Cultural and creative life

5 public artworks you can see in your lunchbreak

You don’t have to go out of your way to see great art – it’s closer than you think

Forgotten Songs by Michael Thomas Hill

Discover 5 artworks that are a short lunchtime wander from your city office.

1. Day In, Day Out (James Angus), Bligh Street

You’ll find this striking aluminium sculpture at the entrance to the 1 Bligh office tower, in the city centre. Day In, Day Out creates a welcome addition of colour to Sydney’s grey urban landscape.

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Towering, organic shapes with geometric patterns in earthy tones of red, brown, orange and yellow. The tower stands out for its bold, unusual curves.

The inspiration for the sculpture is drawn from the unique design of the building itself. Its form is a complex network of three-dimensional shapes, supported on three tall columns.

Enjoy the view from the across the road or feel a part of an abstract forest as you enjoy a coffee in the cafe beneath.

2. The Distance of your Heart (Tracey Emin), Bridge Street

Running along Bridge and Grosvenor streets and through Macquarie Place Park, you’ll discover over 60 tiny artworks.

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The Distance of your Heart is as much a treasure hunt as an artwork. Consisting of more than 60 delicate, handmade bronze bird sculptures designed by British artist Tracey Emin. Life-sized and life-like, at first glance you could easily mistake them for real birds.

The scattered sculptures perch on poles, above doorways, under seats, and on awnings. Hidden in plain sight, enticing you to follow their trail. A singular bird sits on a large stone birdbath in Macquarie Place Park. The bath is inscribed with the words ‘The distance of your heart’. Creating a place to reflect and remember loved ones who are far away.

3. Forgotten Songs (Michael Thomas Hill), Angel Place

Forgotten Songs is arguably Sydney’s most-loved (and most Instagramed) public artwork. If you haven’t stood below this canopy of suspended birdcages in Angel Place, you need to make it your next lunchtime priority.

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Parallel to Martin Place, in a small laneway stop and listen. You’ll hear the calls of birds that once lived right here in central Sydney. These sounds have long since left, as we transformed their habitat into our urban jungle.

Forgotten Songs commemorates the songs of more than 50 of these precious lost birds. The calls change as day shifts to night. The daytime birds’ songs disappearing with the sun. The nocturnal birds, which inhabited the area, sounding into the evening.

4. Windlines: The Scout Compass of Discovery (Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford), Circular Quay

In front of the AMP building, next to Customs House, there is a small plaza named Scout Place. Here a large feathered metal weather vane sits above a circular bronze map of greater Sydney, encircled with poetic riddles.

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Windlines is a striking monument to the spirit of scouting adventure that features a playful inclusion.

These ‘wind lines’ of whimsical text embedded in the ground invite you to discover the places hidden in the riddles.

‘Snapper Watches Spectacle As Camping Cockatoos Lasso A Lonely Goat, 14km WNW’ for example, refers to the inner harbour islands of Snapper, Spectacle, Cockatoo and Goat and features the distance and direction from Scout Place.

The perfect spot to let your imagination run to places unknown. The artwork was created to honour the spirit of adventure and celebrate 100 years of Scouts in Australia.

5. Reflection (Jess Dare and Richard Johnson), Martin Place

Embedded in the Martin Place pavement, between Castlereagh and Pitt streets, is a moving memorial to the tragic Martin Place siege in December 2014.

More than 210 individual, handcrafted flowers, each displayed inside a protective cube, are scattered in a seemingly random pattern.

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The stunning centrepieces of Reflection are a cluster of aqua hydrangeas and another of yellow sunflowers, memorialising the two young Australians killed in the siege.

Together, these sculptures represent the sea of flowers that filled Martin Place in the days and weeks following the siege. An everlasting reminder of the compassion and resilience of Sydneysiders.

Published 7 June 2018, updated 24 November 2023

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