Farewell from the Public Sydney blog

The Public Sydney exhibition has closed and it is time for us to wind up our blog too. We’ve met some fantastic people, drank from the best bubblers [and the worst], been chased by ibis and become better acquainted with our city.

The power of the pig, Il Porcellino on Macquarie Street, wasn’t really evident to our volunteers but we will continue to pat him.

Vanessa Berry, our fabulous guest blogger, has taken us to places we’ve never been before and taught us to always look up, down and all around when walking the city streets. Be sure to stay connected with her here.

Our other guest bloggers have helped us think differently about our public spaces. We’d like to thank everyone who commented, emailed and, on one memorable occasion, stopped Nerida at a bubbler to assist with a review.

If you love Sydney stories and places keep in touch with us via our Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out other blogs on our website including the Cook and the Curator – a great one for Sydney foodies. And, speaking of food, be sure to visit the upcoming exhibition ‘Eat your history: a shared table’ at Museum of Sydney.

Hey, have you noticed that during this blog’s time the Town Hall clock has been uncovered again, the monorail is slowly disappearing and Ravi the Hyde Park flair bartender seems to have a few new followers…our public spaces never stop changing!

Sydney monorail track being removed

Sydney monorail track being removed

Power of the Pig final result

Il Porcellino

Il Porcellino

Our social experiment has come to a close, as the sun sets on Il Porcellino this afternoon. While things seemed steady for Kate, our other test subject, Matt, was not as lucky. He tells us that since rubbing the boar’s nose his dog passed away.

Whether this can be blamed on the power of the pig remains unclear but it certainly puts a bit of a downer on our results!

For Kate, though, her time with the pig developed into something more profound:

“After a few weeks of missing the pig – I was taking an alternate route to work, and wasn’t walking by him – I have visited him twice a week over the last two weeks. He hasn’t answered my main wish, and life is tracking along as usual, nothing really bad, nothing really amazing.

But I think the pig and I have a silent understanding – he will be a guardian, keeping watch over those who visit him. I think I will continue to visit him, because even without the proven power of the pig, I can still make a small contribution to Sydney Hospital on my trips up and down Macquarie Street. ”



More cats required

We thought we’d share some of the comments that have been trending on the ideas wall at the Public Sydney exhibition. Cats…and plenty of them! Here is a sample of some of the comments (click on an image to enlarge it):

Ducks have once again made an appearance, suggesting they are a very desirable animal to have frequenting the city’s public spaces.

Today, one of the SLM team was delighted to spot a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo sitting on one of the street lights at the corner of Market and Castlereagh streets. Before he could take a photo, the Cockatoo made its way back to the less frantic surrounds of Hyde Park.

Let us know if you’ve spotted any interesting animals enjoying the city’s public spaces!


Donna the Hearing Guide Dog

In the park on the Railway Square side of Central Station, set back from the path, is a small sculpture of a dog’s head mounted on a sandstone plinth.

Donna the Hearing Guide Dog Memorial

Donna the Hearing Guide Dog Memorial

The memorial commemorates Donna the Hearing Guide Dog, “friend and constant companion” to John Hogan of Pyrmont; both were regular travellers on trains around NSW. Donna also has the distinction of holding a title in the Guinness Book of Records. She is the world’s longest living hearing guide dog. She died at the age of 20, in 1995.

Donna is easy to miss, but from the day I first noticed her I have always looked for her when I pass by. On a recent visit to Donna I noticed her nose looking rather red – I wonder if people are rubbing it for luck, like Il Porcellino?

Closeup of Donna the Hearing Guide Dog Memorial

Closeup of Donna the Hearing Guide Dog Memorial



Central Station

Looking at Central station from above it appears orderly compared to the cluttered streets of Surry Hills and Chippendale around it. It’s hard to imagine the busy network of platforms, tunnels, entrances and exits that connects the station together.

In this photograph from 1947, Central station looks much as it does today, although other buildings are long gone: there’s no longer a Victorian-era exhibition building in Prince Alfred Park for example, nor a brewery on Elizabeth Street across from the train lines.

Prior to the construction of Central station there was some debate about where it should be built. One plan suggested building it in Hyde Park, as shown in this artist’s impression of the proposed building from 1898.

Rather than replacing Hyde Park with a train station it was decided that the terminal be built further to the south, on the site of the Devonshire Street cemetery and the Benevolent Asylum, a home for people with disabilities. The foundation stone was laid in 1902 and construction soon commenced.

One of the foundation stones of Central Station - this one was laid in 1903 at the base of the clock tower.

One of the foundation stones of Central Station – this one was laid in 1903 at the base of the clock tower.

While Central station has undergone plenty of changes since it opened in 1906, the experiences to be had there are much the same now as they would have been a hundred years ago. Rushing for a train against a tide of people surging in the opposite direction, waiting on a platform and watching passers-by, the exasperation of just missing a train or triumph of catching one at the last minute. Central is the setting for an ever-repeating succession of train station moments and dramas.

While the majority of services from Central station are regular, timetabled trains, sometimes there is a special service, such as the Elvis Express, which conveys a train full of Elvises and Priscillas to the Parkes Elvis festival in January every year. And on some Sunday mornings, you can come across the unlikely sight of a steam train puffing its way out of Central Station as it chugs its way to Clyde and back.

Other special services are one offs, such as the 1945 “Brides’ Train”, which conveyed the Australian brides of US servicemen to Brisbane, from where they were to sail to the USA. The Argus newspaper reported the women clutching flowers and woolly koalas, and one girl with a large teapot in her luggage, “to teach relatives in New Hampshire how Australians drink tea”.

Central is divided into two realms: the “upstairs” area with the grand concourse; and the “downstairs” suburban network with its tiled tunnels and stairwells. The platforms adjacent to the grand concourse were originally for steam trains, while the ‘downstairs’ section of the station, opened in 1926, was for the electric trains that began services in that year.

Although the days of steam trains are long over (apart from the occasional surprise Sunday sighting), the grand concourse retains a kind of past-time grandeur, at least in its architecture. In the middle of the concourse is a clock suspended in the centre of the hall, telling travellers to either to relax or rush by the position of its ornate hands. The clock has calmly ticked the seconds away as millions of passengers have passed underneath it, from the days of having a drink at the soda fountain before boarding a steam train, to now.

The concourse soda fountain, around 1920. If you look closely you will see that everyone in this photograph is wearing a hat.

The concourse soda fountain, around 1920. If you look closely you will see that everyone in this photograph is wearing a hat.

There was much more advertising in the concourse in 1958 than there is today. The advertisements complement each other, although I don't know if this was intentional: wine, analgesics (Vincent's APC), and Stamina "self supporting" Trousers.

There was much more advertising in the concourse in 1958 than there is today. The advertisements complement each other, although I don’t know if this was intentional: wine, analgesics (Vincent’s APC), and Stamina “self supporting” Trousers.

The concourse in 1981 had a kind of 1970s sitting-room aesthetic, with indoor plants and bright orange moulded seats.

The concourse in 1981 had a kind of 1970s sitting-room aesthetic, with indoor plants and bright orange moulded seats.

The concourse today.

The concourse today.

People consulting their fate on today's indicator boards.

People consulting their fate on today’s indicator boards.

While the ‘downstairs’ suburban platforms may not have a lofty concourse, they do have one of Sydney’s favourite secret places: the ghost platforms, numbers 26 and 27. They were constructed at the same time as the platforms beneath them, which service the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line. A glimpse of them can be seen as you travel on the escalators between the concourse and platforms 24 and 25. Look up at the striped green panels above the escalator shaft and you will briefly catch sight of the lights of the ghost platforms.

The ghost platforms are identical to the Eastern Suburbs line platforms beneath them, although in a raw concrete state and no tracks have been laid below them. At either end there are stubs of tunnels, for whatever future project might require them. For now the ghost platforms have a quiet existence, mostly undisturbed apart from visits by the occasional tour group.

If the ghost platforms are the most peaceful part of Central, one of the busiest is the Devonshire Street Tunnel, the pedestrian underpass that travels under the railways lines between Devonshire Street and Railway Square.

The Devonshire Street Tunnel

The Devonshire Street Tunnel

The pedestrian tunnel has been a part of the station since it opened in 1906, although it is hard to imagine it before the days of murals and buskers, its two main features besides the endless stream of pedestrians. The walls have been decorated by murals since the 1980s, when the Public Art Squad produced a series of painted murals along the length of the tunnel. Now the paintings of the shirtless man wearing flares and juggling globes of the world and the boy swimming among the water lilies have been replaced by digital prints of scenes from NSW Railway history.

One of the Public Art Squad murals, photo from http://devonshirestreettunnel.blogspot.com.au/

One of the Public Art Squad murals, photo from http://devonshirestreettunnel.blogspot.com.au/

One of the current murals in the tunnel.

One of the current murals in the tunnel.

There are plenty more Central Station secrets to discover, and if you do find yourself missing a train and with a long wait until the next one, there’s a self-guided tour of the station that reveals the story of the station. But for now we will say farewell, as our train is about to depart.

All archival photographs in this post derive from State Records NSW.


Ninety9 launches

Ninety9 launch

Ninety9 launch

For those that have been following the blog posts by Vanessa Berry, you may be interested to learn that Vanessa is just about to have her new work, Ninety9, published by Giramondo Publishing.

Ninety9  is an illustrated memoir of Vanessa’s teenage years as a music fan in the 1990s where she writes of her discovery of alternative music and underground cultures.

The book will be launched in Sydney on August 14th at The Midnight Special in Enmore.

Be sure to also check out Vanessa’s blog related to Ninety9 (featuring the notes and ephemera behind the book) here.


Statues for sale

Statue of Governor Macquarie with red dot sticker

Statue of Major General Lachlan Macquarie with red dot sticker

Nerida’s post about Shivering Statues reminded me of the time I walked past one of Sydney’s newer statues, Major General Lachlan Macquarie, at the Macquarie Street entrance to Hyde Park. This particular statue had only recently been installed when I noticed that it was already ‘sold’ to an anonymous buyer! While I’m assuming the red dot sticker was meant as a light hearted joke, it did make me appreciate that it had stirred up enough of a reaction that someone pretended to purchase it. I started to think about some of the more unusual public art – the ones that we accept and love and the ones we’re not so sure about!

My favourites would have to be ones that feature water, such as Golden Water Mouth in Haymarket and Robert Woodward’s Spiral Water Feature in Darling Harbour. I’ve often felt the temptation to walk to the centre of the Spiral Water Feature but it seems to be constantly inhabited by children getting called to by their parents: “Come back out of the water!”

Not on the day I took this photo though!

Spiral Water Feature

Spiral water feature

Sydney’s water features are in such fantastic supply that they even make for great walking tours! Walk on Water is a walking tour by City of Sydney, which also offers the history and meaning behind the sculptures and water features.

Power of the Pig update

Il Porcellino

Il Porcellino looking out over Macquarie Street

We’ve heard back from Kate this week, who has the following update on her luck so far:

“I visited the pig the other day but couldn’t get near enough to give him a coin and make a wish – group after group of people were swarming him for photos. Me thinks perhaps there was a city scavenger hunt that involved our handsome hog… So I made a detour today to visit the famous guy and keep up my donations. Again, nothing uber-lucky has happened… yet.”

Let’s hope Kate’s luck improves. Stay tuned for future updates!

Town Hall House

Behind the Town Hall is Town Hall House, a Brutalist structure built in 1977. The two buildings are snugly placed side by side, sandstone meeting concrete, 19th century meeting 20th century.

Sandstone meeting concrete, Town Hall and Town Hall House

Sandstone meeting concrete, Town Hall and Town Hall House

Town Hall House is where the administrative business of the City of Sydney takes place. There is a small branch of the City of Sydney library in here, and an office where people come to lodge forms and pay rates and do other council business. Next to this office is something unexpected.

City Model Room, Town Hall House

City Model Room, Town Hall House

The City Model Room, on the first floor of Town Hall House, includes a complete model of Sydney, built in the 1980s, but continuously updated to remain accurate. The model is used for design and planning purposes: one example given of this is to test shadows cast by proposed developments. Like the model in the foyer of Customs House, it’s satisfying and a little strange to see all the city at once like this, and to tower over it like a giant.

Model of Hyde Park and Sydney CBD

Model of Hyde Park and Sydney CBD




Bubbler review: Playfair Street, The Rocks

Playfair Street bubbler

Playfair Street bubbler

I enjoy spending time in The Rocks with my children who love exploring the cobbled paths and looking at the old buildings. After a good run around we head to Susannah Place Museum for a scoop of old fashioned lollies and the combination of running and sugar invariably leads to a request for water. Bubblers are hard to find in this part of town; it probably has something to do with preserving the heritage feel of the precinct.

Cleanliness: The bubbler was clean and shiny. [4/5]

Water quality: Clear and at air temperature.  [4/5]

Spray reliability: Strong flow. [3/5]

Ease of use: Easy to use and out of the way of passers-by. [3/5]

Aesthetic qualities: It has the same ultra modern look as the one at Circular Quay. In a place where telephone boxes and post boxes retain their heritage character this stainless steel piece of modernity is quite jarring. [2/5]

Star rating: ***