Turning under-utilised city spaces into vibrant people places requires careful place making and design skills. As part of a broader precinct upgrade to central Perth, Australia, the Uniting Church’s vision of a fashion centre focused on retail and public realm renewal has breathed much needed public life into a former ‘down at heel’ precinct of the city. The HASSELL design of the public realm is purposefully simple and refined, taking its cues from the importance of the Church – its architecture, materiality and heritage significance. The landscape and public realm pay homage by responding to existing levels, making simple pedestrian connections and assisting in telling the story of Perth’s development. The design also responds to existing social and cultural uses of the site, providing a platform that encourages a wide range of public use, from the often highly animated and spirited activity on the ‘Speaker’s Corner’ to the more passive use of a city worker on their lunchtime break, through to large gatherings of family and friends to celebrate a newly-wed couple.
Within the laneway, contemplative reflection plays with the enticement of retail offerings, key words relating to the former uses of the site and historical cultural references are interlaced through the pavement pattern providing cultural interpretive cues. Detailed bespoke paving and fine grain patterns provide a level of interest that responds to the ‘slower pace’ of pedestrians that use the space.
HASSELL has been able to successfully use a design language that is bespoke and detailed, providing a counter balance to the needs of a cultural icon and the requirements of ensuring retail and commercial success.
The once underutilised existing laneway now fronts retail activity, providing a fine grain pedestrian network that seamlessly connects into the broader city fabric. The upgrade to the built form and public domain has created a more cohesive structure for the precinct and has successfully provided a renewed public space for the people of Perth.
The Wesley Quarter is a sophisticated urban response to city using quality materials in a highly constrained and culturally significant heritage site. It contributes to the image of the city by respecting its historical and cultural context whilst providing a contemporary counterbalance to the grittiness of public life.
Landscape Architecture: HASSELL
Project name: Wesley Quarter
Location: Corner of Hay and William Streets, Perth, Western Australia
Completion date: November 2009
Scale: 100 sqm
Client: Uniting Church of Australia
Photographer: Peter Bennetts