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Phoenix Central Park Ignites Creative Vision
March 5th, 2024

Phoenix Central Park Ignites Creative Vision

Creativity thrives in times of crisis. From pain comes creative expression and innovation, new ways of viewing the world and of living in it. “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it,” said German playwright and poet Bertold Brecht—and in the aftermath of the global pandemic, the creative sector in Sydney has not only reshaped but been vibrantly revitalised.

A surge in creative economy

A study based on 2021 census data revealed that employment in the creative economy grew at a rate more than 50% higher than the rest of the workforce. Despite the pandemic's impact, especially on live performers, creative industries have thrived. The NSW Government launched its first-ever Arts, Culture and Creative Industries Policy , aimed at growing the sector via an artist-led approach, and the City of Sydney plans to create over 40,000 sqm of new cultural production floor space by 2036 – of which FDC has and continues to play a vital part. 

One of the single most significant contributors to this renaissance is Phoenix Central Park in Sydney’s Chippendale. The brainchild of arts philanthropist Judith Neilson AM, it’s one of the core arts and culture spaces built by FDC, leaning into the Reimagining of Sydney Arts & Culture through the vibrant transformation of Sydney's arts and cultural landscape in the built form. The project exemplifies how thoughtful design and construction can elevate the arts, creating spaces that not only showcase talent but also contribute to the cultural fabric of the city.

Multifaceted cultural impact 

Since its completion, Phoenix Central Park has made a significant impact on the arts scene both locally and internationally. Designed to be a fusion of architecture and art, it provides a platform for both visual and performing arts, with a multifaceted impact that encompasses architectural innovation, artist support, cultural engagement, and an interdisciplinary approach that encourages works that push the boundaries of traditional art forms. It is also unique in its commitment to offering a diverse array of artistic experiences, from music and dance to visual art exhibitions. As a contributing partner for the 2024 Biennale of Sydney, Phoenix Central Park is set to play a pivotal role in this international celebration of contemporary art, underscoring its importance not just in Sydney but on a global stage.

The building itself is a marvel of architecture and design, and a testament to its many industry awards including NSW Architecture Medallion, the Sir Arthur G. Stephenson Award for Commercial Architecture and the John Verge Award for Interior Architecture.

Art meets architecture and design

Delivered by FDC in collaboration with acclaimed architectural practices, Durbach Block Jaggers and John Wardle Architects, Phoenix Central Park features a unique dialogue between two distinct architectural styles which encompass a central garden, light-filled gallery and a bell-shaped performance space. 

Led by Claire Jeffrey, Project Director, FDC Construction NSW, the project was defined by numerous elements which presented complex challenges for the delivery team but were nevertheless overcome in spectacular form. “It was a very technically challenging build because every element was bespoke, from the timber bell down to the cast brass door handles. The biggest challenges were the off-form concrete, the ‘dimple’ in the brick façade, the timber bell and the white gallery ceiling. These were all exceptionally unique elements that would be the single most challenging part of a given project, so to encounter them all in one place as a builder was amazing,” says Claire.

“Following the bespoke roof structure, the white gallery ceiling was constructed with 33 rhomboid skylights, each with a slightly different geometry to reflect the shape of the roof above. Quality was at the front of our minds in every single decision. I always thought the building was so eye-catching that the architecture might overwhelm the art, but whenever I visit I am always amazed by how well the art and architecture work together. It’s immersive and they complement each other.”

Judith Neilson envisaged a space which, was in itself, a work of art, and that’s exactly what Phoenix has become. “The building was to be an icon and the best of its kind in the world. Completely unique and timeless. The brief was understood and executed to perfection,” she says. And just like that, Phoenix Central Park continues to rise in the art world; a beacon of creativity and innovation that will serve the arts sector for generations to come.

See more about what’s on at Phoenix Central Park.

Image credit: Anthony Fretwell