Internationally renowned architect Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates and award-winning Sydney-based contemporary Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd have been chosen to design a new public square and artwork near Circular Quay in Sydney.

Based in Accra, London and New York, Adjaye Associates is best known for designing the $540 million Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Adjaye Associates has teamed up with Boyd to design a plaza with a suspended artwork that will sit 20 metres above the ground, providing a new place for visitors to dwell and take respite from busy city streets. Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said it would be a stunning addition to the revitalised Circular Quay precinct and the transformation of George Street as central Sydney’s main boulevard.

By working closely with developers Lendlease, we have been able to secure this spectacular public artwork and meeting place for city dwellers, office workers and visitors to enjoy, she said. The artwork reflects our commitment to recognising Australia’s First Peoples proudly in the public domain. Much like Anish Kapoor’s ‘Cloud Gate‘, I have no doubt that Daniel Boyd’s artwork will become a treasured inner-city destination.

The plaza will connect to George and Pitt streets and a new network of laneways that is being built as part of the redevelopment. It will sit on top of public bike parking facilities and below our affordable innovation space in the Lendlease tower.

Lendlease’s Sydney Place development is at 180 George Street. When completed, it will be transferred to the City as a new public asset. This follows the City’s approval of the adjacent 263-metre high commercial office tower by Lendlease and its joint venture partners China’s Ping An Real Estate and Japan’s Mitsubishi Estate Asia.

Chair of the City of Sydney’s Design Advisory Panel, Professor Ken Maher AO, said the work would have international significance. The building and plaza are a remarkable addition for the city and will be something that will be visited internationally. It gives a moment of pause along the journey of George Street. It is a more intimate moment in the life of the city.

The perforated steel artwork by Boyd will filter dappled light through circular openings of varying size, animating the space with an ever-moving pattern and, at night, reflecting the night sky.
This is an incredibly powerful work because it’s so unusual. It’s a public square but it’s also a room within the city. It has that wonderful ambiguity and the potential for an incredible presence in the evening, commented Graham Jahn, Director of City Planning, who has steered the transformation of private land along George Street.

We believe this new community building and George Street public plaza will become a cherished destination in Sydney’s city centre, a generative place for people to connect, recharge, reflect and take a pause from the rhythm of a fast-transforming city, Sir David Adjaye said.

Adjaye and Boyd first met in Venice in 2015, when the architect designed the 56th Venice Art Biennale with the late curator Okwui Enwezor. Boyd was one of the international artists selected to exhibit work for the Biennale’s headline art exhibition, ‘All the World’s Futures’.

Years later, Boyd received a surprise call from Adjaye inviting him to participate in the George Street project. The idea of a public plaza provided a great opportunity for David and me to work together on the concept of relationships “ how we as individuals perceive our relationship to a particular place and how collectively those relationships play out in a space, Boyd said.

It provides a space of contemplation and diversity, a space to extend knowledge of experience “ a multiplicity of experiences and narratives, currently extending back 60,000 years through the connection of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. Acknowledging that we can never fully comprehend our past or future is the first step in reconciling differences of perception.

The 37-year-old Daniel Boyd was born in Cairns and identifies with the Kudjila/Gangalu peoples of mid- Queensland. However, much of his work reflects on his black-birded heritage from Vanuatu into Queensland.

And this won’t be his first work at Circular Quay.

For ‘Untitled’ in 2014, Boyd stuck 18,000 circular mirrored disks to a black wall in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s harbourside foyer. As the MCA described it, “Like stars scattered across the night sky or subatomic particles comprising the dark matter of the universe, these reflecting lenses pointed towards our incomplete understanding of time, space and memory. Their mirrored surfaces, reflecting the activity in the foyer and the Circular Quay foreshore, were ever-changing. For Boyd, a driving element of the work was our inability to comprehend the full extent of the history of the significant site on which the MCA is located, while acknowledging the length of human interaction with its landscape, before and after colonisation”.

The new public square and building are scheduled for completion in 2022.