Cultural Precinct Planning Workshop

(1pm, Tuesday 2 September 2014, Reception Room)

Thank you, Tim, [Horton] and hello, everyone, welcome to Town Hall. It's great to have you all together in the one room!

I'd also like to offer a very warm welcome to our keynote contributor , Adrian Ellis, director of the Global Cultural Precincts Network, and to all of our speakers.

Today is an opportunity for a number of our leading cultural institutions to outline their plans for the future. It will give us at the City an insight into how we might be able to collaborate in supporting and strengthening our cultural and creative life.

Cities around the world are shaping their identities through culture-driven precinct planning and place-making as part of their growth and prosperity planning. This not only makes for more liveable cities where local people see themselves reflected; it also helps shape international perceptions of a city's ethos, identity and cultural capital.

A key strategic direction in our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy was for a "cultural and creative city" that would celebrate our Aboriginal heritage and culture, embrace our very diverse communities, and foster innovation, vitality and public engagement.

In 2011, I asked City staff to work on development of a cultural policy - a first for Sydney - and one which would help us to support and to connect cultural and creative activity right across the City.

Rachel Healy and her team have done a phenomenal job and a stimulating discussion paper was released in March last year, with a draft policy out for comment until just recently.

Our vision is to make culture and creativity visible in the streets, to promote expressions of creativity in the public domain, and to develop memorable precincts that offer both large and small-scale opportunities for interaction and participation.

We have worked with the State to realise our dream of removing daily traffic and pedestrianizing the city spine with our $220 million investment in improvements to George Street as part of the light-rail project. This involves not only the enormous Junya Ishigami Cloud Arch that will be at the intersection outside. It also includes pavement widening, new street furniture, and work on the laneways running off George Street. This project is a game-changer for the city centre.

We currently up to $34 million each year to support the arts. But you could argue that even more important is our "enabling" role through our planning and regulatory responsibilities.

We can also facilitate meetings like today's to draw on the collective wisdom and experience to see how we can all collaborate to make Sydney a thriving "city of culture".

At a moment when some of our largest cultural institutes are planning major capital works, it is vital that we talk to each other about how to make the most of these collective opportunities.

This workshop aims to expand Sydney's cultural offering by connecting the dots, the plans of our flagship institutions; by supporting development of their facilities, and the spaces in between.

Together, we can map, connect, and foster stronger networks of cultural innovation and devise new experiences which will build Sydney's reputation as a global cultural hub.

We've got leading thinkers from the cultural, tourism, planning, design and transport sectors to ask how our cultural institutions can be supported to offer a better integrated cultural experience. We're also asking what new connections - big or small - will give Sydney its next big cultural leap forward.

It's great to have Adrian Ellis to address us and take part in our workshop. We're also fortunate to have Tim Horton, Registrar of the NSW Architects' Registration Board to run the workshop which will explore how our institutions contribute to both the cultural and spatial quality of our city.

So once again, welcome to you all and I wish you a stimulating and productive afternoon. And I hope to see you all again this evening, at the Design Excellence forum which begins in Lower Town Hall at 6.30pm.