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: ***

Shivering statues

Governor Bligh statue

Governor Bligh statue

The popularity of Il Porcellino has prompted me to have a closer look at some of the statues that populate our public spaces. At the Sydney Living Museum’s head office at the Mint on Macquarie Street we have a statue of Governor Lachlan Macquarie who was responsible for the creation of many of the surrounding buildings. I’ve been told this statue is known affectionately as ‘The Flasher’ because of the placement of his hand on his coat.

Another statue that always catches my eye is that of Governor Bligh who is in the Barney and Bligh reserve, near the Museum of Contemporary Art. To me he always looks cold, as though the stiff winter breezes from the Quay are making him shiver. Over the next few weeks the Public Sydney team will be investigating some of Sydney’s most loved, and hated, pieces of public sculpture.

Peace and quiet

Mitchell Library

Mitchell Library

My favourite public building in the city is the Mitchell Library. I love the golden-orange colour of the sandstone on a bright day. I love the feeling it creates of a warm and snugly refuge from the weather on a wet day.

The replica Tasman Map, stained glass windows, classical carvings and even the doors celebrating Australian explorers are an enticing invitation to seek knowledge. Whenever I see the stained glass panels in the reading room I vow to go home and dig out my copy of Chaucer’s works – I haven’t yet but they still prompt this response after years of visiting the space. I appreciate the silence as I work in an area of the city where the noise of buses is a constant soundtrack. I often seek public spaces that are quiet, no mean feat in today’s bustling city, especially if you are not in the mood for sprawling in a park.

I was once roused on by a librarian in Mitchell because I was speaking in what I thought was a whisper to an intern about using the small pictures catalogue. ‘Shhh. Please conduct your conversation outside’ she politely said, indicating the doors to the ornate foyer. When I told a librarian friend about my misdemeanor she said, ‘Well I never Shhh! anymore. Public libraries are more lively today’. I was a bit torn by this as they are a valuable public retreat from the sounds and electronic bustle we encounter in every other public building but I also understand the impulse for discussion and interaction in this place of learning.

My learned colleague, Librarian and library historian, Matthew Stephens, will explore the idea of silence in public libraries in a later post.

Entry floor mosaic

Entry floor mosaic

Power of the Pig

Il Porcellino

Il Porcellino

One day I was walking along Macquarie Street behind a very well dressed couple who were obviously in a hurry. He kept saying to her ‘We are late already!’ to which she replied tersely ‘I know, I know, come on, it will NOT take long’. They sped off ahead of me but I caught up to them just in time to see what they were up to. The woman had stopped outside Sydney Hospital, where she rubbed the nose of the boar statue, put a coin in the collection receptacle, dropped a kiss on the boar’s head then grabbed her partner’s hand and ran through the hospital gates. Interesting…

Il Porcellino is a bronze statue of a boar, based on one in Florence, which stands outside the Sydney Hospital. The statue was donated in 1968 by the Marchessa Clarissa Torrigiani in memory of her father and brother. It is very popular with Sydneysiders and tourists alike and is often referred to as the ‘Pig statue’. Visitors are encouraged to rub its nose, make a donation and as a result will hopefully have good luck. Read more about it here.

I knew about this statue and its reputation for being ‘lucky’ but had never seen someone who took it so seriously. It made me think about some of the sites of superstition, luck or good fortune in central Sydney. Vanessa Berry has already blogged on the Wishing Tree in the Botanic garden but the team at Sydney Living Museums is now searching for places that are ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’. We are also interested in rituals people perform in public spaces in order to secure good luck, health or happiness.

As part of this investigation we have decided to conduct a few experiments. The first is to test if the pig [OK, wild boar] has the power to change your fortune. Two test subjects, Matt and Kate, have volunteered to see if patting the boar will change their luck. They’ll report back soon so stay tuned; the next big lottery winner may be announced right here on the Public Sydney blog!

Bubbler review: Circular Quay

Bubbler on a foggy morning

Bubbler on a foggy morning

Just near the ferry wharves this gleaming bubbler sits awaiting thirsty school groups and tourists. It has a stand next to it that allows people to refill plastic bottles and so is a hit with primary school visitors to the Quay. Stylistically it is very different from a traditional bubbler, almost sculptural. I don’t like it as it feels too coldly clinical for me and it could be placed anywhere – football ground, shopping centre, school – it doesn’t engage with its beautiful harbour surroundings.

Bubbler and water bottle refilling station

Bubbler and water bottle refilling station

Cleanliness: Clinically clean. [4/5]

Water quality: Clear and cool [3/5]

Spray reliability: The spray is strong and very consistent. No ‘burbling’ from this engineering masterpiece [3/5]

Ease of use: I watched someone else use this bubbler before approaching it as it is very different to a traditional bubbler. The water sprays horizontally and the button is very responsive so there is little chance of overspray or ‘chin drippage’. You almost catch the water in your mouth instead of the more common slurping technique used at traditional bubblers. The bubbler is very easy to use.  [4/5]

Aesthetic qualities: The bubbler looks very sleek. It has obviously been constructed to withstand the marine environment by the Quay but, to my eye, it isn’t in sympathy with its surroundings. It is quite utilitarian and could be improved by some design references to its iconic location.  [2/5]

Star rating: ***

Horizontal spray

Horizontal spray

Bubbler review: King Street bubbler

King Street bubbler

King Street bubbler

Located at the St. James end of King Street, this is a perplexing bubbler. It is very short [around 70cm high]. At first I thought it might be purpose-built for children but its location just doesn’t make sense. My observations of the city’s public spaces have taught me that families hang out in the parks, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, not outside the Law School. I next thought it might be more accessible for people in wheelchairs but I can’t see how they could easily drink from it. I’m stumped. Continue reading →

Bubbler review. Lewis Wolfe Levy Fountain, Royal Botanic Garden

Lewis Wolfe Levy Fountain

Lewis Wolfe Levy Fountain

This is the most spectacular bubbler in Sydney. The fountain was erected in 1889 and has a base of beautifully polished red and grey granite. At the top is a bronze statue of a woman, allegedly the goddess Diana, surrounded by reeds and wetland animals including bullfrogs spraying water from their mouths. The four corners of the fountain have a large bubbler mounted on them. Steps provide access for children and it is a popular stopping point for groups of school students. Continue reading →

Bubbler review. Martin memorial fountain, Hyde Park Barracks

Major The Hon. Clarence Edward Martin QC memorial fountain

Major The Hon. Clarence Edward Martin QC memorial fountain

Nestled in a corner of the wall which surrounds the Hyde Park Barracks on Macquarie Street is what could be mistaken for an abandoned bubbler. According to the plaque the bubbler was installed in 1982 to commemorate the career of former Attorney General, Major The Hon. Clarence Edward Martin QC and is aptly situated in the city’s legal precinct.

Cleanliness: The bubbler bowl contained leaves and a cigarette butt. The lever was covered in spider webs, indicating it’s not Sydney’s most popular bubbler [1/5]

Water quality: Clear and cool [3/5]

Spray reliability: The spray requires careful management or your shoes will become sodden [2/5]

Ease of use: I needed assistance from a colleague before I could get this tricky bubbler to work [1/5]

Aesthetic qualities: Metal bubblers appeal to my sense of aesthetics and this one has weathered and achieved a delicate patina over time  [5/5]

Star rating**

 

Martin Place Cenotaph

Today a large crowd will gather at the Cenotaph in Martin Place for Anzac Day commemorations.

Historic footage in the Public Sydney exhibition shows early Anzac Day ceremonies during which the crowd stood on the footpath to the side of the cenotaph while a motorcade drove past and up the street. Today the paved space allows the large group of participants and respectful observers to gather together near the monument.

View from Castlereagh Street, down Martin Place, 1954.  NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Justice and Police Museum

View from Castlereagh Street, down Martin Place, 1954.
NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Justice and Police Museum

Does Sydney need more ducks?

Visitors to the Public Sydney exhibition have been sharing their ideas on how to make our public spaces even better. Most people agree they would like more seating, shade, gardens and public art in the city. Ducks, however, have been trending on the ideas wall, along with petting zoos. Free water and more bubblers are also popular. Here is a sample of some of the comments (click on an image to enlarge it):

What would enhance your enjoyment of the city and where is the best place to feed the ducks?