DESIGN EXCELLENCE: CENTRAL PARK

The marriage of public art and design excellence in the early planning stages of any development is key. One example I’d like to put forward is the Central Park precinct in Sydney, developed by Frasers Property and Sekisui House.

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Central Park is a mainly residential structure, with some retail space beneath, and has positioned itself as a hub of creativity. Sitting on the border of the CBD and inner suburbs, Central Park is surrounded by galleries such as White Rabbit, and hosts galleries inside the precinct, such as the Japanese Foundation. You could even consider the entire building itself an artwork, with the vertical garden designed by Patrick Blanc, and a mysterious heliostat designed by Yann Kersale, both hanging off the side of the building (but more on those in a little bit).

The Central Park precinct. Image Credit:    Central Park

The Central Park precinct. Image Credit: Central Park

Central Park’s public art collection “appears on the walls, floors, facades and parks” of the precinct as according to their website and initially had it’s very own art directors/consultant guiding the collection and process. In positioning itself as this creative hub, Central Park has played host to many events and programs over the years, engaging with the arts community.

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Back in 2015, I directed and curated the inaugural Sydney instalment of the internationally acclaimed “The Other Art Fair.” The event gave the general public the opportunity to meet and buy direct from the best emerging artists that Sydney had to offer, all carefully selected by a committee of art industry experts. We hosted 84 artists in the aMBUSH Project Space residing in Central Park, with the program including live art, music, and performance, as well as the thriving market place. 

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit:    Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit: Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit:    Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit: Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit:    Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit: Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit:    Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Other Art Fair held at Central Park. Image Credit: Art Pharmacy Consulting

Most Sydney-siders would probably recognise Halo, a large, metal kinetic sculpture hidden behind the residential tower in the park area. Halo was commissioned as part of the activation of the public area, and was created by Michaelie Crawford and Jennifer Turpin. Using a finely tuned counterbalance, the 12 metre in diameter yellow ring, or the “halo,” turns with the energy created by the wind. An optical illusion is created with the halo looking disconnected from the rest of the structure as it gently flows with the wind. 

Halo at Central Park. Image Credit:    GANSW

Halo at Central Park. Image Credit: GANSW

Halo at Central Park. Image Credit:    GANSW

Halo at Central Park. Image Credit: GANSW

A great example of the marriage of public art and design excellence, Halo incorporates the history of the site as it “references the visual language and processes of the original Irving Street Brewery.” The large vats used during the brewing process, as well as the repetitive stirring motions, are physically represented by the halo and the rotations. This piece is everything plonk art is not. 

Another initiative held on the precinct was AIR or Artists in Residence. This temporary art program brought 3 artists in to transform the old brewing site, while incorporating aspects of it’s history.

Symbiosis by Caroline Rothwell. Image Credit:    Caroline Rothwell

Symbiosis by Caroline Rothwell. Image Credit: Caroline Rothwell

Windwatcher by Mikala Dwyer. Image Credit:    Mikala Dwyer

Windwatcher by Mikala Dwyer. Image Credit: Mikala Dwyer

Local Memory by Brook Andrew. Image Credit:    Curating Cities

Local Memory by Brook Andrew. Image Credit: Curating Cities

Artist Caroline Rothwell created Symbiosis, a large, red, nylon fixture connected to a series of white pipes. The work, packed with meaning, has the red nylon piece representing a tree, while the white pipes represent the circulatory of both the brewery and the people that inhabit the area, craving their own path through the landscape.  

The second artist was Mikala Dwyer. Her piece Windwatcher is a large windsock measuring over 10m in length and flying from the top of the smoke stack. Dwyer herself has described the piece as “simple but profound” and treats it as a reminder for the majesty of the sky and the power of the wind, things we may take for granted from the ground level. 

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The final artist as part of AIR was Brook Andrew with his piece Local Memory. This installation quite literally drew on the memory of the local area, creating a sort of ghostly landscape with illuminated portraits of people who “have lived, worked and witnessed significant cultural and built environment change on the brewery site between the dates 1909-1998.”

Now back to Patrick Blanc and Yann Kersale. Their “art pieces” could be easily missed, as they’re not really traditional in any sense, and perhaps more importantly, blend into the architecture. 

The vertical hanging garden is an amazing example of “living architecture”. It was designed in collaboration between artist and botanist Patrick Blanc and Central Park architect Jean Nouvel, who have previously collaborated. An incredible, and well kept example of what’s achievable in architecture, creates a little green oasis in the centre of the city, representing possible growth.

Patrick Blanc’s incredible vertical hanging garden. Image Credit:    Patrick Blanc

Patrick Blanc’s incredible vertical hanging garden. Image Credit: Patrick Blanc

The process behind Patrick Blanc’s incredible vertical hanging garden. Image Credit:    Patrick Blanc

The process behind Patrick Blanc’s incredible vertical hanging garden. Image Credit: Patrick Blanc

Patrick Blanc’s incredible vertical hanging garden. Image Credit:    Patrick Blanc

Patrick Blanc’s incredible vertical hanging garden. Image Credit: Patrick Blanc

Also hanging off the side of the building is the heliostat by Yann Kersale. The Sea Mirror or Miroir de Mer, an incredible art installation in it’s own right, has a very practical use. The series of mirrors direct natural sunlight into the smaller of the residential buildings during the day, and by night, the LED lights flash and create colourful patterns. 

Yann Kersale’s Sea Mirror directing light during the day. Image Credit:    GANSW

Yann Kersale’s Sea Mirror directing light during the day. Image Credit: GANSW

Yann Kersale’s Sea Mirror lit up by night. Image Credit:    Tilt Industrial Design

Yann Kersale’s Sea Mirror lit up by night. Image Credit: Tilt Industrial Design

The reason I’m stressing these instances of public art so much is that I think they’re a great example of that important intersection of design and art going hand in hand. There has been obvious thought put in to each and every one of these artworks that make a genuine connection to the area that they’re placed and the community who have, and will, inhabit the area. From both temporary and permanent installations, to adorning the sides of the building with a vertical garden and a series of practical mirrors, each piece fits within and engages with the physical and social landscape in which it resides. 

There is so much value in investing in good public art, and meeting with art consultants such as ourselves here at Art Pharmacy Consulting will almost always guarantee a success. Central Park so clearly demonstrates this. The public art seamlessly blends into the architecture, transforming the space, and doubles with practical use. Many of the artists, and all of the artworks, connect back to the site, community, or heritage.