Smithsonian architect and Aboriginal artist design new Sydney plaza

AAR Sydney Plaza - courtesy of Adjaye AssociatesInternationally renowned architect Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates and award-winning Sydney-based contemporary Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd have been chosen to design a new public square, plaza building and public artwork near Circular Quay in Sydney.

Based in Accra, London and New York, Adjaye Associates designed the $540 million Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. They have teamed up with Boyd to design an inclusive public building and suspended artwork that will sit 20 metres above the ground, providing a new place for workers and visitors to dwell and take respite from busy city streets.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the public plaza would be a stunning addition to the revitalised Circular Quay precinct and the transformation of George Street as central Sydney’s main boulevard. “By working closely with Lendlease, we have been able to secure this spectacular public artwork and meeting place for city dwellers, office workers and visitors to enjoy,” said the Lord Mayor.

“The artwork reflects our commitment to recognising Australia’s First Peoples proudly in the public domain. Much like Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, I have no doubt that Daniel Boyd’s artwork will become a treasured inner city destination.”

“The public plaza will connect to George and Pitt streets and a new network of laneways that is being built as part of the redevelopment. It will sit on top of public bike parking facilities and below our affordable innovation space in the Lendlease tower,” added the Lord Mayor.

The plaza building is being delivered as part of Lendlease’s Sydney Place development at 180 George Street. A development application for the works has been lodged by Lendlease for this latest addition to the revitalisation of George Street. When completed, it will be transferred to the City as a new public asset.

This follows the City’s approval of the adjacent 263 metre high commercial office tower by Lendlease and its joint venture partners China’s Ping An Real Estate and Japan’s Mitsubishi Estate Asia. Global customer relationship management firm Salesforce has been announced as the anchor tenant.

Chair of the City of Sydney’s Design Advisory Panel, Professor Ken Maher AO, said the work would have international significance. “The building and plaza are a remarkable addition for the city and will be something that will be visited internationally. It gives a moment of pause along the journey of George Street. It is a more intimate moment in the life of the city,” said Professor Maher.

A perforated steel artwork will filter dappled light through circular openings of varying size, animating the space with an ever-moving pattern reflecting the night sky.

“This is an incredibly powerful work because it’s so unusual. It’s a public square but it’s also a room within the city. It has that wonderful ambiguity and the potential for an incredible presence in the evening,” said Graham Jahn, Director of City Planning, who has steered the transformation of private land along George Street.

“We believe this new community building and George Street public plaza will become a cherished destination in Sydney’s city centre, a generative place for people to connect, recharge, reflect and take a pause from the rhythm of a fast-transforming city,” said  internationally-renowned architect Sir David Adjaye.

The multipurpose building has a pitched roof reminiscent of early settlers’ houses. It has the potential to provide an open plan café, meeting or gallery space. It also includes an elevated balcony overlooking the plaza on one side and a network of lanes leading through to Pitt and Alfred streets on the other. The design for the building includes an accessible public lift providing access from George Street to the laneway network below.

“The places we create strive to enrich and improve people’s daily lives and meet their diverse needs, so we’re thrilled to be working with the City of Sydney to bring the plaza building to life for the public,” said Kimberley Jackson, Lendlease Development Director.

Adjaye and Boyd first met in Venice, Italy in 2015, when Adjaye designed the 56th Venice Art Biennale with the late curator Okwui Enwezor. Boyd was one of the international artists selected to exhibit work for the Biennale’s headline art exhibition All the World’s Futures.

Years later, Boyd received a surprise call from the internationally acclaimed architect inviting him to participate in the George Street project. “The idea of a public plaza provided a great opportunity for David and I to work together on the concept of relationships – how we as individuals perceive our relationship to a particular place and how collectively those relationships play out in a space,” said Boyd.

“It provides a space of contemplation and diversity, a space to extend knowledge of experience – a multiplicity of experiences and narratives, currently extending back 60,000 years through the connection of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. Acknowledging that we can never fully comprehend our past or future is the first step in reconciling differences of perception.”

180 George Street will sit to the east of the George Street public plaza, with an accessible terrace and a wide bridge connecting to the 53-level commercial tower. The public square and building are scheduled for completion in 2022.

Image: Sydney Plaza (artist impression) – courtesy of Adjaye Associates