Developer: Development WA
* Lyons Architecture
* Iredale Pedersen Hook
Location: Perth, Western Australia
By Colin Galloway
Located on a formerly-disused 1.1 hectare site in the heart of Perth’s CBD, Yagan Square stands next door to Perth Train station and not far from a major metro line. The project was sponsored by the state government of Western Australia with the objective of creating a civic space in the centre of the city that bridges a long-standing disconnect between the CBD to the south and Northbridge, Perth’s major entertainment hub, to the north.
One important function of the project is to integrate with various transportation networks, including the city rail and bus networks, as well as its pedestrian and bicycle pathways, providing an important alternative transport system for a city that is often perceived as car-dependent. It also establishes an axis for people to gather, pulling together previously isolated surrounding areas and creating a catalyst for the creation of further people-oriented spaces in the land to the west, which is earmarked for extensive development.
Opened in March 2018, and featuring an array of public amenities including a Market Hall eatery, play space, wildflower gardens, a digital tower, art installations, and an ampitheatre performance and meeting place, it immediately proved a popular destination, especially when sports events are held at the nearby Perth Arena and Optus Stadium. More than 4 million visitors passed through the site in the first two years since its opening.
Another way in which Yagan Square contributes to the civic realm is in bringing more public space to the middle of the city. Perth is well endowed on its perimeter with such space, but has struggled to create it in its central districts. Beyond that, by developing it with a low-scale format that stands in contrast to the skyscrapers lining St George’s terrace, it has preserved the scale and sensibility of a foregone era in Perth that has to great extent been lost as the city’s original building stock has been gradually renewed.
Given its proximity to the CBD of what is sometimes known as a rapaciously commercial city, the redevelopment could easily have ended up as another high-density commercial project. Instead, the developer opted to pursue a long period of public consultation with stakeholders (and in particular indigenous Australians) to understand what the people of Perth really wanted.
As a result of that process, which the city says has now set a new benchmark for its planning procedures, the facility focuses predominantly on serving community needs rather than making a profit.
Last but not least, Yagan Square aims to kickstart a much-needed reconciliation with the local indigenous community by establishing a unique sense of place. Featuring a bold ‘rock-strata’ architectural design that captures the spirit of Perth and Western Australia, it celebrates the culture and landscape of Australia’s indigenous people with exhibitions of both installation and performance art. From a sustainability point of view, it has also gone well beyond the norm, with a wide range of sustainable attributes and a 5-Star Green
Star Design certification.
According to one Australia-based member of the jury: “It’s reminiscent of the Kimberley up in the north—there’s a resonance in the qualities of the light and space. Australia has not been as advanced in pursuing this type of issue as some other countries, so creating a meaningful relationship with the land and culture is a real step forward.”