Rooted in lost history, the new Sydney Plaza is about the meaning of place, heritage and identity. An attempt to uncover, layer and celebrate the Eora origins of this part of coastal Sydney, the project is about the reconciliation of cultures and defining identity in an ever changing world. This reconciliation of difference lies at the heart of the proposal and aims to articulate and establish dialogue around the complex relationship colonizers have to their indigenous communities.
Inspired by simple unitary forms and place making in Aboriginal culture, we imagine the new community building and plaza as a ‘found place’ based around the notion of the shelter, a symbolic respite away from the busy streetscape that is discovered and dissolves through light.
To connect this profound centre with the sites heritage and origins, we have collaborated with Daniel Boyd, a renowned contemporary artist of Aboriginal dissent, on the projects key feature – a 27x34m perforated canopy that shelters and unites the community building and the plaza under a poetic layer of light and darkness.
Inspired by Aboriginal dot painting, Boyd will curate a cosmic journey of light that filters and refracts through multiple, randomly scattered, circular, mirror-lined canopy openings. The circular pattern translates and continues onto the paving via a series of steel circles and cylindrical glass skylights, extending and directing the play of light down into the bicycle facility positioned beneath the plaza. The community building’s details are intentionally simple. An open plan café, gallery space and garden terrace are wrapped under a reduced utilitarian form. It is a flexible and inviting, free flow space with activated connections to the plaza and adjacent developments, where encounters with art and community are made easy.
The distinctive pitched roof of the community building refers to the primary silhouette of early settlers’ houses – weaving in another layer to the narrative of place. The result is a hybrid form that merges the Aboriginal origins with the legacy of early settlers and the industrial materiality and language of the nearby harbour.
We have envisioned a highly interactive environment that connects holistically to its neighbouring buildings and public realm. Our proposal, in addition to the new community building, includes the George Street public plaza, Circular Quay Tower pedestrian bridge as well the integration of the proposed cycle parking facility.
Incorporating these public interventions with our design proposal ensures a building which is tied to its location and community. We believe the new community building and George Street public plaza can become a new cherished destination in Sydney’s CBD, a generative place for people to connect, recharge, reflect and take a pause from the rhythm of a fast transforming city.