Category Archives: urban space

Sydney: Spice Alley

It was just a wall stencil saying “Spice Alley”, and a line of lanterns that lead us down the grey laneway.  It was only when we turned a corner did we fully realise what it was.  Spice Alley is a laneway redevelopment creating a hawker-style food area set behind some terrace type buildings.  It has several food vendors at the back fronting a courtyard space, and the front “rooms” were other shops or just paths through and seating areas.   The whole setting was well-branded and laid out with themed street art, lanterns, greenery, string lighting, and tables outside.  The space management seemed well-thought out with cleaning staff, shared toilets and all the laneways paths appeared to have gates to make it lockable at night. When you also look nearby at the surrounding blocks of significant highrises, a focus on the fine grain and existing older buildings anywhere in the neighbourhood has got to be a good thing.

The coherently structured approach made it appear to be developer lead, and yes, there is a somewhat “manufactured” feel to theses things, but I wouldn’t fault it for that. Closer to home, Southport is also starting a Chinatown a bit from scratch and that model has the city doing well in the public realm improvements, but I’m unclear how they really influence the right tenant mix.    The Spice Alley model with control over tenancy and space management actually seems to ensure a better placemaking and business model.

Really wonderful surprise find, and only reiterating my ideas that “food as placemaking” really is a thing.



Sydney: Ephemeral City

Festivals that contribute to (1) the activation of interesting urban spaces, (2) encourage community involvement, and (3) get people to think about architecture and city making is super fun ways.  Tick and TICK.  The Ephemeral City as part of the Sydney Festival, checked off my boxes.  The sheer scale of the space was great to experience, and the flying fox that darted through the ceiling was a master stroke.

Sydney’s new creative playground, the Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, will be home to one of the largest community participation events presented in Sydney Festival’s 40-year history, with Olivier Grossetête’s fantastically epic The Ephemeral City.  People of all ages are invited to use boxes and tape to construct a sky-high temporary city before witnessing its exciting demolition on Australia Day.

GC: Night Quarter

The GC’s  new Night Quarter is probably sick of the comparison to Brisbane’s Eat Street, but this new spot is proving the winning formula of containers, food, stalls, music, and plenty of astroturf!

To me, Eat Street is still is a great example of semi-permanent placemaking as it remains on a future development site.  I’m not sure the development status of Night Quarter is the same but it has a similar “lighter, quicker” tactical urbanism vibe.

Here’s some differences I noticed between the two –

  • The car parking is just as hectic.  They seem to have a deal with Helensvale’s Town Centre which is a nice co-location idea as the shopping centre isn’t generally trading Friday and Saturday nights.
  • The public transport is better and right next to the train station
  • Feels a bit better organised with a higher presence of staff and the seating layout seems a bit better
  • There’s is a kids area for activities which is a nice touch for families
  • It is smaller which might make it a more manageable space, and less overwhelming that what Eat Street can feel.

Either way, both are showing that containers are great design opportunities and that markets of all kinds do wonderful things for community gathering.


Caba Creative Trail

Caba Creative is a creative collective on the Tweed Coast building a creative, vibrant & inclusive community with events, workshops & activities

Today was the showcase “Caba Creative Trail” event, full of markets, art installations, crafts, and music to activate the parks and headland area.

There were lots of simple and effective ideas like yarnbombing, public space frames, and low cost temporary art, that could be great inspirations for other communities and place-making events.

GC: Chalk at Little Mali Cafe

Little Mali near Snapper Rocks.   This tiny cafe, won me over with free kids sidewalk chalk and a whole corner to scribble on. Good way to distract kids and a very simple and effective placemaking idea

IMAG3109 IMAG3110

GC: Miami Marketta

Miami Marketta.  This pocket of weekend vibrancy in the middle of an industrial area, if both a surprising and unsurprising slice of place-making all at the same time.  Not surprising since food, music + drinks is a winning combo to gather, but it also has an added layer of mural art, colourful design, and creative stores along this laneway/driveway built form.   This more creative edge, probably speaks to its origins and site, which starting out as Rabbitt +Cocoon (a wider collective and space for co-working, creativity and activation etc)

It’s a fun place to eat, but more to the point, it seems symbolic of a wonderful community, energy and “scene” that is willing to give things a go and foster ideas.