Welcome to the Public Sydney blog

Early 20th Century postcard

Early 20th Century postcard

Welcome to the Public Sydney blog. Alongside the Public Sydney: Stop, Look, Live! exhibition, this blog will explore the public spaces of Sydney, expose some of their secrets, and collect your stories about the city locations we all share.

My posts on the blog will focus on five of Sydney’s public spaces: Bennelong Point, the Museum of Sydney, Hyde Park, Town Hall and Central Station. All are sites with a deep history and diverse pasts. Transformed from the landscape in which the Eora people lived prior to 1788, these sites have been through some surprising transitions. One was the site of Sydney’s first Government House, others have been everything from horse racing tracks to graveyards, tram depots to carparks. Every month the secret history of each site will be revealed, as we travel Sydney’s public spaces from the harbour through to Central Station.

Map of the City of Sydney c.1927 (State Records NSW)

Map of the City of Sydney c.1927 (State Records NSW)

Visit Sydney’s public spaces on any day of the week and there will usually be something out of the ordinary to observe. A protest. Wedding photographs. Central station can be overrun by Elvis impersonators on their way to the Parkes Elvis Festival. The Town Hall can disappear underneath banners printed with the building’s facade, tricking the eye for a moment with its clock at a constant quarter to twelve. Common to all these spaces is a sense of the unpredictable, and this blog will capture some of the idiosyncratic uses of Sydney’s public spaces.

Image of Customs House model city

Image of Customs House model city

In the foyer of Customs House, now a branch of the City of Sydney library, is a scale model of the city. It is visible under glass in the floor and people stop to peer down into the model and identify the places they know. The neat streets of model Sydney with their patchwork of buildings, roads, and rooftops, with tiny trees and lights, are irresistible to everyone who enters Customs House, whether they have lived in Sydney all their life or are visitors to the city.

Looking down into it, the model gives us a sense of the city as a whole.  It is a very different experience to be out on the real streets of Sydney. The neatness disappears, replaced by the sensory overload of city streets and the variety of its spaces that we move in and through. They are as diverse as the public who uses them, and we look forward to hearing some of your stories and observations of these public Sydney sites.

The blog will be a mixture of posts from me, Vanessa Berry, as well as guest contributors, photos, city challenges and other activities that celebrate the public spaces of our city. I am the author of two blogs about Sydney – Mirror Sydney and Biblioburbia – and have lived in Sydney all my life, accumulating many hours as a teenager loitering on Town Hall steps, navigating the city via its underground shopping arcades, watching the changing buildings and businesses and always finding more to explore no matter how well I feel I know the city. I look forward to spending some time with you in Sydney’s public spaces.

Vanessa Berry is a writer, artist and zine maker. She is the author of the Sydney exploration blog Mirror Sydney and is the lead contributor for the Public Sydney blog. Her zines have been exhibited in galleries in Australia and internationally, and she is the author of the books Strawberry Hills Forever and Ninety 9, which is to be published by Giramondo in August 2013.