Public Art: Creating And Investing In Place Identity

“Gone are the days of when public art was cast in bronze and had to last 50+ years. These days integrated public art briefs are more likely to include descriptors like ‘digital, temporary, ephemeral and Instagram-able’”

— Daniel Tobin, Creative Director | Founder of UAP.

Façades, interior spaces, gardens, staircases and other building elements are becoming a vital part in defining new developments and encouraging public interaction within a space. Developers have recognised the ability for creative interventions — both art and architectural — to define a space and create a strong place identity. UAP Founder and Creative Director, Daniel Tobin says that as a result, more and more clients are willing to invest in creativity for their developments.

“Developers are better funded than ever before, and increasingly understand that creativity provides great return on investment” he said.

Every development is unique, so when creative projects complement an identity they are most engaging for people to experience. Four recent collaborations showcase this through the integration of art within public spaces and architecture — not only in Australia but across the globe.

300 George St, Brisbane

Multiplex recognised the need for Brisbane’s latest development to have an eye-catching façade, cementing its identity as a go-to destination for the River City. UAP collaborated with artist Alexander Knox to fabricate The Sound That Light Makes, an installation featuring hundreds of laser-cut panels, together forming a unique art façade which highlights the entrance to the urban complex. The integration of this façade was not an after-thought, but an important part of the overall design and development of the site and its identity.

XXX Times Square, New York

As the first mobile bespoke street furniture elements for the plaza, the J. MAYER H. und Partner designed lounges draw inspiration from the ‘Bowtie X-shaped’ intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue. Making a cheeky reference to the plaza’s X-rated past, the temporary installation activated the space in a new way — by encouraging pedestrians to relax, look around and enjoy a view of the New York skyline from a new (often forgotten) perspective.


Frank Gehry Staircase, Sydney

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is the first building in Australia designed by renowned American-Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Developer LendLease recognised the importance of celebrate the uniqueness of this building by creating one continued experience — from exterior to interior — true to Gehry’s signature sculptural vision. To achieve this, UAP collaborated with Gehry Partners and LendLease to develop, fabricate and install a functional centrepiece for the building in the form of a stainless-steel staircase twisting and undulating between floors.

Hudson Yards, New York

Architects KPF wanted to create a dynamic space for the public within New York’s Hudson Yards Development. To achieve this vision, UAP worked alongside the architects to develop 830 unique cast aluminium panels, four bespoke desk encasements and a column wrap for the lobby entry of 10 Hudson Yards. Hand-crafted moulds were used to achieve a truly unique artwork – complimenting the architects vision and development’s setting, as America’s largest ever private real estate development.

The inclusion of public art and creative interventions within major developments is testament to the value that engaging with creativity can provide developers. As we continue to see unique buildings and spaces emerge across the globe, we will see a new level of creative intervention – one that beckons creation of unique place identities and memorable engagement with public audiences.

Original text by Clare Christensen for UAP.