A former brewery, a derelict industrial landscape, and historic houses with lots of potential in an inner-city suburb with a postcode of rising clout. A much-discussed masterplan, parks and laneways, eventual vertical density softened by a monumental green wall, and diverse galleries. Food stalls and restaurants in an aptly named Spice Alley make it hard not to reminisce about vendors in south-east Asia.
Spice Alley is the rear lane of Kensington Street, which was awarded the 2016 Good Design Award for best overall architectural design (urban design and public spaces) for its adaptive reuse of 19th century terraces and buzzy appeal.
That the piping woks and stir-fried noodles are surrounded by art and craft is not serendipity. They are the result of the Chippendale Creative Precinct (CCP), devised by President Nicky Ginsberg and consciously developed into the network of local galleries and eateries, and bolstered by walking tours, bazaars, feasts and the sparkling BEAMS Arts Festival, held in September.
Installations of all sizes, enmeshed in the narrow streets and spread throughout One Central Park’s Chippendale Green, street art, strings of lights with their own stories, and delicate use of the trees and artificial lakes such as floating candle holders made of bubble wrap, mark the event. There is visual humour too. Bright bobbing lights on one side of the park were attached to dancers’ headphones for the silent disco.
Kensington Street is at the CCP’s heart. It is celebrating Good Food Month on Tuesday 25 October with dishes reflecting the Seven Deadly Sins and dancers, musicians and other performers weaving from restaurant to restaurant. There will also be a guilty pleasures exhibition, of original artworks from Archibald to street artists with some of the proceeds going towards surplus-food charity Oz Harvest.
This all fits in with the original vision, to transform Chippendale into an “internationally renowned arts, food and lifestyle destination” with local creative businesses connecting with each, attracting a growing audience, and gaining exposure for the area, increasing “lifestyle and recreational choice”.
One of the galleries, aMBUSH Gallery within the shopping centre at One Central Park, holds Curvy Creative, an exhibition (its 10th will be in Melbourne 2017). It will also comprise of panels and workshops where female creatives will talk about how they have forged challenging careers, their current work and experience, steeped in core design and writing skills.
Ginsberg’s original NG Art Gallery moved into the main laneway as Kensington Contemporary, two galleries one of which is showing, until October 16, Other Worlds by photographer Anke Stäcker. Her dystopian fantasy land, bizarre landscapes showing two girls’ adventures, surviving in the present and in worlds now lost to us. This tale of friendship and surviving a precarious world draws on treasures from immediate post-war Germany or hard-to-reach enticing blue flowers, fittingly in real life vibrating Chippendale nicely stretch the mind and imagination.
Deborah Singerman runs her own writing, editing, proofing and project managing consultancy specialising in the urban built environment, workspaces and community. @deborahsingerma; [email protected]