City Tempo

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McConnel Smith & Johnson punctuate a closed street in Sydney’s Chinatown with poetic words erupting from a tree-lined promenade-terminated by a café shelter.

Photography Bart Malorana

top Looking north-west towards the Hay Street monorail station at Chinatown. above Looking south along Quay Street from the new square at Hay Street.

Looking north-east along Quay Street, with the Entertainment Centre behind the monorail.

Detail of the footpath edge, with one of the 41 bronze word-plates.

Project Description
In response to a rapidly expanding population of workers, tourists and residents around Sydney’s southern CBD, the Darling Harbour Authority engaged McConnel Smith & Johnson to upgrade a section of Quay Street, Haymarket, which was recently closed to traffic at its north end, where it is crossed by new rail tracks. This part of Quay Street links Central Railway, Broadway and the University of Technology, Sydney, to the south, with Chinatown, the Entertainment Centre, Darling Harbour, Paddy’s Market and the Capitol Theatre to the north.

In MSJ’s plan (which is being followed by other improvements to nearby precincts), the footpath on the west side of the street has been widened to accommodate a new line of trees. At the north end, a café dining pavilion (yet to be used because of tenancy delays) has been installed in the square which blocks the street to traffic. This shelter is shaded by a canopy of blackbutt trellis; supported on its east side by a black steel and timber-clad wall. Fifteen randomly canted green poles support the roof’s west side while appearing to be leaning against it.

At the other end of the street, near the historic brick tower outside the UTS Library, a bluestone wedge erupts from the footpath to mark the beginning of a line of stone, bronze plates and green fibre optic lighting inlaid along the pavement. Each of the 41 bronze plates is marked with a two-to-six letter word chosen by the architects to express different concepts of life from a variety of cultures. (To avoid offence, the word ‘sex’ was amended to ‘eros’.)

Architect’s Statement by Mark Willett
In an urban sense, this is about myth-making for a multi-cultural society-and an idea about creative energy. Beyond the utilitarian need for paving, lighting and shade, the design draws upon the street’s location and context at the junction of four diverse precincts. It seeks to provide a source of delight and to create a distinct sense of place appropriate to the diverse cultural setting. The words refer to religious and philosophical concepts from eastern and western cultures; they illustrate the universal nature of the human spirit.

Comment by Kerry and Lindsay Clare
From a distance, the Quay Street gateway pavilion is almost imperceptible-it is a fine ‘Scandinavian’ wafer of roof. As you move down the street from the University of Technology Library towards Paddy’s Markets and Chinatown, small rhythmic details are revealed within the footpath-words, lights, textures, patterns-which slowly build up a spirit (or presence) of which you become progressively aware. Who chose the words? What is the key to their sequence? How many cultures are brought together?

Even a casual observer can gain something from the experience. The paving erupts at the top end of the street, lime green lights glow from the pavement and a collection of matching green poles lean casually against the pavilion’s hovering roof, allowing interpretation as a remnant of forest.

The roof bridges the space between the university, the markets and Darling Harbour in more ways than one. Physically, it provides shelter to half the space it occupies, and dappled shade to the other. However, the pavilion does not impose any singular cultural value: it instead presents an almost universal modernist aesthetic. Importantly, it does this with confidence, elegance and wit.

Kerry and Lindsay Clare are architects from the Sunshine Coast now contracted as design directors of the Buildings Branch, NSW Public Works & Services.

Quay Street, Haymarket, Sydney
Architects McConnel Smith & Johnson-design director Mark Willett, project architect Nick Sissons, architect Lance White, landscape design Roxanna Vlack. Client Darling Harbour Authority. Civil, Structural and Traffic Engineers Ove Arup & Partners. Lighting and Electrical Engineers Barry Webb & Associates. Lighting Fabrication Opalescent Signs, Light Moves Technologies, Digilin, Ozone. Quantity Surveyors Davis Langton & Beattie. Project Managers Farrell Projects. Builders Grosvenor Constructions.



Published online: 1 May 1998


Architecture Australia, May 1998

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