Lead Public Realm And Revised Master Plan For Darling Square: ASPECT Studios
Architects, The Exchange: Kengo Kuma and Associates
Lighting Artist For Steam Mill Lane: Peta Kruger
Lighting Artist For Little Hay Street: Brendan Van Hek
Text description provided by the architects. Public realm of Darling Square which was designed by ASPECT Studios is unveiled in Sydney. The mixed-use precinct, being developed by Lendlease, brings together residential, commercial, retail uses and community facilities, anchored around a new public square.
Darling Square sits on the site of the former Entertainment Centre and car park, south of the revitalized Darling Harbor Live precinct. Recognizing the potential of the site, Lendlease ran a limited design ideas competition to develop new concepts for the design of the public square and adjacent laneway. ASPECT Studios won the competitive process in late 2014 and was subsequently engaged by Lendlease to develop the design for the public domain across Darling Square.
With a renewed sense of place and position, urban connections are forged, realigning and reconverging the city with its prior landscape and landmarks. The precinct includes a strong, pedestrian-focused network of city streets, laneways and the 20-metre-wide pedestrian boulevard bisecting the ground plane, with the public square as the focal point.
Darling Square embodies a new urban typology, fusing landscape, architecture, art, food and culture. It is home to 4,200 residents, 2,500 workers, and more than 60 retail and food stores, attracting visitors and locals alike.
The square was designed as smaller, discrete but still connected spaces that were flexible enough for event and community use, whilst maintaining human-scaled for day-to-day use. The spaces within the square are broadly similar in scale and comprised of:
The Exchange is a seven-storeys modern retail complex with multiple functions: three storeys as retail and high-end restaurants, two will be leased by Commonwealth Bank of Australia as its child care centre, and two of which will be Sydney Library.
As part of the design competition, Lendlease asked the respondents to consider how to integrate community and public uses for the building. ASPECT Studios’ proposed that the form of the building be altered to a circular ‘building in the round’. A building with no front or back door that allowed the public domain to continue freely underneath. This proposal formed the basis of the subsequent brief for the Darling Exchange, designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates.
Inspired by the landscape of Sydney’s leafy green suburbs, Kengo Kuma blended the energy of nature with The Exchange building sitting as a punctuation point. The organic, spiraling facade, wrapped in 20kilometers of timber extends into the public domain both materially and functionally. The public domain integrates effortlessly with The Exchange, forming the centerpiece for the precinct, as a community building in the round and a destination in its own right.
The Square – a hard paved, flexible open space suitable for evening and weekend temporary market and event overlays. In order to create a true square, delineation was provided on all four sides so as to define space and hold the edges.
The Canopy Edge & The Boulevard–ASPECT Studios designed an intervention of a new canopy – a verandah – to occupy the western edge. The canopy creates a critical visual termination to the square, whilst also providing an opportunity for shade, shelter and amenity. The canopy provides a visual link and connection from building to square, reinforcing the generous blurring between the two. Besides the Canopy Edge is the Boulevard, an urban linear park with a rich palette of plants and generous seating and tables.
The Lawn & The Grove – a local-scaled turf space that captures good solar access and has a strong spatial relationship with the Square. In daily use this is the community lawn – for picnics, eating lunch, walking the dog. The Grove provides critical shade in the hot summer months, whilst its deciduous canopy allows light to permeate to the ground through winter. Moveable furniture offers a space of inclusivity, a welcoming place for the community to gather and connect and converse.
Laneways: Steam Mill Lane and Little Hay Street - ASPECT Studios collaborated with Lendlease and Leon Paroissien to develop a brief and lead the process for the public art/lighting for the lanes. Artist Peta Kruger’s proposal was selected for Steam Mill Lane and artist Brendan Van Hek’s proposal selected for Little Hay Street – two bustling, distinct laneways that draw people to the heart of Darling Square. The lighting design creates a joyous public ceiling to the lanes. They contribute to the activation and human-scale of the place, and assist with wayfinding and night-time activation.
“Itis a rare but welcome event that such high-quality investment in the public space and public infrastructure of the city has occurred”——Sacha Coles, ASPECT Studios
Darling Square offers green spaces for all, as an ever-changing civic space where daily life and spectacle collide. The contextual design from the landscape of custom grown Eucalyptus trees and endemic gardens offers a thriving and inviting multi-use urban space for all ages, treasured by residents, workers and visitors.
The public domain design response was in alignment with the wider site master planning, for three new residential developments, two new student accommodation buildings and a new commercial building, each with active, retail oriented, ground planes.