Wrapped in a sculptural timber screen, The Exchange by Kengo Kuma & Associates offers a dynamic and formal public space to the urban context of Sydney, Australia. The Exchange serves as a multi-use civic building comprised of a public library, childcare, and commercial uses; including a fresh food market and restaurants. It is planned as a part of the large urban development in the active area of Darling Harbor, Sydney.
The Exchange is located within a small urban pocket surrounded by high rise buildings and is characterized by rigid geometry and hard surfaces. The urban design strategy for The Exchange is to create an architectural form in harmony with the square which can merge with the landscape and preserve a human scale using natural materials to produce a tangible and comfortable building.
Surrounded by residential blocks, retail at the lower levels, and an active flow of people along the boulevard, the site is a nodal point. Because of that, Kengo Kuma chose a non-directional architectural form so that it would be accessible and recognizable from all directions. The circular form reflects and promotes the vibrant and active neighborhood of the Darling Square Precinct with its diverse mix of users.
The ground floor plane is conceived as an extension of the Square. A fully glazed façade enables the space to be open, transparent and accessible from all directions. It promotes interaction with the active street life and free flow of people offering opportunities for the community’s daily use. The middle levels of the building are dedicated for public use. To express the active and diverse nature of the building, a dynamic geometry was created through a shifting of floor plates. By shifting floor plates, comfortable and active outdoor terraces are created at each level that suit the use for its function.
Timber was selected for the building envelope in order to offer natural texture to the neighbors. An organic and spontaneous timber screen wraps around the shifting floor plates. The timber strips filter the natural light and provide a soft texture to the interior space. It is our intent to express architecture as a part of natural elements, like a tree or a “nest” in a playful and primitive manner.