The evolution of the Ipswich city heart

Nicholas Street’s Indigenous art strategy is designed to promote inclusiveness, harmony and unity by representing the First Nations People through the use of meaningful sculpture and curated artworks, and the introduction of native botanical elements.

When stage two of the Nicholas Street, Ipswich Central redevelopment officially opens in late 2020, visitors to the new one-hectare civic plaza will discover an engaging new art trail, designed to create a greater understanding and appreciation for the Indigenous culture and history of the area.

Nicholas Street is the biggest redevelopment of the Ipswich CBD since the 1980s.

The new Ipswich city centre will see the former pedestrian mall replaced with a one-way street, a new civic plaza featuring an innovative zero-depth water play area, concert staging and event spaces, along with two state-of-the-art libraries, a nine-storey, purpose-built council administration building and new dining, retail and entertainment offers.

And, following extensive community consultation on the precinct’s public art plan, the $250 million re-imagining of the city will also include important Indigenous cultural elements.

Held in late 2019, the Indigenous Community Consultation – Public Art Plan invited members of the Indigenous community to share their thoughts on how the essence of traditional culture, art and lifestyle could be included in the overall design.

Kyra Manktelow with wax model of platypus.

Participants were invited to have their say on a wide range of areas, from suggestions on the types of native plants used in the cultural garden to the use of art and sculpture throughout the civic plaza, main library, children’s library and council’s administration building.

The resulting report found that of the 378 participants, 100 per cent wanted Indigenous art and design included, believing that it would make the CBD a culturally safe place for visitors, while 99 per cent of participants said they wanted more local Indigenous stories shared with CBD visitors.

Based on the findings, Director of IAM Projects (Independent Arts Management) Simon Koger developed the Indigenous Art Strategy, incorporating unique cultural elements into each of the different precincts within the Nicholas Street redevelopment.

Ipswich Indigenous artists Kim Ah Sam and QCA artist and Kyra Manktelow (Kim’s niece), have been engaged by Ipswich City Council to produce a range of artworks for the Nicholas Street Precinct.

Kim Ah Sam and Kyra Manktelow at Phillip Perides Studio work on platypus clay moulds.

The overarching theme of the strategy, Evolve, reflects the evolution of Ipswich’s city centre, traditionally a place of gathering and entertainment, as it has changed and developed over time.

The theme explores the concepts of movement, interaction, fluidity and gesture throughout the space and provides a vibrant gesture to residents and visitors, capturing the essence of the redevelopment.

The resulting public art strategy will include a traditional art mural which will adorn the underside of one of the new shade pavilions in the civic plaza.

The mural will feature a colour palette of deep blue for salt water, light blue/green for fresh water, yellow for sand, brown for earth and orange for the desert, and represents the tradition of travel and trade between Aboriginal people.

Song, dance, stories and goods were traded along these communication routes, keeping clans connected all throughout Australia. The gather place represents the ceremonial grounds where different groups came together.

Eleven bronze fish trap sculptures will be installed on the second shade pavilion, which features the zero-depth water play area and includes a cascading water curtain and interactive, in-ground water jets. Fish traps have been used for thousands of years by the Indigenous community.

Originally woven from materials such as cane or pandanus leaves, the design ensured that only adult fish were caught, with gaps left in the weaving to allow smaller or younger fish to escape.

Kim Ah Sam and Kyra Manktelow discuss a cast portion of the fish trap at Phillip Perides Studio.

In addition to the fish traps, the space will feature two life-sized bronze platypus sculptures.

Native animal sculptures will also feature in the cultural garden, with three life-sized, Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby sculptures taking pride of place among native grass trees, red-flowering Yuccas, swamp oak ground cover, local sandstone boulders and crushed granite pathways.

Deputy Mayor and Division 3 Councillor Marnie Doyle said she was pleased council had consulted closely with the Ipswich Indigenous community.

“I am delighted that council will incorporate unique and important Indigenous cultural elements within the Nicholas Street precinct public art space,” Cr Doyle said.

Plaques outlining the background and themes of the public art will be installed as part of the Indigenous Artwork and Story Trail.

The Nicholas Street Precinct civic plaza and library open late 2020.

Snapshot of Nicholas Street:

  • 9,000 CBD workers
  • 1,000 underground car parks over six levels
  • 53 on-street bike parks
  • 1 hectare public space
  • 150 metres activated retail frontage
  • New shopping, dining and entertainment offers
  • Capacity for large audiences in the civic plaza
  • Direct connection to Bradfield Bridge
  • Water-play zone with cascading water curtain and interactive jets – see it here
  • New library
  • New children’s library

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