15_Operation Sydney

15_Operation Sydney

Location: Sydney, Australia
Project Year: 2016
Project Team: Christoph a. Kumpusch, Alessandra Calaguire

Five public spaces for Sydney/Australia: A water fountain, climbing stairs, a playground, a graffiti columns and a dog park.


Do I know you from somewhere? Have we met before?

The Mere-Exposure Effect or Familiarity Principle, a social psychology concept developed in the 1960s, speaks to our tendency to prefer the visually familiar. Indeed, experiments have shown that something familiar is instantaneously liked before we even consciously think about what we are looking at. This project uses the DE-Familiarity Principle: architecturally, composing new forms that strategically borrow or sample from existing urban icons. This borrowing is not so much about appropriation but adaptation, working with known profiles, geometries and formal languages and dynamically re-inverting, re-organizing or re-scaling them to produce a series of city interventions that are inviting, fresh and recognizable; new yet already a part of Sydney. “Graffiti Columns” at Reiby Place, the site closest to the waterfront, is cut off from the harbor view by an elevated highway. Here the geometry of the Opera House to cut a surface that both responds to predominant wind directions – channeling the sound of the wind to the ground as an instrument – while also reflecting a view as a periscope of the waterfront and Opera House, previously inaccessible from the site.

“Water Wall” is sited at Curtin Place and references the Archibald fountain commemorating World War I in Hyde Park. Through a process of carving a wall we create space by using extrusions from the existing Deco fountain in elevation and plan, scaled up and pixelated. This hollowed out space inside the new wall becomes a place to sit, talk on the phone, climb, a birdbath. Water misting points are also incorporated to make it a place for cooling off in warmer months.

“Climbing Stairs” located near the intersection of Market Row and Mullins Street reconfigures the grand staircase of the Queen Victoria building to form two lookout towers that frame city views while looking at each other as a cardo-and-decumanus marker, a new landmark and point of orientation in the city.

With these project components, each an elemental architectural component, a new familiarity is highlighted not only from the look of things themselves, but also from how each sets up the viewing of other things across Sydney. Each is a point of exploration and a way-finder. Their propinquity with what is known charges them with a sense of place right at installation. Imposition is mitigated by our willingness to formally blend, if not literally blend in. The scale of this trio of interventions is human, thus the pieces are miniatures of kind: condensing the large into realms of the intimate.

Do I know you from somewhere? Yes.

Have we met before? No, nice to meet you.

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