Better streets and spaces

Crossing the rainbow on Taylor Square

A burst of colour will be a permanent tribute to the Darlinghurst area’s close links with LGBTIQ communities.

Rainbow crossing at Taylor Square
Rainbow crossing at Taylor Square

The City of Sydney will paint a giant rainbow crossing on the corner of Bourke and Campbell streets. The symbol’s origins can be traced back more than 4 decades.

San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed the first rainbow flag in 1978. While the current version has 6 stripes – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet – the original flag also featured pink and turquoise.

The assassination of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk in November 1978 saw demand for the flag boom. The pink stripe was dropped due to problems in the manufacturing process. In 1979 San Francisco dropped the turquoise strip, which led to the version seen today.

Australia’s LGBTIQ communities embraced the symbol in the 90s, although it had been used prior. The 70s and 80s saw other symbols used, such as the pink triangle and double Mars and Venus icons. These icons were used in the gay liberation movement overseas, spearheaded by the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York.

The City has proudly flown the rainbow flag above Sydney Town Hall for the Mardi Gras Festival every year since 2009.

The rise of rainbow crossings

West Hollywood saw a rainbow crossing installed on Santa Monica Boulevard as part of the 2012 Gay Pride Month in the US. The crossing was such a success it was allowed to remain a permanent feature.

Cities including San Francisco, Atlanta and Vancouver soon followed with their own colourful crossings.

A previous rainbow crossing at Taylor Square installed in 2013 proved to be a hit. Its installation was timed with the Mardi Gras Festival and appeared in countless photos across social media. The crossing was removed by the former NSW Roads Minister.

Rainbow flag above Taylor Square.
Rainbow flag above Taylor Square.

Following the crossing’s removal, the City raised a rainbow flag at Taylor Square in 2014.

Baker, the flag’s designer, died in 2017, aged 65. His legacy lives on in the impact of the rainbow flag around the world. This can be seen by its popularity in Australia and its display in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Sydney’s traditional rainbow home

Pip Ditzell, the City’s LGBTIQ community programs officer, said the rainbow symbol has long been an emblem of pride and unity in Australia and across the world.

“The rainbow symbol has also come to indicate safe spaces for the community,” she said.

“A rainbow crossing at Taylor Square will bring new and vibrant life to the area. It has the potential to become a global symbol of the City’s pride in its LGBTIQ communities.

“I believe the community will embrace this opportunity to claim a landmark space in the heart of Darlinghurst, the traditional home of Sydney’s LGBTIQ communities.”

The colours of the current rainbow flag symbolise:

  • red for life
  • orange for healing
  • yellow for sunlight
  • green for nature
  • blue for magic/art
  • violet for serenity.

Find out more about the City’s support for LGBTIQ communities.

Published 22 June 2018