This porous city precinct in central Sydney layers different kinds of public activity to create a novel and generous urban experience. Comprising a sequence of places connected by a pedestrian-focused public domain, Quay Quarter builds upon the existing network of streets and laneways to create new platforms for public activity.
The project stitches together the redevelopment of two heritage buildings and three new mixed-use buildings at Circular Quay. A new continuous ground plane, fixed furniture, high-quality materials, new artworks, and a rich planting palette have transformed the space. Rich details are anchored by an ambition to contribute to a more walkable, more welcoming city. Concurrently designed with the new mixed-use buildings that surround it, the public realm responds to the articulated frontages of those new buildings by carving out miniature plazas and squares in the space left by setbacks and recesses, creating a mix of semi-defined spaces that invite people to linger.
Defined by a thoughtful mix of details, materials, colours and textures, Quay Quarter and Loftus Lane create a liveliness and depth of experience that is new for Sydney.
The project has entirely shifted the character of the space from a purely commercial one to a mixed-use public space where people live, work and play. Loftus Lane is now a backyard for residents, who can feel a sense of ownership over the space, while sharing it with tourists and locals.
Where previously Loftus Lane was a dead end, it has now been opened to the precinct by creating four new east-west pedestrian connections – comprising two lanes and two covered arcades. The lane itself, with its commercial frontages that open directly onto the footpath with no gutters or curbs, acts as an outdoor atrium. This connectivity will only improve over time, with the project pioneering a broader suite of planned streetscape improvements in the area.
The project has experimented with ways to make its commercial elements sustainable for both the operators and the community they service. Rather than several large tenancies, care was taken to ensure that a finer-grain selection of spaces with small floor plates is available. This has resulted in a denser, more interesting mix of retail and food and beverage offerings.
At the same time, the space does not entirely rely on commercial tenancies to attract activity. Public seating is generous and positioned away from shops and restaurants to make its availability clear. This is a place to visit and linger, without any pressure to engage with anything in particular.
Taken together, these moves ensure that Quay Quarter isn’t socially and economically dependent on a single attractor.
Collaboration with other designers was key to the success of both this project and the surrounding mixed-use developments, which were designed concurrently. The landscape architecture responds to the articulated frontages of the new buildings by carving out miniature plazas and squares in the space left by and recesses, meaning that the lane continually changes in shape and size, creating a mix of semi-defined spaces that invite people to linger.
The project exemplifies a synergistic relationship between architecture and landscape architecture. Constructed in tandem with the surrounding mixed-use high-rises, Loftus Lane and the Quay Quarter and the new buildings that populate it have each been designed to draw out the best qualities in each.
For example, following an assessment of the proposed designs for the buildings, we worked with the architects to adjust the massing of their towers to carve out corridors for light to travel into the laneway. The result is a green, sunlit space that stimulates and attracts activity throughout the day.
Materially, attention was lavished on small details. Filigree brass elements will weather as time passes, with the changing patina a reminder of how this space belongs to the public. A warm material palette that references the two sandstone buildings addressing the lane creates a sense of cohesion and a unique visual identity. The planting throughout the space is rich and stimulating and enmeshed within the landscape are artworks by Jonathan Jones which invite inquiry and reflection on the interplay between the city’s First Nations and colonial heritage.
These artworks play an important role in reconciling the contested history of the site. Quay Quarter sits in a historically resonant and culturally important area for the Gadi people, and Jones’ integrated artworks illustrate these stories and themes. Several of these works reference Arabanoo, an Aboriginal man captured by settlers, and the site’s marine history. The area’s colonial past has been preserved and revealed in a pair of sandstone buildings, which bookend the laneway’s social spaces.
Client and Developer: AMP Capital
Architecture offices involved in the design:
Jonathan Jones (Indigenous Artist)
Barbara Flynn (Art Curator)
Location: Young Street and Loftus Lane, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Design year: 2014 – 2020
Year Completed: 2021