Architecture and design

Meet 6 creatives shaping Green Square through architecture and public art

Progressive library design and public artworks with community at their core.

Green Square Library and Plaza

In 2012, the City ran an international competition to design a library and plaza for the rising Green Square neighbourhood. Felicity Stewart and Matthias Hollenstein, of local architecture and urban design practice Stewart Hollenstein, grappled with the challenge of creating quality public space in such a rapidly developing urban context. The challenge ultimately became the driving motivation of their winning design strategy.

Part of that challenge was to create an authentic neighbourhood in a rapidly developing area that’s comfortable for old and new residents. Stewart Hollenstein’s inventive design for an underground library and public plaza reflects its strong belief in the importance of public space.

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View transcript. Image: Matthias Hollenstein & Felicity Stewart, of Stewart Hollenstein architecture practice at Green Square Library and Plaza. Credit: Katherine Griffiths

The soul of the city comes from its complex historical fabric

With the rapid rate of urbanisation, those working in urban renewal around the world face the challenge of creating places that have character, or soul. This doesn’t happen easily and a neighbourhood needs to find its feet over time.

However, responding to a site’s heritage is key. Stewart Hollenstein, working with signage team Collider, made subtle nods to the history of the Green Square site through interpretive artworks. For instance, an illustration of the industrial chimneys once synonymous with the area imprinted in the library’s concrete lift shaft.

As well as looking to the past, the work also needs to create opportunities for the area to evolve in the future. For people to come together, share stories and make new histories. The library achieves this with an inviting and flexible design that visitors will shape over time by the way they use and engage with it.  

Alongside the new library and plaza and an influx of residential apartments, Green Square town centre will soon incorporate a range of shops, restaurants and parks. These will flow through to the existing community and cultural precinct – home to community facilities on the restored heritage site of the Royal South Sydney Hospital. In a new urban area like this, it is important to create distinctive new architecture that can be weaved into the memory of its inhabitants and visitors.

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View transcript. Image: Matthias Hollenstein & Felicity Stewart, of Stewart Hollenstein architecture practice at Green Square Library and Plaza. Credit: Katherine Griffiths

Public space is vital for community belonging and expression

Stewart Hollenstein recognised that it can be difficult to find space in the city to simply sit comfortably free. This was a precious opportunity with Green Square library to provide an expansive urban living room. 

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View transcript. Image: Matthias Hollenstein & Felicity Stewart, of Stewart Hollenstein architecture practice at Green Square Library and Plaza. Credit: Katherine Griffiths

Ordinarily, underground spaces might be the reserve of car parks. However, Stewart Hollenstein’s largely subterranean design for the library is a clever way to maximise available space for public use. The result is a multitude of flexible spaces that can be used for presentations, digital workshops, kids activities, music rehearsals, workshops and events. The intentionally loose design, with easily adaptable shelving and seating, allows visitors to shape the way spaces are used.

Additionally, the plaza’s vast open space, water feature and outdoor amphitheatre, expand the traditional role of the library to include new uses and activities.

We believe the role of architecture is to offer comfort and opportunity. We love that libraries are such democratic spaces. The Green Square library and plaza is a stage for the community to meet and decide how they would like to do things and the beauty of a library is that it makes the local community visible.

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View transcript. Image: Green Square Library. Credit: Katherine Griffiths

Making your living room bigger

The library and plaza were designed with the idea of extending the homes of local people, in what is one of Australia's fastest growing neighbourhoods. If the library and plaza are the living room, then the new digital artwork High Water from collective Lightwell is the painting.

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View transcript. Image: Artists Indigo Hanlee and Michael Hill of Lightwell with their moving watercolour artwork, ‘High Water’. Credit: SilverSalt

High Water takes real-time weather for Green Square and Sydney ports and displays this in digitally rendered watercolours on a 9-metre LED screen. The weather, temperature and tides determine its ever-changing shapes.

Artists Indigo Hanlee and Michael Hill used hand-painted watercolours and a digital technique that continuously generates images to make the striking artwork.

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View transcript. Image: ‘High Water’ at Green Square Plaza. Credit: SilverSalt

‘Meet you at the aeroplane’

Travelling underground, you will find another artwork called Cloud Nation by artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro. The work is a vintage Beechcraft twin propeller aeroplane that is suspended in the library.

Placed on it is a miniature wonderland inspired by the island of Laputa from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The diorama in this playful and imaginative artwork references this fictional place because it is famous for its peoples’ love of culture and knowledge.

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View transcript. Image: Artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro with their artwork, ‘Cloud Nation’. Credit: SilverSalt

Healy and Cordeiro’s diorama world and the mini aeroplane itself play with the scale of the architecture. The artists wanted a work that could be viewed and offer something interesting to look at from different points in the building. 

The artists see Cloud Nation as having the potential to contribute to the fabric of Green Square’s growing community right from the beginning.

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View transcript. Image: ‘Cloud Nation’ is suspended inside Green Square Library. Credit: SilverSalt

Published 24 August 2018