Urban Habitat - District/Master Plan Scale Award of Excellence: Darling Square, Sydney
Head of Creative Strategy Product and Place, Development
Director, Design and Strategy
Aspect Studios, Sydney
A Permeable Public Plaza in Sydney
Located within a pivotal cross-section within Sydney’s Darling Harbour, Darling Square transforms a previously isolated space into a place of integrated public life, quality, and vibrancy. New residential towers are grounded by a set of continuous, pedestrian-focused public spaces, furnishing a new community with bespoke high-quality urban spaces and a unified public domain. The permeability of the surrounding architecture, streets, and spaces perforate the boundary between what happens inside and out, enabling people to move freely within, and to and from, the precinct. Spaces and streetscapes full of local identity offer ample, diverse horticultural offerings, imaginative artworks and a variety of furniture and seating types.
Everything at Darling Square has been designed with intent: from the use of the indigenous language of the Gadigal people in furniture elements, to outdoor mahjong tables, linking it to the nearby Chinatown. The main boulevard acts as a key linear parkland that draws pedestrians from Central Station into Darling Harbour and beyond to the waterfront. Under the shade of Eucalyptus trees, generous timber and custom precast concrete furniture elements act as platforms for daily life, while the eastern boulevard edge utilizes a level change to create a linear amphitheater. The use of deciduous Zelkova serrata, a tree native to China, allows light to reach the ground in winter. Australian bluestone and Italian porphyry cobbles are laid in traditional patterns, referencing the past urban fabric when the land was first claimed from the harbor for industrial uses. Stretching out from the façade of The Exchange, a timber canopy marks the edge of the Square, defining areas for public and retail seating. It also allows furniture elements to be concentrated towards the edges, leaving the center relatively open for variety of uses.