Location: Sydney, NSW
Date Completed: November 2012
Awards: 2013 NSW Architecture Award Urban Design, 2013 Commendation National AIA Architecture Awards
Photography: Brett Boardman, Tony Caro Architecture
This project’s urban intention was to transform the public domain character and environment of Pitt Street Mall, located in the retail heart of the Sydney Central business district. Over 58,000 people pass through Pitt Street Mall on an average summer weekday, retail rents in the Mall are amongst the highest in the world, and yet the public domain had deteriorated due to the prolonged, intensive levels of pedestrian traffic and incessant re-development of the adjacent major retail stores and developments.
The Mall was pedestrianised in the late 1970’s, but continued to have the character of a “paved street” through retention of the original crowned street profile. This project offered an opportunity to re-think the ground-plane of the Mall as a flatter, more “floor-like” surface with the intention of creating a “public room” like quality.
The head of the Tank Stream, Sydney’s settlement raison d’etre, ran under Pitt Street from its original source, a marsh roughly south of the Market Street intersection. A key move was to relocate the street drainage from the old kerb lines to a central alignment. The new, central drainage channel is an interpretation and expression of this significant item of Sydney’s cultural and social heritage.
The paving strategy reinforces these qualities, utilising a standard City palette at the edges that transforms to a richer, centralised carpet-runner-like quality made from a palette of traditional Sydney street stone types.
FURNITURE AND LANDSCAPE
An important element of the Pitt Street Mall project brief was to create a project specific, custom suite of street furniture, including seats, benches, bubblers, tree grates, and drainage grates.
The seating is arranged in a variety of configurations, to create opportunities for the public to sit in groups or individually.
TCA worked closely with fabricators and foundries to design and deliver the suite with a range of materials, details and finishes that met the budget, construction methodology, maintenance and accessibility requirements. The furniture is made from sand-cast bronze, Austral Black exfoliated granite plinths and re-cycled tallowood. These materials resonate with the material heritage of Sydney’s public domain.
An opportunity was identified for a custom public lighting system for Pitt Street Mall, to celebrate its pre-eminent position as the vibrant, dynamic retail heart of Sydney. Numerous lighting strategies were considered, with an eventual focus upon a catenary lighting system that avoided additional clutter on the Mall floor, addressed public and ambient lighting requirements, and created a distinctive image for the project.
The central catenary is supported by a series of very light bowstring trusses connected to adjacent facades. The central band supports a ribbon of tubular, custom LED luminaries that, when viewed in perspective, create a planar canvas of suspended light in the sky above the Mall floor. The lights can be programmed for special events, late night shopping, seasonal displays and site-specific artworks.
The catenary lighting project works with the overall conceptual framework for the Mall’s public domain, celebrating the original source of the Tank Stream.