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The Search to Give Urban Space its Artistic Soul

While buildings and roads make up a city’s body, it is arguably art that gives the urban space its soul. In the spirit of this insight, Coronation Property has teamed up with Authority Creative to commission a public artwork for its high-profile 8 Phillip Street Parramatta project.

The call for expressions of interest aims to find artists that can create an inspiring permanent artwork for the public realm of the site.

Aras Labutis, director of Urban Transformations at Coronation Property, says that Coronation sees art as an important element in creating places people identify with.

Art is also a means of activating a site, he says. Previously, the 8 Phillip Street site showcased a five-storey high mural by artist Steen Jones, which contributed to creating an identity and sense of place before work started on the development. 

“It became quite a well-known landmark piece,” Labutis says.

Working with local artists, as it also did for a 100m-long hoarding mural at The Papermill in Liverpool and Charlie Parker in Harris Park, adds an extra element of community engagement.

The new permanent artwork at 8 Phillip Street will help define the precinct and create a lasting landmark as Parramatta evolves from Western suburbs outpost to a vibrant, multicultural CBD.

“We strongly believe art provides an additional layer to any place,” Labutis says. “It gives a real feel to a place.

“Where you have art, you have depth.”

Public art also helps build a community’s sense of pride, and takes developments an extra step from being simply about creating buildings to genuinely delivering places for people,

“You can have a nicely designed built space, but that doesn’t mean it engages people,” Labutis muses.

“Art is what makes people look up from their phones – because they are interested in what is around them. It can draw attention, and draw them in, even from a distance.”

Artworks are also a means of giving people locations and landmarks that become part of the social fabric. They become points of orientation and meeting places.

Labutis says the decision to commission a permanent artwork also reflects the long-term engagement Coronation will have with the site. The branding of the precinct is not just something that is about selling apartments, it is also part of the spirit and identity that will emerge for the QT Hotel and the food and beverage establishments planned for the mixed-use tower.

“We have an ongoing interest in these projects,” Labutis says.

Public art also adds value for the hotel and the food and beverage operators, as it can encourage people to linger and be part of a richer environment that entices them to return.

At this point, he says Coronation have no fixed ideas about what style or form the public art for 8 Phillip Street might take.

Labutis says the nature of the piece is expected to “come organically” from the EOI and shortlisting process, which closes on July 25.

Christopher Skyner, director at Authority Creative, says Coronation Property’s project could be a major career turning point for any artist.

“It represents wonderful career progression, especially for an emerging artist, to have a permanent work in the public realm,” he says.

“That is what some artists have built whole careers on.”

Skyner says the EOI process aims to “cast a broad net” and that the Authority Creative team are really interested to see who is out there.

“The idea is to engage with not just one but a number of artists at the concept development stage,” Skyner says.

Following an assessment of the EOIs, three artists will be shortlisted and supported through the concept development process.


The whole public art sector is on a stellar upward trajectory, as the multiplying number of commissions the creative consultancy is involved with demonstrates. Many of the projects have catapulted artists and their work to the foreground of the urban consciousness.

“Developers these days are aiming to build culture into public spaces,” Skyner says.

It is a way of creating “precincts that mean something” to the community, where culture leads the way in building public spaces and their meaning and identity.

Skyner believes that generally, people have moved past the stage of only looking for functionality in the built environment and its places and are looking for the “something more” that art and culture provide.

The whole response to this urban site, with its high level of foot traffic and connectivity to public transport nodes, is an integrated one. Unlike many projects where landscaping or artworks might be “bolt-on” elements added after the detail building design is complete, at 8 Phillip Street they have always been considered as part of the whole.

“We have put a vast amount of thinking into the environmental sustainability aspects of the building and the landscaping,” Labutis says.

This has included working with Parramatta City Council on the greening elements in the public realm, as part of an overall city-wide strategy for mitigating the urban heat island effect.

For Coronation, it is all part of a broader agenda to ensure they make a positive contribution to the community through their work, a commitment that is embedded in projects from the very earliest stages.

“Coronation Property is a design-driven firm,” Labutis explains. “We take pride in creating places people love to be in.”

The EOI period for the 8 Phillip Street project closes on July 25. Find out more about submitting at EOI here: https://www.authoritycreative.com/8-phillip-st-parramatta

Published in Architecture & Design June 26, 2019 and The Daily Telegraph June 25, 2019.