The Central Park Public Art Strategy was commissioned from Turpin + Crawford’s in 2009 by Frasers Property. The commission was born out of Frasers’ response to a City of Sydney regulation that obliges large-scale developments worth in excess of ten million dollars to produce a public art strategy in order to enhance the City’s cultural and social fabric. As the City of Sydney’s Public Art Policy states: “Public art can enrich the public domain and artists can contribute to the shaping and transforming of the urban realm in ways which reflect, accentuate and give meaning to Sydney’s unique environment, history and community.”
Through the Central Park Public Art Strategy, Turpin + Crawford aim to bring attention to the history, future, and identity of the development site. The Strategy will highlight, argue Turpin + Crawford:
…the thematic of water, liquids, energy and the alchemy of transformations as ‘threads’ found in the original Shea’s creek and heritage [Blackwattle] ovoid drain [which run through and surround Central Park], [as well as] the history of the site as a brewery and its future sustainable energy production and harvesting strategies.
From the architecture and stories of the former Carlton United Brewery, on which the site Central Park is being built, to the development’s cutting-edge sustainable architecture and design, here, the role of art is to visualise the history, present and future—including disparate modes of architecture, urban planning and sustainability—and the natural environment that defines our cities and sense of place.
Visual/Aesthetic: Accentuating Central Park’s six star sustainable building practices and architecture, Turpin + Crawford’s Public Art Strategy aims to enhance the materials and themes of water, wood, greenery, trees, planting and light. Moreover, through its outputs, it aims to enhance the cultural and aesthetic assets of the City of Sydney and Central Park.
Artistic Merit: For Turpin + Crawford, the success of the Central Park Public Art Strategy hinges on the artwork’s capacity to respond to its site. As such, during their research for the strategy, Turpin + Crawford engaged Central Park design, engineering and heritage consultants in an effort to tease out significant themes that defined the character of the site both historically and into the future. They would, in turn, identify those zones where artworks could most effectively activate the precinct and correspond with the urban context of and beyond Central Park. As Turpin +Crawford argue, “Our approach was to aim for quality over quantity.” As part of their aim to commission “quality” artworks they also sought to incorporate into their strategy briefing guidelines that would circumvent, in their words, “the creative constraints of overly-prescriptive briefs that determine how and what an artwork should ‘represent’. We believe that artists will deliver their best response if they are given a relatively open brief.”
Community Development: The Central Park Public Art Strategy aims to play a crucial role in visualising the site’s history and future for the community and eliciting relevant conversations. This strategy incorporates commissioning both permanent and temporary artworks, with many of the latter being erected during the construction of Central Park as a means of both developing a relationship with the community and enlivening the site. Turpin + Crawford’s Public Art Strategy also aims to initiate a series of “post-construction” temporary artworks to nurture ongoing relationships with the local community, neighbouring education institutions and the arts community.
Marketing/Place and Identity: Central Park’s marketing strategy focuses on the uniqueness of Central Park’s place and identity as well as its cutting-edge sustainable design. The Public Art Strategy, and its emphasis on the history of Central Park site and environmental themes such as water and air aims to parallel and enhance Central Park’s marketing strategy and brand.
Attracting Investment and Improving Output: As an outcome of the collaboration between Frasers and the City of Sydney, an indirect aim of Turpin + Crawford’s Public Art Strategy is to show how the private and public sectors can work together to produce a scheme that is beneficial both to the broader community and the real estate market.
The Public Art Strategy aims to align itself with Central Park’s strong focus on eco-sustainability. It does so through bringing to the fore and/or visualising the site’s connections with the Blackwattle drain and river, the phenomenon of energy (and in turn Central Park’s tri-generation plant situated in the old Brewery), the phenomenon of light (as invoked by Yann Kersale’s heliostat at Central Park), as well as the phenomenon of air (as addressed by Turpin + Crawford’s Halo also at Central Park).
outcomes & impacts
Visual/Aesthetic: Turpin + Crawford have commissioned the following completed works for the Central Park Public Art Strategy: Brook Andrew’s Local Memory (2011), Mikala Dwyer’s Windwatcher (2011) and Caroline Rothwell’s Symbiosis (2012). Frasers has commissioned Turpin + Crawford Studio’s Halo (2012). Of these works, Halo and Windwatcher have most emphatically stressed environmental themes correlative with both the site’s history and Central Park’s eco-sustainable focus.
The Central Park Public Art Strategy also subsumes works that were commissioned by Frasers prior to Turpin + Crawford’s collaboration with the development, namely, a water feature designed by Jeppe Aagaard Andersen and Turf Design Studio for Chippendale Green, a cantilevered heliostat/animated LED screen by Yann Kersalé, and a vertical garden—incorporated into Jean Nouvel’s building on Broadway—by Patrick Blanc.
Artistic Merit: Thus far, all of the artworks commissioned through the Public Art Strategy have had a very nuanced and profound engagement with Central Park’s area and history. Moreover, the Public Art Strategy has attracted proposals from some of Australia’s most renowned contemporary artists (e.g., Turpin, Crawford, Andrew, Dwyer and Rothwell).
Community Development: The Public Art Strategy has attracted much media attention, but as many of the projects are yet to be finalised it is still too early to tell if and how the strategy will be successful in including and building relationships with the community.
Marketing/Place and Identity: Central Park has not yet been completed. However, its marketing strategy has been strongly incorporate and emphasises its collection of artworks, as generated via the Public Art Strategy. No doubt, the Public Art Strategy does much to visualise and draw out the development’s eco-sustainable concerns and governing themes.
It is difficult to gauge the impact that the Public Art Strategy has had on the market success of Central Park. However, market trends suggest that contemporary art augments real estate prices (see for example: Hey Latte Lovers and Gentrification imperils Fitzroy art institution).
To date, the Public Art Strategy has been successful in drawing out or visualising eco-sustainable themes relevant to Central Park. This is clearly seen, for example, in Blanc’s vertical garden at One Central Park.
As part of its fulfilment to the City of Sydney’s regulation that large-scale developers need to generate a public art strategy, Frasers invited numerous public art consultants to discuss possible ideas for Central Park. Following this process, Turpin + Crawford Studio was selected to draft the Public Art Strategy, which would then be reviewed by the City of Sydney’s Public Art advisory panel.
During the preparatory stages, Turpin + Crawford were briefed by then CEO of Frasers Property Australia (now Chairman of the Frasers Property Australia Board) Dr. Queck and other Frasers staff including then Chief Operating Officer Nicholas Wolff and Project Director Michael Goldrick. During their consultations with Turpin + Crawford, Frasers stressed the aims and scope of the Central Park project, including:
- - The project’s intentions to juxtapose the heritage site of the Brewery plant with new eco-sustainable buildings.
- - The project’s aspirations for a precinct wide 6 star sustainability rating and the strategies and technology they were developing to achieve this.
- - The project’s ambitions to design a public domain.
- - The project’s intentions to construct a commercial hub within its residential area.
- - The project’s expected delivery times for launching its numerous buildings and park.
- - The project’s aspiration to create a social space inclusive of a broad demographic including, young people, families, older couples.
During their briefing, Frasers’ representatives emphasised their belief that art and culture played a critical role in enlivening the development. As Crawford argues, they saw Frasers Studios (an art project that was launched prior to the Public Art Strategy) as being a crucial catalyst for building productive relationships with the arts community, “who had been traditionally negative towards the development.” The Public Art Strategy, Crawford argues, was seen as a way to further develop a relationship between the arts community and Frasers. Moreover, as Crawford argues, Frasers saw the Public Art Strategy as a means to bring “a human scale to the development.” The works, which would be scattered across the precinct, would allow the public a more intimate relationship with the architectural space than would be afforded by the large-scale buildings.
Turpin + Crawford’s Public Art Strategy would take into account the development’s ambitious sustainability program, its engagement with the site’s history as well as its potential for community development. In producing the Public Art Strategy, Crawford reflects, “To date no significant issues have arisen other than the need to alter the document as building requirements change.” She continues:
The Public Art Strategy is for a precinct that will be developed over at least a decade. Projected building uses will change in response to the market and several sites have not yet begun design. The Strategy is a ‘foundation’ document that delivers principles for public art in the development that will need to respond to changes in the development over time. To date, the budget for an artwork in one block has been moved to another location due to changes in function in the original building. Another location has been abandoned altogether, the budget allocation to be redistributed. Frasers has sought our input to make changes to the document which have then been presented to the City of Sydney and approved.
Given that the project is still unfolding, it is certain that Turpin + Crawford’s Public Art Strategy will continue to change and adapt to the development’s shifting circumstances.
impacts of artwork production
What consideration went in to the commissioning of works? Was an effort made to commission works that were more sensitive to the environment or that engaged with the environment by other means?
The Frasers Broadway Public Art Strategy 2009 highlighted and embraced the environmental sustainability strategies for the redeveloped precinct. It saw the site’s energy production, both historically and as it will be delivered in the redevelopment, as well as its strong relationship to water and liquids, as key themes for the art strategy.
It proposed a suite of artistic responses to energy in the brewing history and future trigeneration plant of the Irving Street Brewery Precinct. It also proposed to characterise the adjoining Chippendale Green as the “elemental heart of the precinct.” Water, light and air would be celebrated in a water feature designed by Jeppe Aargard Anderson, Yann Kersalé’s lighting design for the heliostat on the Jean Nouvel designed Broadway tower, and finally a proposal for a kinetic artwork would give expression to the fluid dynamics of wind and air. Frasers later commissioned Turpin+Crawford Studio to design Halo, a wind activated sculpture that was completed in 2012.
The strategy recognised that most of the sustainable energy strategies adopted by the precinct would be hidden from view and suggested that some “public art works would have the potential to give poetic interpretation to the more abstract aspects of this important energy story including notions such as: fluidity, flux, distillation, phase-changing energetic states, purification, transformation, alchemy and exchange.”
The Strategy also noted that, “in keeping with the aspiration to deliver Australia’s cleanest and greenest urban renewal development, all artworks should consider issues of sustainability in terms of material choice and energy consumption.”
To date Frasers have commissioned the permanent public artwork Halo which is passively activated by wind. Halo was designed specifically to harness the light winds of the site. The mechanical, structural, wind and composites engineering was aimed at achieving the goal of fluid movement in response to wind energy only.
Frasers also commissioned the temporary art program Artists In Residence curated by Turpin+Crawford Studio and curator Anne Loxley. The focus of this project was a response to the historic brewery building, its social and industrial past and its future re-use. Four artists were commissioned to install temporary artworks that would be progressively installed over time. Three works were installed including Local Memory by Brook Andrew, Windwatcher by Mikala Dwyer, and Symbiosis by Caroline Rothwell. A fourth proposal, The Vertically Integrated Caravan Park by Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, did not proceed. Energy and sustainability were addressed in the artists’ briefs but were not specific requirements. All projects took into consideration the necessary longevity and minimal maintenance for artworks. Andrew’s work used frames of sequenced neon. It was agreed that the neon would only be on from dusk to midnight so as to avoid excess energy consumption. Dwyer’s Windwatcher, in the form of a windsock, used wind energy for activation and she chose from a limited colour palette in the material so as to achieve longevity under harsh UV conditions. Rothwell’s Symbiosis responded conceptually to the energy, history and future of the brewery.
Was any effort made to measure the environmental impacts of the construction and maintenance of the work? In terms of energy use in operation and construction, travel during the construction phase, embodied energy and other lifecycle impacts of the materials used?
No, but consideration was taken to deliver the most minimal efficient design, construction and installation of all works.
Was there any innovation in the commissioning of works that were more environmentally friendly than the alternatives?
Is the environmental footprint of the artwork in keeping with the aims and intent of the public art strategy?
The strategy highlighted environmental sustainability and energy production amongst other themes. The artworks delivered to date reflect in varying degrees and with varying levels of intent those themes/imperatives. Halo and Windwatcher most directly engage with the issue of sustainability and energy through their harnessing of the wind as passive energy source.
Crawford, Michaelie and Jennifer Turpin. Interview by author, July 12, 2013.
Crawford, Michaelie and Jennifer Turpin. Interview by author, November 23, 2012
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