The new retro of urban spaces

In the 1980’s, brick was a fashionable paving material for streetscapes and street closures in the inner suburbs of Sydney such as Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Redfern. The rationale behind the closures was, as I recall it, to discourage the clients of street workers (as they were termed) from driving by and doing their business. There were also more salubrious projects such as Macquarie Street which was repaved and Darling Harbour. Many of these are now being revamped as part of Sydney City Council’s overhaul of inner city parks and streets.

Balfour Park opening      A few months ago Balfour Park, Chippendale was opened by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, and the park has been visibly adopted by the local community. When I visited a few weeks ago, a sculptured scull had been placed at the apex of a brick swale. Another time, toy soldiers had moved in temporarily positioned by local artist, Will Coles, which was welcomed by the park’s designer, Jane Irwin of Jane Irwin Landscape Architects (JILA) who developed the concept plan done by Sue Barnsley Design.

Where it is         The park is located on the interface between the new Frasers Broadway (formerly Carlton United Brewery or CUB site) and Chippendale. This development covers six hectares and will be “high quality, sustainable and mixed use development on Broadway” according to Sydney City Council’s website. The Broadway site is one of Sydney’s major development sites along with the recently commenced Green Square and Barangaroo.

Sydney City Council developed the park for the neighbourhood as compensation for the impact of the new development. It also acts as a transition between a large scale minimalist park in the development site and the finer grain character of historic Chippendale.

Retro bricks  and other materials        JILA has taken Barnsley’s design and added richness and scale. The bricks are a key element that tie in with both the Broadway site and residential areas. Laid on two different axes, they are laid on edge. Irwin explains that this pattern has a hand-held quality to it, relates to what you see in the old brewery buildings and has a sense of texture and craftsmanship. The brick swale with the recent skull, planting and low, arching antennae lighting, has protruding bricks to capture rubbish and slow water flow.

There are other materials used in the project that give the park a robust and urban character to it such as concrete seats and paving. The checkerboard pattern at the end of the swale uses a series of different materials including the local kerbing material, trachyte, bricks and the sandstone as seen in local architectural trims. There is a pattern made  from  crushed beer bottles that reference the local brewery.

The park has a refreshingly modern and honest use of that age-old material, brick, and does it justice. It is appropriately retro without being nostalgic or historicist. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in Sydney.


3 thoughts on “The new retro of urban spaces

  1. Glad that this park is now open as that area has been an eyesore for a long time. And if you’re in the area, visit the nearby excellent White Rabbit gallery that showcases modern Chinese art.

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