rooms are adorned with old drawings of the pump house, schematics of the water flow system, and maps of the surrounding areas.

Dimensional, water droplet-inspired type is used for room identification. The meeting room names formed the basis of the wayfinding concept, each referencing a key element in the water system, from the dams that feed Potts Hill Reservoir to the smaller reservoirs throughout Sydney that eventually return to the sewage treatment plants.


Jury Comments: 

“This project reminds us of the role that civic institutions play in creating community. By referencing both the historical and the environmental role of the reservoir, the project invites the people of Sydney to reflect on their shared relationship to both.”

“The simple dot treatment of the wayfinding typography establishes solid design language to make it appropriately clever without being cliché, whether it's the look of water drops or punched tin.”

Design Firm: 

BrandCulture Communications


Sydney Water

Location City: 


Project Area: 

129,167 sq ft

Open Date: 


Project Budget: 

$120,000 AUD

Photo Credits: 

Philip Poyner

Design Team: 

Stephen Minning (creative director/art director), Antonijo Bacic (graphic design), David Ing (artist)


Bates Smart (architecture), Brookfield Multiplex (interiors)


Integrated Signage & Design

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