|Queen Street is Brisbane’s most historic and most notable street. Its alignment was determined by the position of buildings and paths in the earliest days of the penal settlement and fixed by the plans agreed for the free settlement by Governor Gipps in 1842. Despite its pre-eminent role, it was never intended to be a great or grand street. Originally to be 2 chains wide, the street was determined by Gipps to be worthy only of a 1 chain (60 feet) width which was eased out, in his absence, to 1.21 chains or 80 feet. Despite the governor’s limited vision, the pre-eminence of Queen Street was ensured by its connection to the Victoria Bridge, the sole cross-river road link for many years. Further, it provides the address for some of the State’s finest public buildings including the Treasury Building, the General Post Office and the Customs House. Over time, the street became the commercial focus, not just of Brisbane, but also of its region. Its fortunes waxed and waned with those of the city as a whole.|
The burgeoning success of the suburban shopping centres during the seventies threatened the economic viability of the city heart. In response, the stretch of Queen Street from Albert Street to Edward was closed to traffic in the early eighties to form the first stage of the original mall. Designed by Robin Gibson, this created a generous urban space which helped to impel a revitalisation of the fortunes of the inner city. Over time, the mall was extended to George Street and yet its quality deteriorated as it became cluttered by an accretion of structures and shelters mostly of indifferent and uncoordinated design. Competition caused by the increasing standard of amenity offered by the suburban shopping centres encouraged the Brisbane City Council to prepare options for the redesign of the mall. A structured review of these schemes led to an intensive design charrette involving a mixed team of City Council staff, architectural and landscape designers and artists. The workshop included daily input from representatives of the City Council, the city users group and the property owners and tenants of Queen Street. The result of the charrette was a widely endorsed sketch scheme underpinned by a series of guiding principles that determined the nature of the new mall and the general arrangement of its elements. These fledgling proposals were developed and refined by a Brisbane City Council task force led by John Mainwaring, Chris Gee and John Hockings. The Mall is no longer just a street. The removal of the traffic created the opportunity to increase amenity through the provision of restaurant and retail concessions, shelter from the sun and rain, performance spaces, and a variety of services. These functions necessitated a secondary architecture as a foil to the eclectic mix of buildings lining the street edge. The new structures are thin, light, transparent and intricate. They offer a shifting sense of scale within the space of the street and are enlivened by the articulation of the elements of their structure, enclosure and signage. Their roofs are teased out into layers that separately offer weather protection, shade and a grid armature for climbing creepers to form a green ceiling. The roof layers are canted to allow the existing street elevations
to be stronger visual elements of the streetscape. The freestanding structures are arranged like crystalline splinters in the space and related by an offset geometry determined by an overlay of the South Brisbane and Central City grids. A meandering path flows between these structures which assists with orientation and provides the route for emergency vehicle access. The space is given both unity and generosity through the new street floor of grey/green Queensland granite. Etched into its matt surface are several works by Fiona Foley which catch the light of the day through their highly polished patterns of spinning leaves and delicate foliage.