New public square for Sydney’s Circular Quay

New public square for Sydney’s Circular Quay

6 December 2019

The $3.7 billion transformation of Sydney’s Circular Quay precinct will include a new public square, designed by British architect Sir David Adjaye and contemporary Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd.

Based in Accra, London and New York, Adjaye Associates worked with Mr Boyd to design an inclusive public building and suspended artwork that will sit 20m above the ground.

The 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 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 the Ghanaian-British Adjaye, who gained international fame for leading the design of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Adjaye and Boyd first met in Venice, Italy in 2015, where Mr 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, the Sydney-based artist received a surprise call from Adjaye 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,” Mr Boyd said.

“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.”

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.

A 200-square-metre gabled community building with viewing deck will sit at the back of the square, which will connect via a widened Rugby Place through to Pitt Street, as part of plans to create a series of laneways through the block surrounded by Alfred, Pitt, Dalley and George streets. Lendlease’s 53-level Circular Quay Tower, rebranded in October as Salesforce Tower, will rise up behind the square and be connected to it via a wide bridge.

The so-called APDG precinct is being supercharged by developments such as Yuhu Group’s planned One Circular Quay, a 57-storey residential tower and 25-storey hotel on the site of the original Goldfields House at 1 Alfred Street, as well as Lendlease’s $1.5 billion, 263-metre office tower, the city’s tallest.

Lendlease will build the new city plaza – with a $19 million construction cost – and then hand it over to the City of Sydney, as part of community facilities it promised in 2016 in exchange for securing more height on the Salesforce Tower.

To enable the office tower and larger public square to happen, the City of Sydney transferred a “redundant” dead-end passageway that ran beside the former St George Bank building to Lendlease, the City’s planning head, Graham Jahn, said. It also facilitated the transfer of a triangle of public space that came from the adjacent Mirvac development at 200 George Street to Lendlease.

City of Sydney Planning Head, Graham Jahn said: “Lendlease was able to produce a commercial tower that we hadn’t envisaged to be on the exact collection of sites that came about.

“They saw the opportunity, they made it happen, but the critical thing is we had already been actively planning and worked out the future direction of that entire set of blocks within that precinct.”

The Adjaye-Boyd design was selected through an expressions of interest campaign Lendlease ran in 2017.

Lendlease has lodged a development application for the projects. The public square and building are scheduled for completion in 2022.