Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Designed by ASPECT Studios together with Kengo Kuma and Associates, the Darling Square embodies a new urban typology, fusing landscape, architecture, art, food, and culture.
The project was recently awarded with a 2020 International Architecture Award from The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum.
A captivating new world-class urban neighborhood has rejuvenated the heart of Sydney. It is home to 4,200 residents, 2,500 co-workers, and more than 60 retail and food stores, attracting visitors and locals alike.
Darling Square sits on the site of the former Entertainment Centre and car park, south of the revitalized Darling Harbour Live precinct.
With a renewed sense of place and position, urban connections are forged, realigning, and reconverging the city with its prior landscape and landmarks.
Straddling Tumbalong Boulevard, Darling Square provides both destination and reconnection of Darling Harbour to its surrounding urban context of Central Station, Ultimo, and Chinatown.
The precinct includes a strong, pedestrian-focused network of city streets, laneways, and the 20-meter-wide pedestrian boulevard bisecting the ground plane, with the public square as the focal point.
The removal of the Entertainment Centre and Car Park created a unique opportunity for a large, undivided, central plot in a pivotal part of the city.
Recognizing the potential of the site, the client ran a limited design ideas competition to develop new concepts for the design of the public square and adjacent laneway.
The architects won the competitive process in late 2014 and were subsequently engaged to develop the design for the public domain across Darling Square.
The competition-winning design responded to the principles of the client’s brief with three primary design moves that altered the existing master plan.
These were: Create a platform for the square, held by a canopy edge; give definition to the square, through the boulevard, canopy, and connecting laneway spaces; and create a community building in the round.
The public domain design response was in alignment with the wider site master planning by Denton Corker Marshall (DCM) and Hassell, for three new residential developments, two new student accommodation buildings, and a new commercial building, each with active, retail oriented, ground planes.
Darling Square’s immediate patronage has been a response to a new appreciation for the need of urban spaces and the opportunities that come with urbanization, exemplified in this precinct.
Darling Square is quotidian, offering green, gathering, and strolling spaces for all, as an ever-changing civic space where daily life and spectacle collide.
The contextual design offers a thriving and inviting multi-use urban space for all ages, treasured by residents, workers, and visitors.
Everything at Darling Square has been designed with intent: from the landscape of custom grown Eucalyptus trees and endemic gardens, to interpretations of the indigenous language of the Gadigal people (Eora nation), outdoor mah-jong tables that links Chinatown further east, and intricate fanned paving that symbolize the fish scales of the area’s once-present water.
Inspired by the green suburbs of Sydney, Kengo Kuma blended the energy of nature with The Exchange building sitting as a punctuation point.
The organic, spiraling facade, wrapped in 20 kilometers of timber, extends into the public domain both materially and functionally.
The public domain integrates effortlessly with The Exchange, forming the centerpiece for the precinct, as a community building in the round and a destination in its own right.
Providing urban definition, with inflected spaces, the civic presence of Darling Square has resulted from the underlying systems of place.
The constraints of spatial density have been leveraged in a design response that has delivered civic generosity.
The result is a distinctive destination and global blueprint, exemplifying a regenerative public realm design.
Project: Darling Square
Architects for Masterplan: ASPECT Studios
Associate Architects for The Exchange: Kengo Kuma and Associates
General Contractor: Lendlease
Lighting Artist for Steam Mill Lane: Peta Kruger
Lighting Artist for Little Hay Street: Brendan Van Hek
Photographer: Brett Boardman