So I’m in a bitchin kinda mood. And nothing makes me bitch more than lost opportunities and badly designed public spaces. So I was pleased to come across the Project for Public Spaces, an international consortium dedicated to improving people’s lives through good urban design.
My favourite section of their website is the Hall of Shame, where PPS nominates the world’s most poorly designed spaces. Some are obvious (Hong Kong Cultural Centre, NYC’s Astor Place – shown above – and Boeddeker Park in San Fran). Others are controversial (Guggenheim Bilbao as an example of poor design, anyone?).
It doesn’t seem that PPS have visited Australia, save for some consulting work they are currently doing in Melbourne and Perth. So here are my 10 most loathed public spaces in Sydney:
1. Circular Quay – for obvious reasons. A thundering expressway and railway line covering up one of Sydney’s most spectacular views. Also for its excess of seagulls and faux-Aboriginal buskers.
2. Darling Harbour – a vast, kitsch wasteland, especially towards the southern end around the Entertainment Centre. Isolated at night, and all those bricks are stiflingly hot during the day, even in the middle of winter.
3. Centennial Plaza – Sydney’s worst example of 80s office design – and there are a few contenders, believe me. A salmon-coloured, windswept monument to mediocrity that could have been so much more.
4. Railway Square – a glass-and-concrete island surrounded by a sea of bitumen and belching buses. Especially fun in the rain, when the architecturally-designed shelters reveal how incredibly useless they really are.
5. Victoria Cross, North Sydney – so many cars, so few people, which probably has something to do with North Sydney’s obsession of burying buildings, including the Greenwood Plaza shopping centre. Sydney has the best climate in the world, so why office workers would want to spend their lunchtimes in an underground food court is baffling.
6. Woolloomooloo Wharf – a temple to conspicuous consumption with overpriced restaurants frequented by over-botoxed and over-tanned patrons – sooo 2008;
7. Springfield Mall, Kings Cross – a needlessly blank space with a very dicey feel. And no, those neon pinwheels you erected a few years ago do not make me feel more safe.
8. Bondi Junction Mall – just dull. Really, really dull. Suffocatingly dull.
9. Taylor Square, Darlinghurst – pissy fountains and – you’ve got it – more traffic. Especially vile on a Saturday and Sunday morning where locals congregate to ‘recover’;
10. Town Hall – One of Sydney’s finest buildings has been surrounded by the most frightful building material known to man – pebblecrete.