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Luke Durack's design for a new Town Hall.

The Sydney Town Hall has been demolished. How would you shape the heart of the city if you were to redesign the iconic Town Hall today?

That was the brief given to ten selected third-year architecture students from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), with the outcome now on display in an exhibition at Customs House until the end of May.

Architect and lecturer, Frank Minneart, was the force behind ‘The Power of 10′ idea that promotes our next generation of architectural talent. ‘The work in this exhibition is exciting because of the students’ fresh and provocative interpretation,’ he said.

Mr Minneart emphasised the need to look at new ways of thinking about contemporary cities like Sydney. ‘Public icons such as Sydney’s Town Hall need to become more accessible to citizens’, he said.

One of the students who responded to that challenge was Luke Durack, whose design for a new Town Hall incorporates a stunning contemporary building with plenty of public space.

Mr Durack said his idea came from thinking about how the Town Hall should serve the city. ‘We’re looking at a building that’s a focal point of the city, like our harbour and parks, so it should be a place to go to, but also a place to pass through, that’s part of public circulation.’

In focussing on the public space surrounding the building as much as the building itself, Mr Durack’s said his design includes ‘intimate areas like cafes and restaurants to attract people, as well as a new laneway and pedestrian pathways to better connect the Town Hall to the city.’

But what about the Town Hall’s iconic steps? In Mr Durack’s design, they stay. He said he recognised the steps were a key element of the current Town Hall and has adapted them in his design as an expansive meeting place.
‘I have taken the steps and applied them to the new site as a way of providing seating across the public space,’ he said.

For Mr Durack and the other nine students, the exhibition is a great chance to get their ideas and designs for one of the city’s icons into the public arena.

‘It gives you a fairly big kick to know people are coming to see your work and has been a great motivation,’ he said. As to whether he’d like to see his design for Sydney’s Town Hall become a reality, he was a little more circumspect.

But organiser Frank Minneart is hopeful that stimulating the imagination of young designers is an invaluable way of determining the City’s future. ‘The idealistic and creative responses given by these ten students foreshadow the new thinking to come in Sydney’s future design,’ he said.

– Linda Daniele

*First published in City Hub, April 28, 2008 and City News, May 3, 2008.