Imagining what came before us can be difficult. Most of the time we see a place exactly as it exists now. But the history of a space can inform and enliven its tomorrow, and the people of then, can talk to generations of now. The Exchange in Darling Square aims to do just that, intersecting Sydney’s past with its burgeoning future, standing as one of the city’s newest architectural landmarks that will connect community, to place.
The site of Darling Square has a wonderful history. For thousands of years, it was where the Gadigal people fished and hunted, in the area called Cockle Bay. In the 20th century, the site, known as Darling Harbour, became a trade nexus where Sydney received goods and passengers from afar.
The 1980s saw the space evolve again when the harbour was redeveloped for the people, becoming a lifestyle destination for eating, shopping and entertainment. Historically, the site has transitioned as society’s needs have changed, but the core function has remained consistent for thousands of years: this is a place of exchange.
Entrusted to one of the world’s foremost architects, Kengo Kuma, The Exchange will embrace the many stories of Darling Square. It will be a place for people to convene as they have for thousands of years before.
Responsible for designing such iconic structures as the SunnyHills pineapple cake shop, the Suntory Museum of Art in Japan and the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre in Tokyo, Kuma is no stranger to concepts of community and placemaking, and with The Exchange, he hopes to create “a new type of monument.”
The building, in its unique, spiral-shaped form is purposefully designed to bring people together openly, and without the separation of barriers and corners — promoting seamless connectivity and exchange between each floor.
Yuki Ikeguchi, the lead architect on the project, says the building’s circular shape was conceived to be non-directional.
“It’s supposed to invite people from multiple directions — it’s accessible and tangible to the surrounding community as well as visitors from other places.”
For the exterior, Kuma took inspiration from Sydney’s leafy green suburbs, intending to “blend the energy of nature with the building.” The result? A spiralling, organic, facade, wrapped in about 20 kilometres of timber.
Kengo Kuma and Associates wants people to lead by intuition when exploring the six levels of The Exchange, including the building’s City of Sydney Library that will play host to the Ideas Lab, a place where collaborators can innovate, learn new skills or take their first steps to setting up a business. The building will also include a child care centre, and ground floor food and beverage destination, to be known as Maker’s Dozen.
As The Exchange so boldly reflects, no longer can a building be a single purpose structure, but a place with myriad uses for people to inhabit as they desire.
A new food and beverage destination at the ground floor of The Exchange
Inspired by the world’s best international food halls, but with a contemporary twist, the vision for the ground floor is a curated space where 12 of the very best local providores and producers will have the opportunity to showcase their goods.
Maker’s Dozen will present a convergent market and dining space — a new way for the community to gather, trawl, eat and come together, and a place that heroes experimentation and new foodie experiences. This is where Sydney’s food trends will be set by some very talented gourmet artisans.
Designed by local practice Anthony Gill Architects, the space will be flexible, honour simplicity, and allow products and people to shine.
“My plan is to set a framework up so our tenants can comfortably take over the space and make it their own.” Using box-shaped stalls that unfold based on the individual tenant’s preference, Gill was conscious to create a space that was authentic and non-contrived.
“If you create a space that’s flexible, people will make the most of it and embrace it how they like — allowing them to comfortably inhabit the space,” Gill explains. Here, the architectural space serves as a dynamic destination with food and experience at the forefront.
Maker’s Dozen will also include an art installation. Designed for the community, the installation anchors Maker’s Dozen and the building to the people — hanging in a communal space, its existence is for everyone.
The same could be said for The Exchange — a place for the people, for the city, for ideas, debate, and new visions of tomorrow.