The Spanish Quarter, located at the T-junction of Liverpool and Kent Streets - two key Sydney streets, is an almost anarchic congestion of pedestrians and vehicles which is only heightened by the relentless visual and aural assault of the monorail travelling above the south side of Liverpool Street. The Quarter has a dual urban role, being both a major Sydney ‘eat street’ and pedestrian throughway to Darling Harbour and Chinatown - both roles need to be accommodated in any street upgrade.
The Quarter is not a neatly delineated area of the city but a concentration of predominantly Spanish-related businesses which have developed since the 1950s, such as restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, deli and travel agents, (Don Quixote, Capitan Torres, La Campana, Grand Taverna, Torres Deli) in Liverpool and Kent Streets and related historic laneways, astride the social focus of the Spanish Club - ‘the House of Don Quixote’. It also contains the Comix Bookshop, the Fashion School of Design, Cinestore, sushi bars and souvenir shops to create a Quarter that, although morphologically unsatisfactory, is imbued with rich qualities of difference and diversity.
The ‘spanishness’ of the Quarter is given expression on the street through banners, signs, familiar symbols and icons (bell, bull horns, matador, bull fight, drawbridge wheel, mounted Don Quixote and Pancho Sanches), trademarks and brightly coloured doors. The Quarter has a strong nocturnal life, where red and yellow neon lights and illuminated signs are primary ingredients in the transformation of the street into an electric dream.
The Quarter, within the belly of the city, sits adjacent to the glitz and heady night life of the cinema strip, techno-game zones and the NSW RSL Club in George Street, and amusements/ pleasure sites in Darling Harbour.
An urban strategy for the Quarter, suggested by the paintings of Spanish artist Miro, focuses on extending the current system of ‘pathways and doorways’ to encourage more intersections by strengthening the thread of pathways and allowing the street to become the site of greater cultural expression. The places of food and drink become extensions of the public domain, marked by doorways of ‘mythic significance.
Art, eating and urban design have much in common. Food and the remnants of food, such as a fishbone, depicted in the work of Picasso, can be as much a source of invention in urban design as they are in painting and sculpture, thereby creating the possibility of mulit-valent and culturally rich urban elements.
Location: Liverpool Street, Sydney
Status: Construction completed
Client: City of Sydney
Collaborators: Peter Mc Gregor - Public Artist
Photography: Brett Boardman
Awards: Finalist, RAIA Urban Design Award, 2002